Copper in the Arts

December 2021

From Arizona to the World: The Colors of Copper Art Competition

By Lisa Scheid

Launching in 2011, The Colors of Copper Art Competition and Wine Tasting takes place in Clifton, Arizona, home to the Morenci mine. 

“Since we live near the largest open pit copper mine in North America,  I thought copper would be a good theme drawing lots of local interest,” says founding coordinator Barbara Ahmann. “And because copper has a wide range of colors depending on the atmosphere, temperature, and compounds.”

Lisa_S.jpgOne of the many copper works on display. Painting on
copper by Audrey McThath. 
Photograph courtesy of Barbara Ahmann. 

Over 9 years, the show has attracted hundreds of visitors as well as entries from around the world, including Ukraine, Japan, Mexico and France. 

“The majority of the artists are from southeast Arizona and New Mexico, although we've had entries from as far away as Connecticut,” Ahmann says. Typically, the attendance has been 500. Last year's show was cancelled due to COVID. “We resumed this year with little expectations, but to our surprise we had an attendance of 300.” 

This year’s two-day event was held at the Art Depot, cultural space at the historic Clifton Train Depot, attracting photographers, sculptors, painters and potters from across the globe.

Ahmann uses copper in making glazes for her pottery, which were in the show. The sculptures often incorporate copper and the painters use copper colors, she adds.

The range of pieces this year included an eight foot high Kokopelli sculpture by Gila Valley’s David Himelfarb made of copper and glass to a photograph on metal by Clifton artist Alicia Guerra. Guerra’s photo captured the former lookout above the giant Freeport McMoran Morenci copper mine. In a Facebook video, Guerra said the lookout was a favorite place to get away.

Ahmann said she co-founded the show when had returned from five years in Saudi Arabia working as the coordinator of the American Community of Ryadha. She was asked by Jeanette West, the president of Chase Creek Business Association, to organize an art show. 

Ahmann is a painter, sculptress, and potter. She got her start in Philadelphia at Fleisher Art Memorial. She’s taught art at several junior colleges and K-12 school in Kuwait. She holds a degree in Fine Art from University of California, Riverside.

Ahmann said the abundance of copper led to settlement in the area. 

“People have an interest in copper because families have been here in Greenlee County for generations,” she said. “Many of the miners and their dependents are artistic and have used copper in artistic expression, even using copper as canvas.”


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