Through the looking glass at the El Gran

Growing art scene in Winslow looks back 10 years

In October 1994, I moved to Winslow to begin work on the La Posada restoration project. After arriving, one of the first downtown characters I met was John Gross. He would walk his dog, named Mountain, three times a day through the La Posada grounds. At the time, he was spending his days replacing over 300 pane-glass windows in a large white garage located just across the street from the hotel.

In past days, the garage was know as the El Gran, and was originally designed as a maintenance garage for a fleet of Harvey Cars that were to be used to tour this part of the Southwest. But the depression had interrupted all that, and over the decades that followed, the El Gran eroded into a state of dilapidation.

The walls of the El Gran are formed of one foot thick poured concrete, and the domed roof covering the 8,000 sq. ft. space, is supported by a series of striking silver colored steel bridge trestles. John's plan was to build a house within the garage; a building within a building that would let him look out at his collection of Harley Davidsons and a Jaguar from his living room.

Over the next few months I got to know John fairly well, he was an opinionated person and frankly, there were lots of things we did not agree on, but we did share one common interest, and that was an interest in rigorously controlling the space in which we lived.

When I got to Winslow, I had chosen a 3,000 sq. ft. downtown space as my studio and my home. It was Winslow's first post office, and today is the home of the Scoop. As a sculptor I was obsessed with finding a large open place to create and display work. Looking at John Gross and the El Gran, I realized that he was essentially working with the same set of concerns.

In 1995, Keith Mion, another member of the La Posada restoration team moved to town, and while we were waiting to begin work on the hotel, he started work on John Gross's glass house. John had chosen to build a 1,500 sq. ft. free-standing house in the north end of the El Gran; a position that opened his view to look across the garage on his collection of vehicles. As Keith started work on the house, I began taking pictures. I took pictures of John, his truck, the glass house and the El Gran from 1995 to 1997. These images will be exhibited at the Seattle Grind starting on March 3. To be honest, I am a person who takes lots of pictures, and these negatives had been buried before I ever had a chance to make a print. When John died in last November, I started going through my old negatives, and only then did I remembered my time in the El Gran. I am not trying to tell a story with these images. John's life was far too complicated to be explained by a few pictures. But what I am trying to do, is give a sense of what that moment in time was like in Winslow back in 1995 when John was focusing on the creation of a dream. These photos are a documentation of an artist working in his studio.

John Gross and the El Gran Garage will open at the Seattle Grind, 106 E Second Street, on March 3rd, and will run through April l6th.

An opening celebration will take place from 5 -- 7 p.m. on March. A guest book will be present at the opening for people to share stories and images or just a signature. There will also be a scanner to make copies of images. All materials from the show will be collected and sent to John's daughter, Clover, after the show is over.

For more information contact Dan Lutzick at: (928) 289-8201 or at dlutzick@yahoo.com

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