200 Block is a series of paintings of a section of the 200 block of North Bean Ave in Tucson. A combination of colored ink drawing and watercolor, the illustrative style of the paintings creates a highly detailed, heightened reality to explore. There is more to see than can be absorbed in a single glance and the paintings are an invitation to take several trips down the street. The block is like many others you might drive by on the way somewhere else but given more attention, its life and history unfold.
The 200 block of North Bean Ave is situated in Tucson’s Iron Horse neighborhood. “Iron Horse” was a 19th Century colloquial expression for the train in an era when steam powered locomotives displaced the horse as a means of transportation. The Southern Pacific Railroad arrived in 1879 and the neighborhood grew around it as a home for rail workers who needed to live within one mile of the tracks to hear the whistle code that regulated their lives. The houses pictured on this stretch of road were built between 1905 and 1927. On the south corner, a plaque in the sidewalk reads “ARIZ. HOME BLD’G & CONSTRUCTION CO. 1911.” The north corner is stamped “WPA 1937.” A multistory student housing complex, erected in 2014, stands at the end of the block on 9th street, a reminder that this pocket of history will not last forever.
Bean Ave, however, is not a museum. In the morning, while a man recovers from a late night at the Buffet Bar, a woman arrives down the street, calling out “Hey cats! Hey cats!” She carries kibble in a plastic gallon jug, its top cut off to perfect it as a container. She walks to a tight space between an empty lot and the road where bowls and plates are laid out on the sidewalk. Cats scramble under gates and materialize from bushes while she deposits the food. She walks to a nearby house and fills the emptied jug with water before she pours it in the remaining bowls and walks home. Doves and pigeons wait on the power lines for the cats to clear out before they descend to peck at the scraps.