Where the Art Is
A local painter’s remodeled abode is a personalized retreat designed for relaxing, creating and showcasing an array of artworks.
By Rebecca L. Rhoades | Photography by Scott Sandler
Throughout his career, Fred Tieken has reshaped himself into all manner of creative personas: jazz musician, award-winning graphic designer, marketing firm proprietor, booking agent for rock bands, recording studio owner, painter—and along with his wife and business partner, Gail, consummate home remodeler.
When the couple first moved to Arizona in 1986, they purchased a condo in downtown Phoenix, which they renovated and lived in for seven years. A second condo, a second renovation and another seven years followed. Then one day, while checking out houses, they passed by a contemporary home designed by architect Bill Richardson and built by Weldon Minchew.
“We drove up to the house, and the exterior was light pink. Inside, the walls were light pink. The tile was pink. One room had indoor/outdoor green carpet. And the roof leaked like a sieve,” recalls Fred with a laugh.
Despite its unsightly aesthetics, “The bones of the house were very modern and clean,” he adds. “That’s what attracted us to it.” Gail notes, “Weldon Minchew was doing modern when everyone else was doing Santa Barbara and Tuscan.”
The couple quickly got to work fixing up the house—eliminating the pink, replacing the roof and tile, turning a large spare room into a home theater—and enjoying the relaxed lifestyle and year-round outdoor living provided by their Paradise Valley abode.
A health scare in 2010 brought about new changes. Fred’s chronic kidney disease had progressed to the point of needing dialysis. By a stroke of luck, Gail was a perfect donor match, and the couple underwent surgery together in early 2011. “It was scary,” says Gail. “When you’re married and something is wrong with one of you, the other one is there to help and see that you’re okay, but all of a sudden, it was both of us at the same time.”
It would be really hard to live without art.
—GAIL TIEKEN, homeowner
While waiting for surgery, Fred decided that he was going to paint. His first piece, entitled “Pass the Mayo,” was a lighthearted take on the upcoming procedure. “Having that painting really helped us both. It was nice to look at it and laugh at what we had ahead of us,” Gail recalls.
After surgery, Fred continued to pick up his brushes, and soon he was regularly painting works of art and showing in local galleries. Created primarily in acrylics, and often recalling the graffiti-based, neo-expressionist obsessive scribblings of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Fred’s work is loose, frenetic, playful and bursting with color, humor and word play.
As Fred’s art career continued to grow, so did his need for a proper studio. About the same time, he and Gail were starting to feel the desire to start a new project. “We’re chronic remodelers,” laughs Gail. Adds Fred, “Once we get a home done, we move on. This is the only place we didn’t do that.”
The couple started looking at new houses, “but then we realized that we’d have to do just as much work to make them ours. Plus, we like our location,” says Gail.
That’s when they decided to call in architect Andy Byrnes to give their residence a much-needed face-lift.
“It was a pleasant home, although a bit dated,” Byrnes recalls. “We completely gutted the interior, changed the exterior windows, cleaned up the exterior lines of the house with a new stucco, removed some Southwestern copper trims and decoration—basically transformed it from what I would call a contemporary structure into a modern house.”
One of the biggest changes inside was the conversion of the home theater into Fred’s studio. Byrnes added an entry door to the room, allowing clients to enter the studio without having to go through the main house.
The new design gives the couple plenty of space to display their collection of contemporary art. Works by such renowned masters as Picasso, Dali, and Marc Chagall share wall space with paintings by Keith Haring, Robert Motherwell and musician George Clinton. A trio of totemlike clay sculptures by Santa Clara Pueblo artist Nora Naranjo-Morse greets visitors just inside the large steel pivot entry door—itself a piece of art—while a collection of masks from around the globe hangs in the hall outside Fred’s studio.
“We don’t have criteria when it comes to collecting art,” says Gail. “While it’s all very contemporary, we buy what we like and what we can afford.”
Overlooking the sunken living room is an eye-catching, large-scale limited-edition silkscreen by Basquiat, entitled “Cabeza.” “We got it at a time when he had almost been forgotten,” says Gail. “No one was talking about him. Now he’s very popular again.”
Curator Nicole Royse, who serves as an art consultant for the Tiekens and represents Fred’s work at her Scottsdale gallery, has spent numerable hours at the home. “Fred and Gail have a beautiful and eclectic collection, which they have been building since the early 1970s,” she explains. “They collect from the heart, selecting works that they enjoy.
“Their collection complements the architecture of their house, which is modern and sophisticated,” she continues. “The interior offers clean lines, contemporary furnishings and bold splashes of color. Artwork is displayed throughout, tastefully framed and well-lit, adding texture and energy to each room.”
Outside, Byrnes and landscape architect Stephen Bardorf overhauled both the front and back yards, converting them from lush lawns to desert-friendly sculpture gardens. “The Tiekens were adamant that they didn’t want grass or shrubs,” says Bardorf. Agaves and cacti, including golden barrels, totem poles and cardons, pepper the crushed gravel and river rock landscape, ensuring that eye-catching works by William S. Cordiner, Alan Houser and Jeff Zischke remain the focal points.
But the pièce de résistance of the remodel is the 950-square-foot gallery that opens onto the pool and includes 91 linear feet of hanging space and two floating 8-foot-long walls for the couple to display Fred’s or other artists’ work. “Andy suggested adding a casita in the backyard for guests, and it sounded like a good idea,” Gail recalls. “One night, we were looking at designs, and I said, ‘Wouldn’t the casita make a great gallery?’ That’s all I had to say to Fred. He didn’t need any convincing.”
‘Wouldn’t the casita make a great gallery?’ That’s all I had to say to Fred. He didn’t need any convincing.”
Byrnes modeled the design after his own guesthouse, which used to be a stable. “That was the starting point of the concrete and glass structure,” he says. “We also worked out details so they could hang their art and exhibit mobile art pieces, and we built moveable walls so they can reorganize the space as needed.”
The couple celebrated the opening of their gallery by hosting a show that featured more than 40 local artists. Since then, they’ve held exhibits for such noted artists as Emmeric Konrad, Richard Kressler and Kellesimone Waits, among others, and most recently, they’ve opened the gallery’s doors for a benefit for Phoenix charity Free Arts.
“We look at the structure as an events space as much as a gallery, but all activities have to somehow be related to art,” says Gail. The same could be said for every facet of the couple’s lives. “I think it would be really hard to live without art,” she continues. “I can’t even image that.”
For more information, see Sources.