Most people recognize the Celebration of Fine Art as being the show where art lovers and artists connect. But for the husband and wife artist duo Joe Axton and Mari Giddings, it didn’t take a show to bring them together, just simply their shared love of art.

“On our first date together I went looking for found objects in a riverbed in Tempe and Joe came with me,” Mari says. “I found a big spool that we used as a table for a few years.”

Joe jokes that while their time together that day wasn’t intended to be a date, it certainly turned into one. Now, years later, despite their different artistic backgrounds and creative strengths, they’ve learned they’re better together both in life and in art.

“My earliest art was with crayon and watercolor and chalk, and now it’s with paint, metal and acid,” Mari says. “I’ve always worked with clay and I’ve always painted.”

Joe, on the other hand, had a completely different start.

“I trained as a scene designer in college and after college was a graphic designer for a little while,” Joe says. “So for fine art, I wasn’t really serious about it until I met Mary.”

Joe’s experience in graphic design and exposure to heroes like Andy Warhol influenced his style. In meeting Mari and seeing her work, he was instantly inspired by how completely different her approach was.

“As soon as we got together, we were doing something more than either one of us were doing by ourselves,” Joe says. “I find inspiration in working, and in working with Mari particularly. When I come up with an idea, I have a person I can run it around and I can bounce it off her.

Today, their collaborative approach has won them fans from all across the world. With different frames of reference, they’ve learned to break out of limitations and try new processes by continually handing their work back and forth. This plays directly into another reason they relish their time at the Celebration of Fine Art –– exposure to other artists and the exchanging of ideas and techniques.

“You can watch artists in their studio creating, and creating with each other, in a way you don’t see anywhere in the country but here,” Mari says.

Whether you’re an artist or simply love art, Joe has some advice: Come to the show!

“There is no other gathering of artists like this,” Joe says. “This is the winter watering hole for artists from all over the country. It’s special, come and see it!”

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