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Artwork by Shirley Wagner

Artist in Focus

As a young girl in Youngstown, Ohio, I loved making houses with toy blocks and creating cardboard cities from small boxes, popsicle sticks and string. My mother was an artist and she always looked at my models with genuine interest which prompted me to want to make more things.

My obsession with sculptural forms continued throughout my life. For years I’ve used wood, metal, paper, plastic, rocks and found objects to construct abstract three-dimensional assemblages.

I also study the human form. Deconstructing it with geometric pencil strokes and adding objects for a tactile dimension. I call this body of work “Human Architecture” and it has extended the range of my voice in the discourse of artmaking.

My husband was a scientist and a physician who believed that science and art are symbiotic. He often challenged me to push my work beyond the object toward a multi-dimensional reality that examines the human spirit and life force that lives deep inside all of us.

When he was diagnosed with brain cancer, I witnessed how a technician draped a warm sheet of perforated plastic over his face to make a mask for radiation treatment. The plastic cooled into a glistening lace-like translucent mold with an exact impression of my husband’s head and face.

I kept that mask which later became the inspiration for an installation piece called “You are not a Statistic. You are a Person” slated to be installed at the Ivy Brain Tumor Center in Phoenix, Arizona. This installation was not about cancer or grief or loss. It’s about moving away from fear and seeing the life energy from within ourselves. Like scientists, artists are seekers of truth too.

Shirley in Focus



BFA Studio Art - Youngstown State University, Youngstown, Ohio



“Metal Complexions” - Jung Center Gallery, Houston, TX, 2020
“Architectonics: Art Relating to Architecture” - Foundry Art Center St. Charles, MO, 2019
“Semi-Annual Art Show” - Royal Bank of Canada, Tucson, AZ, 2019
“Healing, Inspiration and Art” - Roche Laboratories, Tucson, AZ, 2019
“Featured Artist” - Canyon Ranch Resort and Spa, Tucson, AZ, 2019
“Healing Art” - Permanent Exhibit, Tucson Medical Center, Tucson, AZ, 2018
“Live Drawing Atelier” - University of Arizona School of Art, Tucson, AZ, 2018
“Head to Toe” - Invitational, University of Arizona Museum of Art, Tucson, AZ, 2016
“Shirley Wagner” - Solo Exhibition - The Dana Foundation, U of A Medical School, Phoenix, AZ, 2016
“Fibula” - Traveling Invitational, Sofia, Baltchik, & Plovdiv, Bulgaria, 2015
“Art on Tap” - Group ExhibitionTucson Museum of Art Tucson, AZ, 2015



“You are not a Statistic. You are a Person” - Barrow Neurological Institute, Ivy Brain Tumor Center, Phoenix, AZ, (date TBD)
“Human Architecture” - Tucson Medical Center, Tucson, AZ, 2018
“Sustainable Beauty” - University of Arizona School of Architecture, Tucson, AZ, 2017



Art Curriculum Director, Tucson Unified School District, Tucson, AZ, 1997-2009
Copenhagen Chair-ity for Habitat for Humanity, Tucson, AZ, 2014
Panelist Tucson Pima Art Council (public art)
Pantano Wash Project, 2013
Tempe Center for the Arts: Panelist Wood Biennial, 2012



Clark, Jon. "Shoutout Series." Voyage Phoenix, 2020 and 2018
Whiting, Shelley. "Day 344: Shirley Wagner." Arizona Artist of the Day, 2019
Larsen, Debby. "Assembly Required.'" Tucson Lifestyle, July 2017
Shane, C.J. "Meet the Artist." Sonora Arts Network, July 2016
"Style Makers/Natural Selection." Luxe Magazine, 2010


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