By Hannah Critchfield
6 September 2019
It’s hard to drive through the Valley without seeing a building or sculpture that’s been touched by the hands of Bill Tonnesen. As a landscape architect, designer, and artist, Tonnesen has been a visible presence in the metro Phoenix creative scene for two decades. He’s well known for his eclectic plans and projects, some of which, like a Phoenix memorial to the Jewish Holocaust, never moved from concept to reality, while others flourished, like the Lavatory, a provocative, “toilet-themed” immersive art museum that opened in November 2018 and often attracts younger people who post photos of the experience on social media. He’s been written about in the New York Times, Arizona Republic, and Phoenix Business Journal. People who have met Tonnesen describe him as wickedly intelligent, odd, and imposing. (In a self-published book, Tonnesen: Twelve Months to Fame and Fortune in the Art World, Tonnesen once said he resolved to be the world’s “third most famous artist” within a year.) Control is important to Tonnesen, and he has a lot of it – both creatively, in the local art scene, and financially, owning properties throughout metro Phoenix.
For at least a decade, rumors of sexual harassment have followed the 66-year-old artist. People long have accused Tonnesen of using his position in the arts world to exploit the young, vulnerable women with whom he often surrounds himself. Last week, a Facebook post describing one such incident went viral in the Phoenix community, generating thousands of views and hundreds of shares and comments. The Lavatory has since temporarily closed, and Tonnesen’s own Instagram has been deleted.
Read the full article in The Phoenix New Times.