My friend, Anna Karin, moved to Truchas over six years ago now, arriving with her red wolf named Sheba and an orange cat. She was at the end. All of her resources were gone and she didn’t know what to do next, so she did what was in front of her: She rented an old adobe church with a house in back. There was only enough money for one month’s rent but she didn’t let herself think about that.
We have very long and cold winters up here in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains but despite the fact they had neither running water nor heat, Anna made the church her studio/gallery and the house her home. She shared her bed with Sheba and Rasmus the cat, bundled together in blankets for warmth, with snow blowing in from the roof above them.
Anna is very strong. In many ways she and the wolf were the same. Both lived by instinct and they were survivors. They became a pack. As hard as it was living with a wolf, Anna needed Sheba. Perhaps the necessity of respecting the animal’s wild nature did something to make her aware of her own. I think seeing their similarities, finding the same strength within that she witnessed in the wolf, gave Anna courage to face each of those challenging early days.
Anna got up that first morning and made the church her gallery. In the opening week she sold paintings—enough paintings to live. The week after that she sold more, and in subsequent weeks, even more. She was making it in this tiny village in the middle of nowhere and she was amazed. She worked the gallery seven days a week without help from anyone, in those first years, making improvements as she could (a wood heater was installed in the church her second year) and she created a life.
Her sixth year, Anna asked me to join her in the gallery. We’d been open about three weeks when there was an irrigation flood. The adobe was soaked, the walls potentially unstable, and we had to get out. The place held so much history for Anna. It had seen her through extremely tough times and had ushered her into a happy and fruitful life. Leaving was not easy, but leave we did.
We rented a building at the corner of town that had been empty for eleven years. It was covered with graffiti; the windows shot out and boarded up. It took a lot of work but after a few weeks we were open for business, yet again.
When Anna invited me to join her in her gallery, I was at my end. My resources were gone and I didn’t know what to do. But, following Anna’s lead, I did what was before me: I became a part of her gallery and I have sold enough paintings to live.
The life of an artist requires leap after leap of faith into the unknown. In order to make it we must believe, even when we can’t see. Anna had Sheba for support when she faced her crisis and I had Anna. It is possible to walk this path alone but how much better to do it with a knowing friend at your side.
You can see Anna’s work at annakaringallery.com.
Pictures of the two art galleries: