This is the fifth in a series of posts taking you back through a history of my work, from its very realistic roots and on to my abstracts (see previous posts Why Aren’t My Paintings PRETTY For God’s Sake , So You Think Artists Are Lazy?, Stripped Down and Broken Open: Giving Birth to Art and Of Transitions and the Place Between).
I arrived in Truchas, New Mexico (see previous post Coming to New Mexico) for the first time one late October night, or morning really, around 1AM. There was no moon so it was pitch black. I couldn’t even see the outlines of the buildings. Once daylight dawned, however, I found that Truchas wasn’t what I’d expected. Nor was it like anyplace I’d ever been. The buildings weren’t particularly picturesque to my untrained eye (this is key here because once I learned the history of the villages, I saw the spectacular beauty all around me), at least not like photos I’d seen of Santa Fe. I was interested in its crumbling mud structures going back to the earth, its old dump sites, a reminder of a time before house or village garbage pick up, homes patched with mud, plaster and tin. Somehow it felt strong. At the same time it had an edge to it–a definite discord. I felt both and was discomfited.
Every morning I’d make my coffee and wander out through the village as it was waking, a mug of hot coffee in my hands. There was one spot, always, that drew my attention. Standing on the main road of town (County Road 75), just above the old church, looking out to the south, were rows of old trees lining the edges of long pastures, and a hill that sloped up and out of sight.
I was strongly called to that and would stand staring at it for long periods of time.
I’d come to Truchas to buy the old adobe church…
… and the house behind it, with the intention of moving to Truchas. The friend who’d recommended the road trip had seen the church when she’d been to Truchas earlier and it was for sale then. She’d shown me photos and I wanted it. So I called an Espinola real estate agent who looked into it for me. She said it might be available. Shortly after arriving, however, I understood the church wasn’t for me for several reasons: the sale price was almost my entire budget and the place needed some restoration as well as added amenities (like water and heat!) and there was an artist already living and showing there. I wouldn’t displace her. As it turned out, that artist was my (now) good friend Anna.
I realize, looking back, that it was with some incredible hubris, if not utter disrespect, that I’d made these plans. I knew nothing about Truchas–its rich and complicated history, its heritage, its people, its simple AGE (the village was founded in 1754!). And I did nothing to rectify this before arriving that first time. I also realize how extraordinarily lucky I am that things have turned out as they have. It could have gone another way.
So why did I make such a rash decision? I’ve said that I felt both compelled and repelled by Truchas. Why did the scales tip in this direction? Simply put, I thought I could make a better living as an artist in an environment, a whole STATE, that supported the arts and artists. But I was also terribly drawn to this place and I think “terribly” is the exact right word. I believe Spirit wanted me here and I felt the uncomfortable but compelling push and pull of that.
On that first trip, I looked at all the houses available to buy and none of them were for me. But the real estate agent called the night before I was to leave to tell me a piece of raw property had just come on the market and was being offered in two acre parcels. There was no road out to it but we went as far as we could the next morning. And for whatever reason or reasons (was Spirit whispering in my ear?), I decided to buy the land sight unseen.
That first visit to Truchas changed my art forever. Already dabbling in abstracted forms, something about that trip, perhaps the decision for change I’d made while there, pushed me into full-blown abstraction. I went home to Utah and painted my first abstract show titled, Soul Fire: A Journey Home, which was held in Juniper Sky, the gallery that represented my work in southern Utah. Being still entirely ignorant of Truchas, these paintings represent more of a spiritual connection to place. Here are some of those first abstracts in the order I painted them. I think it’s interesting to see the shifts and how one piece may have inspired another.
Love to you all,