This is the sixth 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 , Of Transitions and the Place Between and An Uncomfortable But Compelling Push-Pull). This exploration was spurred on by a reader’s question about my process and inspiration, particularly of my New Mexico horse abstracts. Little did she or I know what her simple query was about to open. I hope you all are enjoying this art journey into the past as much as I am. It is showing me, for the first time, the trajectory of my work, and is going a long way toward pointing me to future paintings.
New Mexico Isn’t for Sissies
For many varied reasons it took me much longer to build this house and get myself to New Mexico than I’d expected. I called it the long goodbye (see previous post The Long Goodbye). I understand there were reasons I had to stay in Utah awhile longer. There was still some healing work for me to complete there, some closure that needed to be found, and I needed to rekindle my relationship with the desert. It had been an instrumental character in that part of my life–a great healer and teacher–and I owed it the respect of a proper goodbye. That couldn’t take place quickly. So I believe Spirit extended my stay. I spent those two years hiking to places I’d never been, as well as to all my favorite sites. Shortly before I left I saw my first Gila Monsters–three in one day–on a hike to some caves I’d wanted to explore. I’d longed to see one for eight years and there they were–like magic. It was a wonderful goodbye present and I also took it as a sign that it was, indeed, time to go.
This period left me torn between a life that was dying and one that hadn’t been born yet and, of course, that showed up in my work. Just as I was traveling back and forth to New Mexico, I was hopping around trying different things in my art–being rather “homeless” in both.
This piece was already incorporating the stick fences of Truchas (do you see them?) which crisscross the landscape offering endless lessons on perspective. They’re everywhere and I found them very beautiful. Still do.
I started working with the idea of simplifying. Perhaps I dipped into exploring the concept because my life felt rather jangled at the time, in the midst of so much change and so many unknowns. These shapes represent cattle on the horizon, once again in Truchas.
Here I’m playing with the parallel fences again that so captivated me, adding some cattle this time…
… and this piece paid homage to the diverse and beautiful rocks beneath my feet, walking the many dirt paths in Truchas.
This triptych, much larger than the photo indicates (in fact each panel is 30″ square), is meant to represent the layer of mud, in the construction of adobe buildings, that takes the final plaster. The walls are scratched like this so the new layer will adhere to them. I saw many of these walls exposed and thought of them as works of art. Just like the petroglyphs in Utah, or the coil-made pots of the ancients, these scratches show the hand of the person who made them so long ago.
These three panels were inspired by something that was both lovely and poignant at the same time, something I came upon when I was out walking in Truchas one day. They were part of an old adobe barn and a plaque was adhered to them. On it was a goodbye prayer to a husband who had died near the spot when the piece of equipment he was riding flipped over. I called the three pieces The Farewell Wall.
The time finally came for me to pack my car and a huge U-Haul trailer and make the drive, along with a dear friend (I never could have done it without her) and my 6 kitties, to a new life in New Mexico.
This was my own sort of farewell wall, a final goodbye painting to the glittering sun and the red rock desert that had been my home and teacher for eight years of my life.
And this is one of my first paintings in Truchas. I was quite happy with it. But when a local artist accused me of painting wallpaper, I had my first glimpse of raising the bar. Welcome to New Mexico kid! The home of the big boys and truly exceptional art.
On Friday I will show you the first generation, the real heritage, of my horse paintings (did you think we’d ever get here Sue?).
Love to you all,