Friday, June 26, 2009

Different Strokes at 48th Annual New Mexico Arts & Crafts Fair

(Courtesy of Meredith Kent)

I’m always saying this, but God, or the Universe, Allah, Mother Earth, or whatever you refer to the higher power that governs us and the world in which we live, makes life an interesting journey. Since the Southwest is a place filled with tremendous spiritual energy, I find myself tapping into it easily. It gives me comfort that I’m moving towards something large and exciting in my life.

In the meantime, I guess I will have to settle for experiencing the small and exciting things that are happening to me in my new life. Today was my first time attending the New Mexico Arts & Crafts Fair. Some people might scoff and say, “well, that show isn’t what it used to be. I remember when…” (The Fair is now in its 48th year.), but I say that given the present economy and the state of the art world, the show was well-orchestrated. I attended Art Expo New York this past spring, and I would tend to say that much of the art that is available for purchase at Expo New Mexico’s Manuel Lujan Building is on par, if not superior, to much of what I saw there—certainly more diverse and definitely exciting!

What you’ll find at the New Mexico Arts & Crafts Fair, which continues on through this Sunday, June 28, is a compilation of artists and craftspeople, who are highly skilled and love what they do. The economy has not deterred them from coming out and exhibiting their work. That said, the one thing that is different from past years is that prices have been adjusted to meet the collector half-way. At one young artist's booth hung a very prominent sign that stated “Marked prices are negotiable.” She was very talented, and I recommended she remove the sign, because she could likely fetch her asking price. Unbdoubtedly, other artists were negotiating as well. I had a couple of people lower their prices to make a sale without even having to ask. Nonetheless, all prices were reasonable, and considerably lower than you would find in an Albuquerque or Santa Fe Gallery—Well worth the $5 price of general admission.

Since the higher power seems to be ruling in my favor these days, I’m going to start off with a fantastic discovery. On Thursday, I popped by the Goodwill Donation Center on San Mateo to “check out the chotskies,” as I say. Not sure what I’d find (though I have figured out you can find a treasure a day if you have the time, the eye, and the wherewithal to do so), and I found a marvelous and elegant unfired white clay Japanese offering vase. It was $2.99, an obviously ridiculous price for something of such high quality and craftsmanship. I took it home and immediately hit Google typing in every search term that seemed appropriate to identify its maker. I couldn’t read the signature because it appeared to be signed in Japanese, and DUH!!! I only hablo espanol. So, therein lay the mystery of the bamboo and shell-themed vase. As I went to bed, I remember putting it out into the Universe that I really wanted to know who created that vase.

This morning, as I turned one of the corners at the Arts & Crafts Fair, I was brought face to face with the vase’s creator—Albuquerque ceramics and brushwork dynamo, Pat Marsello. Fearing that she would be insulted that I found one of her pieces at Goodwill, I hesitated to ask her if this unidentified vase might be her’s. After perusing her lastest artistic offerings, I found a piece that had similar kiva step cut legs and stampwork, which confirmed that my newfound object, indeed, was her handiwork. It apparently took a while to make it to Goodwill, though, since this particular vase was made ten years ago. That made my day!

(My Goodwill find...offering vase, ceramic stonewith dragonfly and brushwork card--All by Marsello)

Here are some images of Pat's work at New Mexico Arts & Crafts Fair:

If you’ve ever been on ebay, you might know that there is a contingency of artists who cater to first-time art collectors, collectors on limited budgets as well as those who just appreciate miniature art. I have been following many of these artists for the last couple of years, and the ACEO (Art Cards Editions and Originals) movement is continuing to build momentum and fans. Just a few months ago, I began to watch pieces by Albuquerque-based artist Ed Wyatt. I was pleased to have the opportunity to put a face with the name at the Arts & Crafts Fair.

While I have a personal fondness for some of Ed’s smaller pieces (He recently sold the piece “Fence Line,” a 5”x 7” tribute to Southwest landscapes), I was pleased to discover some of his more contemporary pieces in larger form at the Arts & Crafts Fair.

Clearly influenced by his natural surroundings, Wyatt achieves his goal of capturing “serenity and simplicity executed with color and perspective.” If you are unable to make it out to the fairgrounds this weekend, visit for more information, and certainly, if you are looking for affordable art, keep checking back at his ebay store called "Route 66 Art." He has assured me that there will be some great forthcoming works up for auction!

Perhaps the biggest highlight of my day was meeting Alamagordo artist Horace Cordova. His overall body of work, self-proclaimed “Visions from the Past,” is a stirring exploration into our humanity, our connection to nature in the past and present. Combining influences reminiscent of his ancestral roots ranging from Mexican to Native American, Cordova manages to harness the spirits of his subjects in clay in a way that elicits melancholy and excitement, both at the same time. Ironically, I experienced one of his pieces, for the first time, at Northeast Albuquerque’s Weyrich Gallery on Thursday. As a mask maker, I immediately connected to it. His New Mexico Arts & Crafts Fair booth was filled with a wide array pieces that show his versatility in utilizing form. The artist intentionally mixes traditional and contemporary techniques and materials in his pieces, which run the gamut from tribal-and animal-inspired masks to small and large sculpture with themes, ranging from prehistoric medicine men to mythological maidens. Cordova has created a mysterious, spiritual and thought-provoking world in which the beings—those who come to light via his hands--can effectively exist in. Cordova’s oversized pottery fragment pieces inspired by Native American and Mexican pottery styles are also a real treat for the spectator. It is important to note that Cordova had the honor of studying pottery painting for a time with Juan Quezada of Mata Ortiz fame. These works are highly reflective of that training, though he has opted to combine many of the lines in his own way to depict the symbiotic relationship between man, animal and nature. For more information, visit

Another highlight of the New Mexico Arts & Crafts Fair includes Native American pottery by the lovely Margaret Rodriguez-Chavez (of the Laguna Tribe) and her husband. Rodriguez-Chavez has taken traditional elements of tribal pottery and combined them, in some cases, with contemporary ingenuity to create wonderful works of art that bring Native American ceramics into the new millennium.

I loved the encaustic (beeswax combined with resin) mixed media paintings of Santa Fe native Mary Alayne Thomas, who says that her whimsical pieces illustrate “those magical ephemeral moments we all experience, both real and imagined.” The inspiration for many of her pieces comes from her love of Japanese block prints and early twentieth-century children’s illustrations. Visit

Meredith Kent of Meredith Kent Designs is one of those thoughtful, talented, up-and-coming young artists, who know how to make edgy beautiful. I loved her cool paintings, which were inspired by Victoria’s Secret advertisements. Anybody want to buy the painting of the chick in the nightie and the gas mask for me???

Finally, another big thrill for me, was meeting local ceramic and tile artist Elaine Bolz of Corrales. Her brightly colored ceramic masks (again, another artist, whose work I encountered for the first time at the Weyrich Gallery), remind me of some of the folk art that I found while living in Costa Rica in the early 1990s. Many of her pieces evoke images of people of the Earth as well as (and of particular interest to me) the striped Native American Koshare Clowns. Bolz’s eye for detail is superb, and no matter what your décor, there is a place for one of her pieces en su casa. See more of her work at

Perhaps the most inspiring part of attending the New Mexico Arts & Crafts Fair was seeing the variety of talent, working in all mediums and at different levels. If you are so inclined, pop by the Hispanic Arts Building for the Youth Art Exhibit. You will be amazed at all the talented youngsters' work emerging from elementary schools on up through senior high, Undoubtedly, the exhibit will have you asking yourself the question "Why didn’t I start taking art lessons way earlier in life?"

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Luxurious Liquid Diet: Vantage Art Projects Presents 'Stone Soup #3'

It may be warming up outside, but anytime is the perfect time for a stirring bowl of soup, especially when it's being served up by none other than Vancouver-based Vantage Art Projects, the dynamic artistic endeavor that was launched last year by its creators Sherri Kajiwara and Jennifer Mawby.

This Friday, June 26, Vantage Art Projects will host Week 3 of its progressive art installation entitled "Stone Soup." This edition highlights the works of Christian Nicolay and Rebecca Donald.

If you happen to be in the "Van" on Friday and are interested in checking it out, you can find "Stone Soup" the exhibition at the Grace-Gallery. Both Nicolay and Donald's work are part of a comprehensive showing that includes 6 artists over three weeks. For more information, visit

Monday, June 22, 2009

Albuquerque Film Festival Finds New Home Good as 'Gold'

Last Saturday, I was invited to attend a party celebrating the opening of the Albuquerque Film Festival's new office in the Gold Street Lofts located in the new gallery district in Downtown ABQ. While much of the space will be utilized to house the administrative offices for Film for Change, the umbrella organization that produces the Albuquerque Film Festival, some of the loft will be occupied by the Green Bar Cafe,a health food and juice bar, which, while not officially open, catered the lively affair. The wine and beer flowed, but the highlight of the evening were the wasabi rolls, various tea drinks and a wide array of cupcakes. The evening was underscored by local musician Paul Salazar, who kept things cool and relaxing.

(L to R: Local jewelry and art maven Susan Tische and producer Aynn Kirby)

Brainchild of Executive Director and producer, Rich Henrich, the Albquerque Film Festival's mission is to present socially-relevant films. The first-ever Albuquerque Film Festival will take place from August 6-9. Confirmed attendees for the 2009 Festival will include FAIRUZA BALK Actress, artist (The Craft, Almost Famous, American History X), GIANCARLO ESPOSITO Actor, director (Gospel Hill, The Usual Suspects, Breaking Bad), among others. For more information, visit

(Paul Niemi, publicist with producer Aynn Kirby)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Scaling the 'Wall' to Artistic Perfection at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center

One of the most exciting things about Albuquerque is that there is always something going on, whether it's waking up to a crew filming the cable TV series "Crash" on your street, hearing the B-52s at the casino, taking in mariachis in the Plaza at Old Town, attending an ArtsCrawl, or stumbling upon fantastic art exhibits that you didn't even know were going on!

For locals and tourists alike, if you haven't been to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, there's no excuse for not taking the time to check it out. I've been meaning to go for a while now, but by chance I found myself in "el barrio" and thought I'd pop in to have a look--SO glad I did.

Since I'm now a New Mexican, I actually got in for four bucks instead of the normal six. This was pretty exciting, and my dinero was way better spent there than at Starbucks. The lobby currently features a marvelous display of art created by children from the Indian school on the Jemez reservation. A number of these kids are the offspring of some of the most famous and esteemed potters from the Jemez tribe. Avid Native American pottery collectors will recognize the names Wall, Gachupin, Yepa, among others. From paintings on canvas to handmade aprons to friendship bowls, the works elicit awe in light of the fact they were made by children. Nonetheless, they all bring a smile to your face. And the best part is, most of the pieces are available for purchase! How special for these children that, while most public schools in this country are cutting art programs, they are learning the ropes from master artisans and carrying on the tradition of generations.

Part of the overall experience of the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center is getting to browse through the books and manhandle contemporary pottery in the gift shop. You can also take in a wonderfully informative and up-close and personal video of the late Maria Martinez and her son making their distinct San Ildefonso pottery, view examples of Native pottery through the centuries, or watch Native performers bring their tribe's dances to life in the courtyard. At present,however, the main event is taking place in the South Gallery with the exhibition of Celebrating Native Legacies:Works in Clay by Kathleen Wall of Jemez Pueblo.

I was completely unprepared for this exhibit, mostly due to the scope, and the overwhelming detail that Ms. Wall, one of the most skilled Native potters working today, brings to these characters that include some depictions of herself and fellow tribespeople. Immediately upon entering the gallery, which allows the spectator to go right up to the pieces and touch them, I was moved to tears. Wall's ability to fully capture the spirit, energy and warmth of the Jemez people in the eyes and physicality of her figures is remarkable. From room's corner to corner, the gallery was filled with distinct personalities, who seem to whisper, in an amalgamation of voices, "Come to me. Welcome. This is who we are. Let us show you." While Wall's works depict tradition--honoring family, elders and making pottery--it is quite exciting to see how contemporary her style is. Like all art forms, they are constantly evolving, and the old ways give way to new traditions and forms. Perhaps the only thing traditional about her creations is that they are made from clay.

The highlight of Kathleen Wall's exhibit is her rendering of six female elders of the Walatowa tribe singing and dancing. The child-sized figurines are aptly placed before a wide screen upon which plays a looping video of the same women in flesh and blood mirroring their clay counterparts.

There are few words to describe walking among the "spirits" in this artistic celebration of life, the living and traditions. It can only be experienced first-hand. Celebrating Native Legacies opened back in February, but it will continue through October 11, 2009. The majority of Wall's works are available for purchase. For more information visit

Monday, June 1, 2009

Albuquerque's Open Mind Space Gallery Brings Exciting Art to Old Town

If you haven’t been to Albuquerque’s Old Town in a while, you might not be aware that a handful of young art aficionados are bringing back the concept of a traditional art gallery to an area dotted, in recent years, with pottery, jewelry, and tourist trinket shops. Devon Hall of Open Mind Space, is one of those entrepreneurs bringing refreshing new art to Old Town.

In June, Open Mind Space will feature the photographic quilts of Emilie Bezzeg, in addition to a selection of her drawings that represent natural subjects.

Bezzeg, a Tomé, New Mexico native, mimics the visual content of black and white photographs through her use of specific fabric choices, patterns and textures. The artist cuts, layers, and stitches all of the fabric by hand creating an end result that is an enlarged version of the original image—highly detailed and as realistic as possible.

The gallery's back room will feature “American Indians,” a series of black and white photographs by the late writer and photographer, Douglas Kent Hall, whose works were selected from an exhibit that was recently on display at the El Paso Museum of Archaeology. In May, visitors to the gallery were treated to images of Navajo people by Hall, but the June exhibition focuses on studies of Pueblo people in New Mexico.

Stop by the gallery on Friday, June 5 from 5:00 p.m. to 8 p.m. for an opening reception that will feature live music, food, drinks, and an opportunity to meet other art lovers. If you are unable to attend the opening reception, the exhibition will continue through July 5, 2009.

The gallery, which is located at 404 San Felipe Street NW, Suite C1, in Albuquerque’s Old Town, is open from 12:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. For more information, call 505-259-3566 or visit