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?"

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