Shedding light on New Mexico

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By Nancy Coombs

“Impressionism in New Mexico,” the current exhibit at the Art Center at Fuller Lodge, truly embodies ACFL’s underlying philosophy: To enrich the human imagination through nurturing and supporting visual arts.

In this show, the work of emerging artists, such as 12-year-old Ashley Cook, hang amidst works by highly experienced and successful artists such as El Dorado’s Janet Amtmann, Nancy Kriebel and Molly Hyde. Cook’s pastel, titled “Absolutely Nothing,” is a wry commentary on the seemingly irrelevant touch of humanity in the vastness of nature. Her depiction of a road sign is unique in this collection dominated by landscapes.

The artists’ call for the show brought in more than 100 entries from 35 artists. Juror Patrick Harris, who teaches fine arts and art history at UNM-LA, took a look at the gallery space and recommended keeping the windows open, rather than putting up covers to allow a larger number of pieces to hang. The natural light not only enhances the whole space, illuminating the wood floor, it also forms the soul of impressionism, which was founded on trying to capture the fleeting effects of light. Natural lighting creates the most honest way to view these works.

Los Alamos resident Betty Souder shows a bronze piece, which was inspired by her impressions of New Mexico after visiting the Four Corners in 1981. At the time, she and her husband lived in Michigan and this trip to the Southwest compelled her to generate a number of iconic figures in clay. She worked very quickly, capturing the ideas much as a painter captures light. After relocating to Los Alamos a short time later, she had the piece cast at the Chimayo Foundry. The figures, including a friar, an Indian, a goat, a sheep and an eagle, emerge out of a conical shape reminiscent of a mountain.

A surprising number of artists managed to establish impressionistic images through photography. Christine Brown manipulated a Polaroid photo so it almost appears as a glimpse of the side of a canyon. The title, “Jemez Pueblo Church” clarifies the subject while encouraging a second look. Dan Gerth’s “Moonrise La Familia Sagrada” captures an inky blue-black sky which holds a full moon. Kimber Wallwork, who calls her work “digital art,” creates a mysteriously dark clouded sky above a landscape that seems to glow in “School’s Out.” Irene Berenstein’s “Fugue” is also an example of digital art, with a swimmer elongated and blurred so that the color and light become the main purpose of the photo.

Abiquiu artist Corinna Stoeffl’s photographs present the playfulness of nature, seen in the intense light of river ice beside running water and the movement of clouds at sunset. Deborah Moll, Eric Peterson and Marke Talley all share fairly traditional landscape subjects which illustrate the magnificent light of the Land of Enchantment. Moll’s “Wintry Day, the Jemez” captures a wonderful mist in front of mountains under a blue sky, the kind of scene that makes New Mexico so magical.

Ivan Faucon presents a unique interpretation of impressionism, with a digital frame running a slideshow that incorporates the paintings of several of the original Impressionist painters, while following a loose contemplative narrative mixed with photographs of the artist in urban (Santa Fe) settings. As always, Faucon challenges us to deconstruct our preconceptions.

Joyce Hester Laeser shows two encaustic pieces in the exhibit. Encaustic is a process of painting with wax and the resulting picture both absorbs and reflects light, giving the viewer a different experience of the subject. Laeser’s “Labyrinth” and “San Pedro Wilderness” are both scenes assuredly familiar to this area.

A number of artists exhibiting in “Impressionism in New Mexico” are showing for the first time at the Art Center. Deborah Paisner, relocated to Santa Fe from northern California, shares her colorful oil desert scene “Twilight Moon.” Michele Tisdale, also from Santa Fe, looked further north to paint “Tractor Path, Autumn, El Rito.” Mi Ra Won combines an impressionistic approach to color and light with a softly surreal approach to shape in her two untitled paintings of Santa Fe-style adobe neighborhoods.

The public is invited to an opening reception for “Impressionism in New Mexico,” which will be held from 5-7 p.m. Friday at the Art Center at Fuller Lodge, 2132 Central Avenue. The show will run through Sept. 5, with free admission from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Please call 662-9331 for more information.