Thursday, November 21, 2019

New Mexico Fiber Arts Center. . . in Santa Fe!

Before I get to the main story today I want to let you know about a fun fiber event happening this weekend in Santa Fe.  Hop on over to the annual Fall Fiber Fiesta, Nov. 22-24, at the Scottish Rite Temple, 463 Paseo de Peralta in Santa Fe, 9-5.  It's a bonanza of hand-crafted fiber art and gifts--handwovens, hand-knitted, crocheted, spun, felted, and quilted items.  The event is free to the public.  The Artists' Reception 5-8 Friday night features live music, refreshments and a silent auction for a $10 charge.  I'm not exhibiting this year but I'm planning on doing some serious holiday gift shopping.

This event is sponsored by a mainstay of the New Mexico fiber arts world:  the Española Valley Fiber Arts Center (EVFAC).  EVFAC has offered classes, a shop full of tempting fiber, tools, and books, and sponsored fiber art exhibits and sales for over twenty years.  It is truly the hub of the fiber arts in Northern New Mexico.

Now EVFAC is expanding with an exciting new presence in Santa Fe.  The former Amores Yarns is now the New Mexico Fiber Arts Center, located at 328 S. Guadelupe Street in the Railyard district, home to many contemporary arts venues.  The Center will spotlight the work of a handful of artists periodically.  I am thrilled to report that my work is keeping company there with the amazing work of  tapestry artist Mary Cost through late January.  (And we have each sold a piece already!  Yay!)

Mary Cost's tapestries hang above a luscious assortment of yarns, some hand-dyed locally.
Store buyer/manager Leslie Zwail offers a warm welcome and deep knowledge of the artwork, yarns, and vintage textiles on offer.   Those are my pieces Mater Dolorosa, Red Letter Day, and Mary (Yes) on the wall. 

These pieces in my Fences series are available.  From top:  Barbed,  Falling, and Bruised.
I just finished Barbed this week.

Barbed.  That's actual barbed wire.  

The first Fence piece, Gate, has sold.  
The third artist featured at the moment is actually a collector, Diane Hanson.  Her treasure trove of rare vintage and folk textiles is available for purchase through New Mexico Fiber Arts Center for a limited time.  I unfolded and petted most of the pieces in this gorgeous collection when I was there for the opening.  Still mulling over what I can bring home with me. . . .

A few of the gorgeous indigo batik textiles available.

Handwoven linens
The Center also offers gorgeous handmade wearable art by local artists including Cynthia Boudreau (nuno felted work) and Julia Stephens (eco-printed suede and leather totes).

Shawl by Cynthia Boudreau
Felted coat and beret by Cynthia Boudreau

Eco-printed leather/suede tote by Julia Stephens

Concurrent with EVFAC's Santa Fe satellite is that the Española location is rededicating itself to serving the local community, with new programming for school children and people with disabilities. A full roster of events is available here. 

If you are planning to be in Santa Fe, be sure to add New Mexico Fiber Arts Center to your must-do list.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019


Sometimes when I hear a moving performance of choral music, or see a work of art, or an entire exhibit, that resonates powerfully with me, I feel encouraged, in the literal sense of "filled with courage."  I take heart.  I see (or hear) evidence that humans are still capable of making beauty, taking   precious time and infinite care to craft something that is rewarding to experience.  The artist decides that for now, in making this piece of music, or this work of art, concerns around  the efficient use of time, the production of a useful product, of marketing, branding, commerce and so on, are irrelevant.  The imperative to make this thing, to convey this emotion, in these hard-won colors and forms, is paramount.

I had this experience most recently at the New Mexico Museum of Art.  Sam and I went to see the show Agnes Pelton:  Desert Transcendentalist  (on view in Santa Fe through January 5, 2020.  See the last paragraph below for more info).

Agnes Pelton (1881-1961) worked a vein of spiritual abstraction informed by her interests in mysticism, numerology and yoga, and by the larger current of abstract painting of her time.  As I looked at her paintings, I wondered immediately, Why is Agnes Pelton not as well-known and well-regarded as Georgia O'Keeffe?  Pelton's paintings also demonstrate a fascination with the space and sky of the open desert, with the effects of light--of glow--and a conviction that the desert sky is a locus of mystical meaning.  One wall label says that Pelton's paintings in the late 1920s began to be "completely untethered from reality and move toward a surreal embodiment of light, space, and vibration that borders on science fiction."

Sam and I noticed that almost every painting contained some kind of horizon line, situating it in a kind of landscape.  And almost every painting followed the composition of an icon, with a strong central image serving as a focal point.  For these reasons alone, I suppose, I am predisposed to love her work!

These are a few of my favorite paintings from the exhibit.

Agnes Pelton, Ecstasy, oil on canvas, 1928
About this painting, the painter wrote a poem.  Here are the first and last lines:
A flower bursts open / in rush of ecstasy to meet the Day. . . the life force gathered, / and swift and free / it opened, to the light.

Agnes Pelton, Voyaging, oil on canvas, 1931
As a fiber artist, of course my interest is piqued by anything that resembles the sinuous lines of thread.   But then what. . . what of these elegant loops and swirls, suspended above a seascape?  What of the bell in the upper right?  Each of us must make our own meaning in front of this painting, or be content to rest in a contemplative state of not-knowing.

Agnes Pelton, Mother of Silence, oil on canvas, 1933
According to the wall label, this painting is an abstract rendering of Pelton's mother, a huge influence on the artist, and the "Holy Mother Spirit."  Pelton used this painting as an icon, a focus for her own meditation.  A glowing, generative central figure floats above and between elongated orbs, radiating  elegant thread-like lines.  The jagged red line on the left reminds me a bit of the line traced on a EKG by the heartbeat. . . in any case it adds a jolt of angular energy, of movement in a painting that is otherwise about stillness.

Agnes Pelton, Fires in Space, oil on canvas, 1938
Unusually among the paintings in this show, Fires in Space does not contain a horizon line or have a central iconic image--it is overall pattern, perhaps born of time spent gazing at the dark desert sky and its countless stars and galaxies.

It was sobering to read, on the last text panel in the exhibit, that when Pelton died in 1961, one of the paintings she had given to the Santa Barbara Gallery was put in a White Elephant Sale and marked down to $15.  Pelton's work did not fit neatly into existing categories at the time, and so it was deemed disposable.

In the 1980s Pelton's work began to be studied, catalogued, and exhibited, and it seems that she is  finally taking her rightful place as an important modernist and abstract painter.  For me, it was en-courage-ing to see an artist so committed to her own original vision, whether or not it was in fashion or marketable or even categorizable.

If you want to know more, visit the Santa Fe museum's website here.  The exhibit was organized by the Phoenix Museum of Art and a 30-second video shows their installation. A 38-minute video lecture about Agnes Pelton by art historian Erika Doss is on YouTube here.  The exhibit will travel to the Whitney Museum in New York City in March 2020 and to the Palm Springs Art Museum in August 2020.  The catalog of the show is available from the New Mexico Museum of Art here,  the Phoenix museum here,  and on Amazon here.