Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Santa Fe

One day during my recent trip out to New Mexico, my sister and I went to Santa Fe to take a look at some galleries.  There are over 100 galleries in town, so to be effective, you need to do some homework beforehand and identify the ones you really want to see.  Then rely on serendipity to provide you with surprises.  I put together a short list of about 8-10 galleries to check out.  Some, of course, turned out to be not what I was looking for.  Others were as good as I'd hoped.  And I did find one that wasn't on the list.

One of the galleries I visited was Bill Hester Fine Art.  Bill was in Chapel Hill for a few years and carried my paintings while there.  Now he's back in Santa Fe with two galleries on Canyon Road.  It was good to see him and catch up on developments with both him and his wife Susannah.  Bill has a good collection of artists, and while I was too busy talking with him to check out the art in detail, there were a number that were really interesting.

I also visited Giacobbe-Fritz Fine Art and wound up having a great discussion with their director, Palin Wiltshire.  Palin was enthusiastic and very knowledgeable about art in general and her artists in particular.  One of them was Ben Steele (check out his works on his website or on the Giacobbe-Fritz page).  Frankly, I was blown away by Ben's work.  This young man can really create a painting in concept, in composition, and in paint.  And he is witty.  Not many paintings will make me laugh out loud, but Ben's did, over and over.  But these are not just cartoons expertly done in paint.  No, these are comments that may be light-hearted or may be pretty cutting, depending on how you take them.  Many of them reference iconic artworks from the past, and pay homage to them, at the same time putting a big smile on your face.  Quite an achievement.  So Ben is my newest artist find: sharp, funny, and really good.  And Giacobbe-Fritz is one of my favorite Santa Fe galleries.

Over at Nuart Gallery, there was another interesting artist.  Santiago Perez is sort of like a modern-day Hieronymus Bosch, only not so disturbing or threatening.  His larger paintings were crammed with odd little figures going about strange little businesses.  Where Bosch can scare the hell out of you, Perez draws you into the story, making you want to tag along with the critters to see what will happen next.  Lots of fun.

The Intrigue Gallery wasn't on my list, but I spotted it and went in.  They featured the paintings of Pamela Franken Fiedler.  These are large, sensuous images of male and female figures, primarily in black and white with specific areas of color.  This was the only gallery I saw in Santa Fe that had any figurative work that could be called "sensual" - all the rest could be rated G.  Fiedler uses models from a variety of ages - some are young, but others have been around the block a few times, and it is really cool to see them treated so sensitively and beautifully.

There was one other artist that made an impression on me.  Karen Waters isn't represented by any Santa Fe galleries, but she lives and works there.  She's a photographer of the outdoors, and combines those images with layers of textures (sometimes many layers) that give them an otherworldly feel.  I saw her work displayed in Los Alamos.  Some of her images were printed on aluminum and others on canvas or paper.  One of them, "Days Like This", is a haunting image of a lone tree.  Trust me, your computer screen will not do it justice.  I bought one of her printed images for my sister.

So I got my "art fix" in Santa Fe.  Kudos to the staff at Giacobbe-Fritz, Nuart Gallery, Intrigue Gallery, and Turner-Carroll Gallery, all of whom were happy to talk to me even when they heard that I was an artist.  Often, I've found that gallerists will turn away as quickly as possible when that comes out.  It's like they're thinking, "He's an artist, he's not going to buy anything, and he's going to ask me to look at his work.  He's a waste of time."  For the record, I never asked to show them my work, although one gallery director did ask to see mine.

My sister was a saint: she waited patiently with her three dogs outside while I went into gallery after gallery.  While I was talking with Bill Hester, her collie found a dead bird and wouldn't put it down, which caused a bit of a situation until we dislodged the carcass from her jaws.  I repaid my sister with lunch at the Second Street Brewery, a really good brew pub away from the city center.

I hope it won't be so many years before I get to go to Santa Fe again.

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