One of the best parts about living in New Mexico is all of the creative people living in their creative spaces. There are so many quaint and romantic back roads that lead you to the front door of an artist. One of the qualities that first attracted me to living in New Mexico was the inspirational bucolic scenes that seemed so natural, so fitting, so perfect for an author or an artist to conjugate their creativity integrating these settings into their work. Our landscape is so diversified here in northern New Mexico that every turn you take there is a wonderful and unique feeling to each place all on it’s own.
A favored experience while sharing this Land of Enchantment is the encounter of visiting local artists in the intimacy of their homes and art studios.
It’s such an extraordinary opportunity to meet these artists in their place of creativity and learning of their colorful lifestyles that articulate with such enriching art.
Abiquiu is the little town 15 miles outside of Ghost Ranch along the Chama River that is most well known for the artist Georgia O’Keeffe. The outer lying landscape tells the story of millions of years of erosive scars that continue to shift and change with time. While exploring Abiquiu, it’s not difficult to uncover why so many artists have made this home among her mesas, buttes, valleys, canyons and plateaus with vivid hues painted and etched across her landscape like poetry. Walter Nelson is a landscape photographer from Texas who began his work in 1967. He interprets many of his images into large mixed media art on canvas while articulating his spiritual quest and deep connection with the earth he explores. Nelsons black and white photography in the Black Place is my favorite of his work, it feels as though he has uncovered another world through his lens and evokes imagination. His studio and home overlooks the bosque of the Chama River near Bode’s, the General Store built in 1919. His living area is tucked back behind his art studio that boasts high ceilings with bright light and walls adorned with his creative art pieces. Walter spends much of his time wandering out in nature absorbing the landscape and using it as the main subject of his art. He has created many alters around the world that he has photographed and interpreted again through mixed media art on canvas.
Further down the windy dirt road in Abiquiu along the Chama river lives the artists Debra Fritts and Frank Shelton. This couple moved here from Atlanta after years of life in the city both working and teaching in their field of art. Since they have made their cozy and sophisticated abode along the river their infusion of the natural world has surfaced through both of their work. Debra is a clay artist who shares “working intuitively with pounds of wet clay, forms appear and stories develop.” Debra is one of the most hospitable and warm artists I have ever met. Not only is her talent, vision and articulation of clay profound, but her spirit is playful, nurturing and creative. She often hosts workshops and retreats in her home welcoming all ranges of ability to join her in the studio sharing her home and talent. Debra’s work continues to amaze me as she weaves in the natural world and spirituality around her of the ravens, the coyotes and owls.
Frank has one word that illuminates the style of his work, passion. Without passion work is dead. He compares his form to a quote by from the late Israeli artist, Moshe Kupferman. “…I first put in emotion and expression. Next, I cover it up. Then, I put in silence…” He has a whole wall of paper mache dolls that remind me of voodoo dolls or spirit embodiment of personal reflection. Debra and Frank just recently finished the construction of their show room next to their juxtapose working art studios. Their studio space was a old chicken coop built with WPA money to provide work for those living in the Chama River Valley and now transformed into one of these creative living spaces. As husband and wife, you can see their deep connection with simply their artwork shown next to one another.
Abiquiu is home to so many artists. There is nothing quite like exploring the rural roads of northern New Mexico. No matter how many times I visit these places there is always something new I didn’t see before. With every season there is a new feeling or quality to the earth that triggers my mood. As much as I love visiting the famous art district of Canyon Road in Santa Fe drenched with art galleries and studios, there is nothing quite like visiting the artists themselves in their intimate home settings.