Artists express visual truth in Van
Great art over the centuries ha expressed some
of the deepest truths about life. Some artists have a vision, a transcendent
moment when they see through ordinary reality to the very foundations
of matter. It might take the form of rosy light caught in the rain
clouds over the Rio Grande Gorge, or the stubbled pavement on a March
morning when both the snow and blue shadows are fluid and moving.
Beneath the image is a subtext of experience and emotion that draws you to peer
into the mind of the artist. You are invited into these windows of perception
at "American Scene II," showing at the Van Vechten-Lineberry Taos Art
Museum, 501 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, through Dec. 24
This invitational exhibit of two and three-dimensional artwork in varied media
is a major event for the museum as it brings together top artists from around
the country. Several local artists have pieces in the show including the curator,
Jackson Hensley, his son, Michael Hensley, David Leffel and Sherrie McGraw of
El Prado, and six artists from Santa Fe.
Hensley, who curated "American Scene" last year, said the underlying
connection between these pieces is the seriousness of the artists and quality
of the work. "Each of these artists is searching," he said. "The
show is about the celebration of life, life-giving, life-reflecting, life-rejoicing.
Life in America is landscapes, people, thoughts and more. It's the American spirit." He
thanked Novella and Ed Lineberry and the Taos Art Museum for providing a prestigious
venue for the show.
It's a strong show of accomplished and disciplined artists. One of the most well-known
invited artists is Ben Stahl, a former illustrator for Saturday Evening Post.
Along with Norman Rockwell and others, he founded the Famous Artists School in
Like Rockwell, Stahl knows how to capture the American scene in classic moments
like a windblown Coney Island day "At the Beach." His portrait of "School
Teacher" may remind you of someone you used to know with her long, serious
face, Betty Grable eyes and flowered straw hat. His images capture the essence
of any subject he chooses in a disarmingly simple way that says ordinary life
is rich and meaningful if you really stop to look.
The world of the imagination is just as valid and wonderful. One of the stars
of the show is a bronze sculpture by Richard MacDonald called "Joie de Vivre," featuring
three long-legged Pan-like dancers, their long, delicate fingers coaxing notes
of enchantment from their wind instruments. The piece is rendered in satisfying
detail, the slight puff of air in the dancers' otherwise concave cheeks, the
rippling muscles on the bare back of the male, the blowing drapery and textures
of the costumes. It's easy to imagine this masterpiece gracing one of the fountains
For Susan Contreras of Santa Fe, moment of illumination is both hid den and revealed
by the comicM expressions of masks, a man and woman blowing bubbles in a bright
carnival-colored piece ironically titled "Forever." She said painting
masks helps in her search for the bizarre arid unusual in peoples laces. She
transforms these expressions into archetypal truths about life. She makes it
look like a game in which she has mastered all the moves, can manipulate all
the pieces and still ends up surprised by how it turns out.
For others the moment of truth is captured by a life-like realism, a homage to
things exactly as they are. Or seem to be. Scott Fraser's still life, are so
photorealistic you have to bend to inspect faint brush stokes ot oil on linen
to convince yourself its a painting. In his artist's statement, he explains, "Simple
truths expose the artist and the viewer alike to connect and reflect, to go forward
in life. This form of realism is not merely painting but life itself."
How the mind reflects and interacts with matter is explored in Daniel Sprick's "Intentions
Create Reality:" Cloth-draped and tied around a post suggests a female figure,
but the Oriental carpet on top flattens into a table or an altar with offerings
of orange slices, shells, a carton of milk. These ordinary objects stand in contrast
and connection to the creamy orchids, honoring both the exotic and the mundane.
If this was his intention, he has created a quixotic reality that has a magical
power of its own.
He said he uses opposite element, as symbols and metaphors to probe the fundamental
questions of human existence. "The elements are not as important as how
they are stitched together."
In his work the creative mind makes the connections, while the viewer interprets
the overall patterns and meaning necessary to his or her physical and spiritual
Although the show is loaded with spiritual content, it
is equally about the sensual human form, and once, one of them is a beautiful
and unabashed male nude by the neo classicist painter Geoffrey Lawrence called "Strongman." Embraced
by the natural world, framed by the starry sky, this hero anoints his forehead
with a bowl of water in celebration of his own, passionate virility.
This is the painter's attempt marry the cerebral experience at "new emotionalism" of
the 21st century to the depths of the unconscious. It works. Other uncensored
images play with the eroticism of a narrow leather strap against female flesh,
crossed over the belly, coiled around the arm, or the sensual possibilities of
a gleaming nipple ring.
Almost as sensual is Woody Gwyn's "Melt Off," an abstract of snow melting
on pavement which perfectly expresses the impermanent and microscopically fluid
world of nature in satisfying lavender and blue shadows frosted with white snow
bright with the possibility of spring.
Elias Rivera comes at it from the opposite direction in "Under the Portal," a
striking familiar Indian market scene so lifelike it's painful, capturing the
absent expressions of women who sit out on the sidewalk for hours and days, in
all weather, cocooned by their private thoughts, chatting quietly, waiting for
the tourists to buy their jewelry. This artistic statement seems to be about
patience and stoicism, art and the endurance it takes to help feed the family.
Beauty and humor combine in "Life' Cycle," an exquisite egg tempera
by Michael Burke, a poignant of large heads, some with eyes closed to represent
the great thinkers of pa' ages: Lao Ins. Leonardo De VincL Ludwig Van Beethoven
and othes.' These heads are connected by elongated nude bodies weaving in
and out of each other. He said, "A lot of people are offende by them. Everything
with exaggeration, strength and intensity. People either like them or hate them
- nothing in between."
His father, who owns the Hensley Gallery Southwest, 311 Paseo del Pueblo Norte,
is showing two large oils. "Nesting" was inspired by a scene he came
across while horseback riding in an area south of Santa Fe on the Bonanza Creek
Ranch, he said. He noticed a small herd of cattle with a number of calves grazing
beside a stream while above the birds were nesting. "At the time I expecting
a child," he said, "Morika Rose. This painting is a celebration of
life for her coming into the world with us."
His second offering. "The Eagle is, oddly enough, a work in
progress. The eagle, which represents the spirit and "me running
down a trail by myself going through life" Was drawn from a
moment he encountered up at Taos Ski Valley when th aspens were
changing, he said
A few days later when he went back he found snow on the peaks. In
retrospect, when the painting comes down after the show, he has decided
to add the snow to suggest a sense of serenity and a whitish-blue
light that will change the whole feeling of the painting, he said.
Nothing lasts, not even this show, so stop by the museum and see
it before it's over. It's wonderful to have such strong work featured
Call 758-2690 for information.