'The American Scene' at the Van Vechten.Lineberry
Taos Art Museum
is a treat for the senses
A new exhibition that opened with a reception Friday (Sept. 3) provides
a welcome change of pace for lovers of truly fine art. The show is
titled 'The American Scene," and it can be seen at the Van Vechten‑Lineberry
Taos Art Museum, 501 Paseo del Pueblo Norte.
What makes this collection of paintings and sculpture so remarkable
is the sheer sense of professionalism that spreads from one end of
the L‑shaped special exhibits gallery to the other. In some ways
it may be likened to the setting of an upscale city museum, a venue
one may find in San Francisco, New York or Chicago, but without the
stuffy pretentiousness born of age. Here, in this fine art museum
built in memo ry of painter Duane Van Vechten, is a treat I encourage
everyone to see.
There is the sense of a story unfolding as you walk from one painting
to the next. Although it is not particularly encompassing as the
title may suggest, it is, as Jackson Hensley says, "a fine representation
of the American scene." Though he asked thai his name not be
mentioned. it would be a terrible omission to exclude Hensley's name
as one of the individuals who was largely responsible for helping
to amass the works for this particular show. According to museum
curator Erion Simpson, Hensley was instrumental for more than a year
in developing the list of works and making contacts. So enthusiastic
was she about reaction to this show, that Simpson hinted it may possibly
become a recurring exhibition, featuring yet‑to‑be‑explored facets
of "The American Scene." Let's
hope it does.
In terms of a story, "The American Scene" is cast with
some of the most interesting and unusual characters who provide the
setting for this panorama. In one corner, for instance, are the elders
who are gone but well remembered: Henriette H. Wyeth, Nicolai Fechin
and Peter Ilurd, represented, respectively, in their signature styles
by a still life, a portrait and landscape. The portrait by Fechin,
incidentally, is titled "Portrait of Duane," a vivid depiction
in a pleasing dynamic of angular contrasts and masterful brushstrokes
that convey a serene quality about its subject, Duane Van Vechten,
namesake of the institution. Flanking it are "The Yellow Iris" by
Wyeth and "Afternoon at San Patricio" by Hurd, husband
and wife both maintaining that sense of sublime serenity.
Throughout the rest of the gallery are works that touch upon a variety
of American themes. From acknowledging the blend of ethnic and worldly
influences to inner contemplation, which has often set the tone for
Western individualism, to commentaries on other art forms that emerge
as singular expressions of their own. Each work speaks volumes. Each,
in fact, serves as a chapter by itself.
Highlights, and I use that term carefully because there is not a
single piece that isn't one, include works I found intriguing on
a purely subjective level. For instance, a trio of landscapes that
hang one after another exude that peculiar American sense of wonder
at encountering wide open spaces.
Gordon Brown's "Last Rain" depicts the first rays of sunlight
as it illuminates the still‑falling curtain of mist over lush hills.
The Grand Junction, Cob., artist paints this scene as it overlooks
a bend in a river. It is pure romance. Then Peter Nisbet's "Rough
Country" casts the most glowing light upon an escarpment of
desert boulders, rendered so lovingly they appear to almost be a
source of light themselves. Nisbet, a liberal arts degree holder
and former Naval officer, said his work is "not exclusively
about nature, they are about my relationship with nature." But
it is Janis Annus' "Atlantis" that takes the landscape
into darker territory. Storm tossed, turbulent and moody, also rendered
with apparent emotional concentration, it stands as a stark example
of the landscape turned malevolent and mythic.
Youngest son of N.C. Wyeth and brother to Henriette, Andrew Wyeth
is probably the best‑known artist represented in the exhibit. Although
it may be a little startling to see a seascape in dusty, landlocked
New Mexico, it actually fits right in with this character study of
the American art scene. "From Eight Bells" is a fairly
small piece, but it shouts perfection in its tight composition and
beautifully rendered watercolor impression of a flat, muddy coastline
beneath soaring clouds.
Nearby are two bronze sculptures by Richard McDonald that nicely
convey the grace and artistry of ballet dancers. "Nureyev," a
meditative piece that depicts famed dancer Rudolph Nureyev in a private
moment, is striking in the way it occupies space. That quality is
shared by "The Doves," showing a duet entwined with limbs
and angel wings, which, by the way, forms a compliment to "The
Art of Biography," an
elegant mixed‑media literary comment by Embudo artist Melissa Zink.
Arguably the most arresting work in the show
comes from painter Geoff Lawrence, whose diptych titled "The Faith Healer," presents
in hyper‑realistic fashion the consuming desire to understand the
unknown and those who have, for generations, taken advantage of that
vulnerability. The Galisteo artist has been painting for about 30
years and expertly knows the right note to hit with carefully composed
elements and dramatic lighting.
Hensley said lastly that he is thankful for the museum to take on
an exhibition of national scope. "I'm amazed at what (museum
founders) Ed and Novella Lineberry have done for the community," he
said. Most anyone who takes the time to view this show would probably
In addition to those mentioned, the exhibition includes works by
Vladimir. Bachinsky, Michael Bergt, Susan Contreras, Doug Dawson,
Peter dela Fuente, Woody Gwyn, Albert Handell, Jackson Hensley, Michael
Hensley, Tresa Vorenberg Hensley,, David Leffel,
Sherrie McGraw, Elias Rivera, Burt Silverman and Alan Wolton.
"The American Scene" continues through Dec. 5.
The Van Vechten‑Lineberry Taos Art Museum is a privately owned and
funded institution. In addition to special exhibitions, the museum
also displays works by founding members of the Taos Society of Artists
and the Taos National Watercolor Society. Hours are Wednesday through
Friday, 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 1:30‑4 p.m. Closed
Mondays, Tuesdays and holidays.
For more information, call 758‑2690. Visit the museum online at laplaza.org/‑vvltam.