Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Acequias & Artists continued...

Welcome to my friend Mark's home in the North Valley, an old agricultural district of Albuquerque - we had breakfast nearby at a little cafe called Sophia's Place on Sunday morning and walked along the acequias. I love how he's taken a small space and furnished it with older pieces pulled out of friends homes and whitewashed or collected over the years on his travels through Texas and California and Mexico before settling in Albuquerque.

He found this delicate wire birdcage in a shop locally and these two little orange birds happily flit from perch to perch in the sun-filled room at the foot of his bed.

How warm and self-contained his home space is while remaining open and light and airy.

We walked along the acequias past the homes and stables that border the waterway that is empty this time of year. Horses and peacocks, chickens and dogs barked and clucked and whinnied their greetings.

This time-honored irrigation system still maintains an elaborate code of protocol in opening and closing the waterways to each neighbor's property along the way.

Another time-honored tradition in New Mexico is a pilgrimage to Chimayo where this beautiful church sits.

In the sanctuary you will find the crutches left behind by men and women who came to pray and be healed. Whether you are steeped in the Catholic faith or not, we agreed there was something very peaceful about the small chapel.

The restaurant down the road was just getting to re-open after a bad fire in the kitchen a year or more ago so we had tamales at the little cafe right next to the church and loaded up on Sandia chiles and chile powder at the store around the corner. I have to say Luisa's makes one of the best chicken and green chilie tamales I've ever eaten with guacamole and house-made corn chips. With drinks our combined lunch expense was $10!
As one in eight New Mexico residents places their occupation as "artist" on their tax returns it's not unusual that I should have the pleasure of touring another artist's studio while visiting. This time it was my friend Al Kern's.
I met Al on a park bench 12 years ago just off the plaza in Santa Fe. He & his wife Marie took me under their wing and showed me the sights - the flea market and the galleries on Canyon Road were just two of the places I remember us visiting. Al's paintings are strong, beautiful representations of the spectacular light and natural land formations in New Mexico or the lovely friends and neighbors who have modeled for him over the years.
His studio is just behind their home in Albuquerque not far from the Nob Hill neighborhood where one can park and walk to shops and cafes or bookstores and natural food stores. While the canvas are neatly stacked or stored on shelves I love the fact that it's a real working studio with brushes and paint tubes everywhere!
This was one of my favorite figurative pieces of Al's pictured above; you can see his wife Marie admiring his work below. Unfortunately Al's father passed away the week we visited and he was in Alberta for the funeral so we didn't get to see him this visit.
Once you've explored some of the national monuments or visited the pueblos you begin to understand the New Mexican artist's fascination with landscapes - Georgia O'Keefe is probably one of the best known and loved of these. Be sure to see her collection at the Georgia O'Keefe Museum in Santa Fe. They own over 100o paintings, but only 8o or so are on view at any one time - the exhibits are changed four times a year so it's well worth a return visit.
To get a sense of the natural beauty ourselves we visited Tent Rocks National Monument on the Cochiti Reservation just outside of Albuquerque.
One can really appreciate how the land has formed over millions of years from the spectacular vistas at the top of the Canyon Loop.
I know these are supposed to resemble tents, but in my imagination other forms come to mind - a sort of topographic Rorschach test.
I loved how a tree or cactus will grow out of the rocks where you'd think nothing could possibly grow.
I hope you have an opportunity to visit soon or, if you're there already. to see some of the wide open spaces you haven't been to yet....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

JLB - Lovely again! You really have a knack for the narrative and putting images together... Great composition!
let's go back!!
xoxo -TH