My residency in Corrales, New Mexico was due in equal parts good fortune, timing and connections. I had no idea of what to expect. Living in a historic town settled in the 1800’s turned out to be a perfect backdrop to be inspired by old architecture, rural setting and a posse of New Mexican artists. I spent the first week just getting settled and understanding adobe masonry and what nails will penetrate their thick walls. I unfurled 12 feet of butcher paper to sketch out my new paintings. The tape peels off and my paper falls in the dust that sheds from the clay coating on the wall. Apparently they use mud to finish the walls and as it dries, it flakes off. The whole landscape is made from dust and mud so suppose it makes sense to use it in the architecture. But trying to affix anything to the walls is a major undertaking. Sara, my host, keeps handing me cement nails, but I am sure my screws with my drill will do the trick. But alas, when I have nothing hanging after repeated attempts, I meekly ask for those cement nails she has been hocking.
With a few canvases, stretched and precariously hanging on a cement nail, I start to paint my coyote critters. The image came from a gun shop as a “Target Critter Series”. The graphic is a slouching coyote with neon orange outline and a black overlay that will give way to orange when struck by the marksman. Ultimately this would work as a silkscreen but I imagine no New Mexican would wear it as a T-shirt for fear of being a target. It’s ironic that this “pest” has a rich folkloric history but now is the subject of a target practice series.
I owe my residency connection to Jade and her husband, Tom. They are a lovely couple that I met last summer on my first visit to New Mexico. Jade is a painter from Mexico City and a branch off of Frieda. She has a lovely lilt to her voice, long black hair - a classic Spanish beauty. Tom is a rocking roll boy from Boston, instantly familiar to me having lived in Boston around the same time. We both worked at the infamous Coffee Connection, he at Faneuil Hall and I in Harvard Square. We shared common grounds in more ways than one.
My first excursion was to the San Juan Pueblo north of Santa Fe for a “Deer Dance”, a ritual dance that apparently every tribe reenacts the hunter and the pursued deer with a dance. Jade and Tom drove along with their friend, Jonathan Longcore, retired Delta Airline employee who took the job for the ability to travel for the rest of his life. He studied anthropology and music with a dissertation on both, only to find he would have to have two jobs, one fundraising for travel and another for his work. Delta served him well and has traveled the world ever since.
When we arrive at the Deer Dance, I am told that they will not allow photographs or sketches and might even confiscate either if you try. So we approach a long line of yellow-capped Indians chanting and moving slowly forward. There is a group with drums that position themselves midway on the side of the lineup, keeping the rhythm and chanting. There are men, boys and few girls but I do not see any women participating in the dance. Their costumes are complex and wonder how I will remember the details when an old Indian wrapped in a polyester blanket asks if we would like to photograph and if so there is a fee of $20.00. When I ask, “Who do I pay?” he answers with a tooth short grin, “Me”.
I shoot and shoot; I’m on my knees…I run ahead of the lineup, I shoot the two hunters that taunt the lineup. One shot comes into focus; it’s the one of the deer hunter with yellow war face paint that I thought KISS invented. He is leaning forward with his arrows on his back and in the background is an Indian woman spectator wrapped in one of those ubiquitous polyester blankets, with a large Indian face printed on it. I think to myself, the American Indian’s image was confiscated a long time ago.
There will be an opening at Sara’s Gallery, Gathering of Artists at the end of my residency. The paintings I will be showing are about my experiences with the southwest, some are portraits from early photographers, Carl Moon and Edward Curtis; others are inspired from the deer dance and local landmarks. While everything is brown here during these late winter months, the paintings take on the colors of yellow, red and blue. It’s the memory from a New Mexico summer.
The photographs are more representative of the present experience. I gather them on my walks with Diesel along the ditch that is dry for the first month, then a roaring river for the second. I learned there is a Ditch Master that has the high honor of releasing the water to the neighborhoods. If you are wealthy enough, you can have your own bypass ditch. This redirected water, floods your field for your horses & cattle to graze on. The brown dust turns to mud and then blooms in a field of green grass.