Wind Blows South, 28" high
Princess of Nigeria, 21" high
Ray and Betsy smile while displaying the fruits of their restless creativity.
You can’t retire from being inspired
Meeting Ray and Betsy Shaw is a total revelation, a beacon of hope for what retirement could be, at its best. You wouldn’t know it from their gracious, easygoing manner, but what grounds them in this cheerful calm—Betsy always wearing that smile!—is that they each have their private passions.
These are not the passions of youth, however, dangerous and quickly worn out. This is what happens when two inspired people had to wait their whole lives to let their creativity fly, and now have all the time in the world to do it.
Ray was a high school band teacher “for more years than I care to admit”; Betsy had an interior design firm for 28 years. So their work was creative. And both of them loved to tinker and touch things—in his case, wood and clay; in hers, exotic fabrics. But their jobs never left enough time for it. “My time was dictated by my clients,” Betsy says with typical understatement, her leisurely drawl giving away a lifetime in east Texas.
They had planned to retire in Angel Fire, where Ray and two friends built them a house. But it proved too cold. So they moved instead to Ruidoso, where they fell in with a group of artists who challenged them with the retirement crucible: “What next?” Who do you serve now?
For Ray, it was probably never a question. He was always building things: furniture and cabinets made of found objects, animals and pots out of clay. For Betsy, the answer started with what she had never been able to indulge: her fascination with antique and ethnic fabrics. “I love the fact that the fabric itself is a piece of art,” she explains. “I just have a passion for handcrafted objects.”
Walk through their home in Bernalillo, where they moved about a year ago, and that much is obvious. The rooms spill over with folk art, colorful fabrics, a glorious excess of pillows, and fanciful textures all begging to be examined and touched.
Just big enough for the two of them, the newly built home in the Bosque del Rio subdivision is half given over to workshops. She has hers inside; he has his in a kind of garage, plus his music room. And then there are her fabrics.
“She has to have all her stuff,” is how Ray puts it. “Needless to say, I’m a collector,” she admits. Betsy’s cozy studio contains shelves and drawers and piles of exotic fabrics, beads, stones, deer antlers, turtle shells, and carved masks from Africa and Mexico. From these she assembles her “female spirits,” slender figures that start out as a used bottle and end up as outrageously bedecked goddesses.
“Costuming is my passion,” Betsy explains, “but I had to start with a figure.” The arms started out made of clay and then became antlers. The heads might be anything from a turtle shell to the vertebrae of an oryx found by the side of the road.
“I guess I never gave up playing with dolls,” she says with a wink.
Follow the antlers and clay, turtle shells and beads through the rooms filled with folk art and pillows, and you will land in Ray’s workshop, where antlers and feathers find new life as Native American-style masks mounted on wooden pedestals. Each one is unique, says Ray, and despite their Hopi and Navajo borrowings, he maintains they are stylized and express personality—not spirits.
“I’ve always made things,” he notes with the prevailing understatement, referring to a herd of clay horses waiting to be raku-fired; slab plates with press-molded designs; large sheet-metal wall pieces covered with silvery wooden fish on magnets (“moveable art,” he quips—his own invention); and a room full of the aforementioned masks, each made from a split aspen log that he harvested himself in Angel Fire.
When he’s not in his workshop, Ray is busy writing music, currently a suite about animals native to New Mexico. And then there’s his other hobby: stump removal, an avocation he sheepishly admits enjoying.
“Neither of us can sit still for long,” he says of the couple’s restless creativity. “And it’s always nice to make a buck, but we do it just for the love of it. It comes from a deep appreciation of artistic things.”
Each morning they get up, says Ray, and head eagerly to their individual projects, whether music, clay, fabrics—“a lot of it is just experimentation.” Before long, five o’clock has arrived. And it’s a good thing he isn’t wealthy, Ray adds, because he’d probably be welding too.
“We share out work with each other. We get so excited when Bets finishes a doll. She says ‘Are you ready?’” he relates with a twinkle. Married 46 years, with two grown children (one of whom is—surprise, surprise—an artist), their partnership seems to be anchored in mutual respect for the other’s medium.
“I have a deep respect for what she did professionally,” Ray says, shaking his head. “I was in awe of it.”
He mentions several times with a hint of embarrassment that they did not set out to make money from their creations. “If I never sold this stuff, I’d probably be out on the highway trying to give it away,” he says. “And I did give it away, at the start.”
But the pleasure they take in their work communicated itself through their figures, who come across as cheerful and innocent, blameless because they are homages, one realizes, rather than copies of the folk art the Shaws admire.
Both Betsy and Ray have seen demand for their dolls and masks grow at craft fairs and in galleries. They are the featured artists at Rockin’ R Gallery in Placitas during the month of May, and will be guest artists at the Corrales Studio Tour on May 1-2. In August, they show at the Nob Hill Gallery in Albuquerque.
“Our art is an outgrowth of New Mexico. We love it here—everything is an inspiration,” Ray says reverently. “This part of the country is just filthy with good artists. So we never stopped growing,” as he sees it. “And we evolve. Our work evolves.”
You couldn’t ask more from retirement.
PAS features The Prairie Winds Quintet
On Sunday, April 25, The Placitas Artists Series will present The Prairie Winds Quintet. Since their debut in 1996, The Prairie Winds have captivated audiences throughout the United States with performances that present the finest wind-quintet literature in concert programs that entertain as well as enlighten. These musicians blend powerful musical technique with humor and intriguing background information to create what one critic called “a unique approach to the shaping of the concert experience (that) is sure to keep them in demand (Tryon Daily Bulletin).”
The Prairie Winds have performed at a number of celebrated music festivals, including the Ravinia Festival, the Juneau Jazz and Classics Festival, Chamber Music America’s Education and Residency Institute, and the Britt Festival in Oregon where the group served as quintet-in-residence for four years. In 2003, they began an annual residency at the Madeline Island Music Festival in Wisconsin, which offers a chamber music program for collegiate wind players. In addition to their busy touring schedule, the quintet also has an active radio presence: recent broadcasts include full-length concerts for Chicago’s WFMT-FM “Live from Studio One” program and for listeners of Minnesota Public Radio.
The members of the quintet Jonathan Keeble, flute; Jelena Dirks, oboe; Susan Warner, clarinet; David Griffin, horn; and Timothy McGovern, bassoon, pursue active musical careers outside the group, as teachers, touring artists, and members of world-renowned performing ensembles, such as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra. Each musician is dedicated to musical education and the Prairie Winds encourage a love of music in tomorrow’s audiences with workshops that enhance the traditional concert experience through theater improvisation, movement, and composition.
The concert is generously sponsored by Drs. John and Dianna Shomaker. Preceding the concert, a reception will be held for April exhibiting visual artists Dorothy Bowen, Preston Photography (Roxanne Bebee Blatz and Roger Preston), Dianna Shomaker, and Dennie York.
The concert will take place at 3:00 p.m. on April 25 at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church; the artists’ reception begins earlier that day at 2:00. Tickets for the concert will be available at the door one hour before the concert, or may be purchased in advance at La Bonne Vie Salon and Day Spa in Homestead Village Shopping Center in Placitas; Ah! Capelli Salon and Color Studio in Enchanted Hills Plaza, Rio Rancho; or on-line at www.PlacitasArts.org. Prices are $18 for general admission and $15 for seniors and students.
For more information, visit www.placitasarts.org or call 867-8080.
"The New Me"—Diana Shomaker
"Kyoto Magic" —Bunny Bowen
PAS welcomes fine artists to Sunday 4/25 concert
On Sunday, April 25, 2010, The Placitas Artists Series will present the art of Dorothy Bowen, Preston Photography (Roxanne Bebee Blatz and Roger Preston), Dianna Shomaker, and Dennie York with a reception at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church. The works will be on display from Saturday, April 3 through Friday, April 30.
Working on silk with dyes resisted by molten wax, Dorothy “Bunny” Bowen continues a 2,500-year-old tradition. Since 2002, she has experimented with soy wax as a nontoxic resist and has presented her research internationally. Some of the pieces to be shown are done with soy wax. Bowen works in the ancient Japanese technique of rozome, an extremely intricate and slow process of layering dye and wax on silk which has been sized with a soybean ground.
Preston Photography is the combined work of Roger Preston Blatz and Roxanne Bebee Blatz. Roger is a commercial photographer whose work includes product photography—architectural, jewelry, and art. In 2003, they built their home in Placitas. The two have traveled extensively both domestically and abroad. While experiencing the same subject matter, each sees and captures a unique view with its own essences. They both love getting out in the great outdoors which has provided them with opportunities for many wonderful photographs. As Preston Photography, Roger and Roxanne continue to pursue their dreams of providing beautiful, interesting photographs in both commercial and artistic venues.
Dianna Shomaker began her education as an artist at Central Washington College, but a career in nursing created a hiatus in art for about 15 years. She resumed her art studies upon moving to San Antonio and continued them in Germany and the Albuquerque area. This past year she was awarded several honors: first and second prizes at the New Mexico State Fair, Fine Arts Division; selection by the Albuquerque Youth Symphony as one of twelve artists to paint a violin for their fund raiser; and the first Lifetime Achievement Award for community service by the Albuquerque Rotary Club. She has been in numerous juried exhibitions and is a member of the Placitas Artists Series Board.
Artist Dennie York discovered the scrollsaw in 1995 after a 24-year career in the computer industry. She works mostly with exotic and domestic hardwoods, because of the brilliant colors available. Her designs are inspired by the culture and landscape of the Southwest, expressed as art and truly crafted from the heart. Each piece is created one at a time on an RBI scrollsaw. “The first step is deciding on a design, then choosing the right wood for the design,” she says. “I only use domestic and exotic hardwoods, which have wonderful grain and color.” No dyes or stains are used, only the serpent plate is painted. Over the past few years, her work has progressed from simple designs with few cutouts to intricate crosses with sometimes one hundred cutouts, and her newest three-dimensional boxes, baskets, and miniatures.
A reception for the artists will be held at 2:00 p.m. on April 25, prior to a concert by The Prairie Winds Quintet. Tickets for the concert will be available at the door one hour before the concert or may be purchased in advance at La Bonne Vie Salon and Day Spa in Homestead Village Shopping Center in Placitas; Ah!Capelli Salon and Color Studio in Enchanted Hills Plaza, Rio Rancho; or on-line at www.PlacitasArts.org. Prices are $18 for general admission and $15 for seniors and students.
This project is made possible in part by New Mexico Arts, a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, and the National Endowment for the Arts. The facility is completely accessible. Las Placitas Presbyterian Church is located six miles east of I-25 on NM 165 (Exit 242.) For more information, visit www.PlacitasArts.org or call 867-8080.