Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988


Maggie Robinson

Maggie Y. Robinson in her studio in Corrales.

Santa Fe Aspens By Maggie Robinson

“Santa Fe Aspens”— Maggie’s award-winning painting.

Painting as a path, as prayer

—Keiko Ohnuma, Signpost

No photograph can accurately reproduce this painting, “Santa Fe Aspens,” which took second place in the Corrales Art Studio Tour in May. At the preview show, it opened a window in the wall, promising entry into a magical way of seeing—before stopping short and, upon further examination, refusing to say more. Its beauty seemed to exist purely for itself, and not the viewer.

Something, anyway, about the painting impressed the artists on the Corrales Studio Tour, the first year prizes were awarded by vote rather than by an outside juror. The painter, Maggie Y. Robinson, was a veteran artist and newcomer to the tour.

“What do you like about the painting?” she quizzes, before discounting its popularity as a mystery. Robinson has, in fact, painted thousands upon thousands of landscapes in her life—so many that she has to recycle them, paint over, and use the backs of gessoed boards just to keep pace. The aspen painting was just one little “noun” in her artist’s life as a verb, she says.

Raised in southeastern Pennsylvania in a rural haven made famous by paintings from the Wyeth family, who were family friends—including Andrew, his son Jamie, and father N.C. —Robinson grew up as the eleventh of fourteen children. Her mother was a classical pianist, two of her brothers became accomplished painters, and the family home was regularly filled with guests, exchange students, missionaries, and friends in a bucolic environment of music, culture, art, and learning.

All of which may help explain Robinson’s startling intensity in a rural haven more typical of the taciturn West. Agile and graceful, radiating goodwill and effortlessly quoting painters, musicians, and writers, Robinson exudes a robust magnetism much like those glowing aspens—inviting, yet ultimately opaque.

Landscape painting, for her, is not about reproducing a beautiful sight, she says. The beauty of the natural world just happens to be the spark she needs to ignite a fire within, to forge a connection to something within herself, which she then engages on the canvas. “It’s almost like a form of meditation, in trying to get rid of mind games and perceiving beauty,” she explains. “And then starting the dialogue with whatever that is.”

The goal is to stay sincere, authentic, true to the creative process, rather than mental and calculating—to remain naked and vulnerable, open to whatever arises from the depths.

“When I look at a piece and say I was sincere, used my skills to the best of my knowledge, and was open to dialogue—both receiving information and skilled enough to know what to implement,” then the painting is a success, and can be let go.

She is not attached to results, Robinson says, and does not care about popularity or sales, any more than she was attached to the outcome of her three grown sons—who happen nonetheless to be practicing law, medicine, and business. You never own children, she says vehemently, and the paintings that you shepherd into the world also are not something whose value accrues to you.

As a child in a large family, Robinson would take refuge in a corner with her crayons, and get lost in self-exploration. This experience has remained the most profound touchstone of her life, and one that she repeats daily, both through her own painting and as an art teacher.

“My most exciting moments have been the same (in both),” she says, “the magic connection of self to expressing beauty.”

There was a point in her life about ten years ago, after raising three kids and while teaching full-time in Minnesota, that she got so burned out that she decided to move to the desert and just paint. She shut herself in her room in Corrales, and refused to so much as look at an art magazine.

“It was terrible!” she exclaims. “I was strangling my creative impulse.” She grew self-critical, judgmental, and couldn’t paint. Finally a friend told her, you need to get back in the classroom.

So Robinson went back to teaching, first in Albuquerque, and currently at Mountain View Middle School in Rio Rancho. She also serves as a placement coordinator in the UNM art education office, and occasionally guest-teaches in art. “The nice, ebullient energy that children have nurtured me back,” she says. “My life is both teaching and painting.”

The difficulty and fear of confronting the self is something that she practices every day, both for herself and for her students. Every morning at 5:00 a.m., Robinson goes outside and does a painting—in oil. “It’s my prayer,” she explains. “When I don’t do it, I’m not kind of centered.”

The plein-air exercises are a legacy of her years as a watercolorist, a medium that she took up in the late ’60s because of the dangers of lead paint during pregnancy. “It’s like a mad mistress,” she says of watercolor, “but I stayed with it for twenty-five years.” About seven years ago, a friend told her she really had the personality of an oil painter, and she gratefully switched back.

Watercolor technique stayed with her, however, so that she still starts by painting washes and values. Once the image is sketched out, she switches to traditional oil paint application—from thin to thick areas, dark to bright colors. Little of the initial wash remains evident in the final canvas, but it is where the dialogue with the painting begins.

The early-morning paintings are done on 8“ x 10“ pieces of Masonite board covered with gesso, and Robinson develops them later on canvas if the “magical moment” happens. “I tend to be a complex thinker, so the work happens before I think about it,” which is the goal—to paint with “the eyes and heart of a child.”

Children tend naturally toward self-exploration, she says, and readily confront the existential question “what is art, and why am I here?” It is that state of not-knowing that she works to revive in her creatively confined students—the child coloring alone in a corner that she herself was.

“That is why I am comfortable going to the woods at 5:00 a.m.”—because it is in childhood that one develops the sense so crucial to the creative life: that it is always permissible to return to the self.

“That’s one of the cool things about making a pie or a painting, about making love,” Robinson says, contrasting the overprotected childhood of today to the freedoms of the past. “It’s that switch from depressed victim to celebration—that’s how you raise kids to be human.” By example, in other words: making art that is not about a product, but a process; not nouns, but verb.

Santa Fe Opera receives NEA stimulus grant

General Director Charles MacKay announced today that The Santa Fe Opera has been awarded $50,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. It was one of 633 arts organizations nationwide, and one of seven in New Mexico, to receive this financial stimulus.

“Like many arts organizations across the nation, The Santa Fe Opera has felt the impact of the economic downturn,” said MacKay. “The Board of Directors and the staff have worked diligently to make sure that in this current 2009 season, and in the future, the artistic standards and integrity for which the Opera is renowned remain intact. “

“The stimulus grant of $50,000 from the National Endowment of the Arts is an enormous help to us at this time. It will be used to insure the continuity and viability of our two apprentice programs, for singers and technicians. These two programs have been an integral part of The Santa Fe Opera since its inception, and are internationally acknowledged and emulated. Stimulus funds will enable the Opera to continue to provide the best artists (vocal, drama and repertoire coaches, directors, scenic and costume designers, and others), to work with our young apprentices in positions that have been reduced or eliminated because of budget constraints. The important training of apprentices ensures that opera and other related art forms remain strong for generations to come,” MacKay continued.

“We are grateful to the National Endowment for the Arts through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for placing its confidence in The Santa Fe Opera during these difficult times,” he concluded.

It is anticipated that some of the funds will be used in the current season, and the remainder in 2010.

Distance by Tim Keller

Artist Tim Keller’s “Distance”

Public art added to Rio Rancho facilities

The state of New Mexico’s Art in Public Places (AIPP) program was created by the legislature in 1986. This program dictates that agencies receiving capital outlay appropriations for construction or renovation of public buildings in excess of $100,000 must set aside one percent of the funds to acquire public art which is to be placed on, in, or around the buildings benefiting from the appropriation funding.

The city of Rio Rancho received $300,000 for the construction of the Mariposa Fire Station and $175,000 to build the Cabezón Recreation Center. The art selected for placement at these city facilities was chosen by city staff, and it was picked from an allotment of pieces made available by the state.

The piece hanging in the lobby at the Cabezón Recreation Center was created by Tim Keller and is entitled “Distance.” This archival pigment print was produced from an original photo depicting an evening landscape of a barn on Johnson Mesa, east of Raton, New Mexico. Hanging in the Mariposa Fire Station is Matthew Chase-Daniels’s “Willows in Snow on the Pecos River.” This piece shows a winter landscape with red willows, snow, and water and was produced through an archival pigment photo-assemblage process.

The public is encouraged to view the art in person. Please call the Cabezón Recreation Center at 892-4499 (located at 2305 Cabezón Boulevard NE) and the Mariposa Fire Station at 867-4586 (located at 3125 Mariposa Parkway) for viewing times. To view pictures of the art online, visit

This project was made possible by New Mexico Arts, a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts. For more information, visit New Mexico Arts’ website,

Women refugees join their cottage industries sisters at Rag Rug Festival & Design Collective • Santa Fe

Rag Rug Festival & Design Collective • Santa Fe, presented by New Mexico Women’s Foundation (NMWF), continues to grow and expand its offerings.

Now in its seventh year, this women’s cottage industries marketplace has grown into a statewide movement involving women artisans from throughout New Mexico, and newly-arrived refugee women offering a rich variety of handmade items for sale, including rag rugs and other handcrafted home furnishings and personal adornments.

For the first time, refugee women from Burundi, Liberia, Rwanda, Bhutan, Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Eritrea, Nepal, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Sudan who are now living in Albuquerque also will be included. They have recycled rice and bean bags into colorful tote bags, and embellished recycled fabrics from France and Spain with images of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and turned them into decorative pillows. Their rag and wool weavings fashioned on small looms made in New Zealand will be charming additions to home furnishings collections.

This year’s festival will be held August 14 through 16 at the Stewart Udall Center for Museum Resources, located at 725 Camino Lejo on Museum Hill in Santa Fe. The event begins with a preview reception and sale from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. on Friday, August 14. A special grand opening ceremony, featuring the African music group Matunda, is set for 3:45 p.m. Tickets for Friday’s event are $50.

Admission is free on Saturday and Sunday; the festival is open from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Parking is plentiful and free.

“The idea behind cottage industries is one with a long and valued history in our country,” said NMWF board member Lynda Rodolitz. “In particular, it’s a way for women to earn money to help themselves and their families by selling their work and becoming entrepreneurs by honing their marketing skills. For the general public, it’s a way of connecting with the women who are involved in creating the work, some of which references the history of our state,” Rodolitz said.

For additional information, visit or call Frieda Arth at (505) 983-6155.

Local artists host creative workshop at the Placitas Library

At a recent workshop at the Placitas Library, participating children experienced the pleasure and excitement of using tempura paints. The kids were guided by members of the Creative Spirits of Placitas as they explored and tried new things without being concerned about the final product and/or realism in their works. Paintings were passed around for other children to add to them, and paper was pressed on top of paintings for effect… all for the fun of it!

Creative Spirits of Placitas is a group of artists supporting the creative process in all its forms. The group’s mission includes nurturing and encouraging the creative process within the Placitas community. Creative Spirits includes the following members:

Sonya Coppo—Sonya creates three-dimensional art and paintings reflecting indigenous cultures. For information, visit or

Anna Goodridge—Anna is an oil painter who works with abstract forms of nature. For information, email

Lisa Bear Goldman—Lisa is the author of Amadito & Spider Woman. For information, visit Lisa is also a representative for Herb Goldman Sculpture, at

Ann Pollard—Ann creates vibrant paintings and free expressions, bold and alive in brilliant color. For information, visit

Joanne Ruhl—Joanne creates fine silver jewelry and sculpture. For information, email

Linda Tindall—Linda creates fine art photography, including macro, still life, and landscape. For information, email

Geri Verble—Geri specializes in tribal and ethnic jewelry created in harmony with the Earth and contemporary life. For information, visit






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