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Lavon Maestas

Lavon Maestas in her Placitas art studio
Photo credit: —Oli Robbins

c. Lavon Maestas

Birch 1, painting, by Lavon Maestas

For the love of art: the creative journey of Lavon Maestas 

—Oli Robbins

“I love being creative. It just satisfies something in my heart, mind, being.” These are the words of Placitas painter and mixed-media artist Lavon Maestas, who has been making art for as long as she can remember—since she was “an ankle biter.” She grew up in Washington in a home with walls often dressed in butcher paper—a strategy designed by the artist’s mother, who didn’t want her daughter drawing on every square inch of their home. Recalls Lavon, “every piece of paper in the entire house had sketches on it.”

Lavon “always, always, always” took art classes and, as a high school student, also expressed herself visually in a Star Trek club. Long before the days of Star Trek conventions replete with “Trekkies” decked out in character costumes, Lavon belonged to a group of ladies who would write fan fiction scripts. She was responsible for designing the costumes that corresponded with the scripts. And her friends were not the only ones to recognize her talent. The administration office of her high school proudly displayed her fine art paintings on its walls. But there was one particularly annoying side effect of being one of the school’s best artists: her paintings were frequently stolen from her cubbies. “I remember I was painting something on velvet, a very country little scene with a fireplace and a rocking chair and a cat. I came in to work on it, and it was gone.” At least these pesky robberies confirmed her work’s desirability!

Lavon attended University of Washington, where she studied nursing and took advantage of the various art classes offered. She, however, never received her nursing degree (which is a good thing considering her squeamish reaction to blood and bones) and went on to achieve excellence in a field more suited to her skills. While in college, Lavon decided to join the army reserve, realizing she could get paid more for working two days a month than she could for slaving away at a fast food joint for a week. The reserve sent her to training, which cut into the fall quarter of university classes. Since she couldn’t jump into the semester after it had already begun, she pursued a job. She had trained in drafting with the reserve, so she applied for a drafter position at Boeing. Remarkably, Boeing was so impressed with her that they sent her to a technical college to get an airline drafting certificate. Boeing did make her a job offer following the completion of her certificate, but a different company offered her a better one. Lavon continues to work full-time as a drafter and technical illustrator.

Lavon moved to New Mexico in ’83 when her first husband landed an engineering job in Santa Fe. Lavon was thrilled about the move and planned, finally, to study and produce art full-time. But due to her husband’s declining health, she discontinued her studies and returned to work full-time. The two eventually divorced, but Lavon remained in Santa Fe and found that, with a house all to herself, she finally had space—and time—for art. She reveled in the assorted fine art that surrounded her in Santa Fe, and would spend every Friday night visiting the galleries on Canyon Road with a group of friends. “It was just very inspirational,” recalls Lavon. She began taking classes and experimenting with new mediums, including monotypes. Soon after, Lavon found a drafting job in Albuquerque and met her current husband, Victor. Lavon jokingly assures me that, despite being an engineer, Victor is “quite creative.” Lavon and Victor house-hunted all around Albuquerque, but eventually fell in love with Placitas, to which they were attracted because of its slightly higher elevation, “good dark,” and stunning landscape. Since moving to Placitas, Lavon’s paintings have become “more complex,” likely due to the fact that she’s finally devoting so much time to her craft.

Lavon’s studio is teeming with not only paintings but also mixed-media pieces. She works on non-traditional painting surfaces like travertine—pieces of which were left over after a floor remodeling—and with non-traditional materials, such as cigar bands. She paints in several different styles, and enjoys realism as much as she does abstraction. Says Lavon, “subject matter that calls to me is as varied as skulls to landscapes to total abstracts.” She believes that, for a painting to be good, it must convey a great deal of emotion. “All paintings are about emotions, as far as I’m concerned.” Through color, Lavon “expresses feeling, sensuality, drama, and peace.”

She participates in the “Let’s Paint New Mexico Challenge,” a project spearheaded by painter Dee Sanchez, who posts a photograph of New Mexico online and encourages artists to create paintings based upon it. Such an assignment works well for Lavon, who often begins her process by studying photographs, from which she fashions loosely abstracted representations. It’s fascinating to see the great number of ways in which New Mexico imagery can inspire (visit to view the challenge paintings). I’m reminded of when, back in the Impressionist era, Renoir and Monet each painted La Grenouillere, a resort for the Parisian working class. The two Impressionist masters depict the same local, emphasize the play of light, and take leisure as their subject matter. But despite these similarities, and the fact that the artists were likely sitting just a few feet from one another, inspecting their subject from a nearly identical vantage point, somehow, through color choice, shading, brushstroke, and arrangement, each painting is its own subjective impression. Likewise, viewing Lavon’s paintings alongside the others in the “Let’s Paint New Mexico Challenge” demonstrates just how diverse our perceptions are; each interpretation is subtly but profoundly original.

Lavon’s work can be viewed on her website, and in her studio by appointment or on display at Arte de Placitas and Elinor Oldham’s Art and Bead Gallery in Albuquerque.

c. Dorothy Bunny Bowen

Through The Tree, wax resist painting, by Bunny Bowen

Opening reception for Through the Tree

On August 4, from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m., artist Dorothy Bunny Bowen will be hosting a reception for her series Through the Tree, a series of wax resist paintings on silk. The reception will be held at Anasazi Fields Winery in Placitas. The public is welcome.

Says Bowen, “Several years ago, as I started a series about trees, I began looking at them really closely. Sunlight dancing through a summer leaf canopy invites the muse, as does the shimmer of golden aspen leaves on a shining October day. Then in November, dried cottonwood leaves crunching under my feet remind me that days are getting shorter and bid me to chores of preparing the garden for winter.

“Abstract patterns of bare branches against the sky form lattices through which one sees sailing clouds, vibrant sunsets, migrating cranes, and, in a good year, snowfields on the Sandias.

“Trees feed us with apricots and almonds, shelter us, warm us with their wood after pruning, tickle our noses during spring pollination. Artists make sculptures from their bodies, and birds make homes in their limbs. The loss of a beloved garden tree is cause for serious mourning.

“For a long time I have used trees to make statements about the continuing drought, the increasing probability of wildfire, and the regeneration of life following fire. This space, today, brings all of that together. You are invited to share.”

by Michele Bourque Sewards

Four women art show

An exhibit of contemporary artwork by four established New Mexico artists will be held in the village of El Ancon, at the Pavilion gallery space located on the Romero compound. The opening reception will occur on August 10, from 12:00 to 4:00 p.m.

Friends and colleagues for 47 years, these women fine artists—Lenore Goodell of Placitas, Janet Stein Romero of El Ancon, Michele Bourque Sewards of Placitas, and Jane Catherwood Sprague of Albuquerque—will show a range of work that represents their diverse interests, techniques, and thoughtful focus on the evolution of their art.

Goodell: “photographs that extract truth from space, exposing an intimate, found moment and seeking to capture depth, contrast, interrelationship, and beauty.“ Romero: “I am interested in the figure as form and mystery in an anti-hierarchical context—to knock viewers out of complacency and engage them in my images. Art gives me the opportunity for pleasure on a daily basis. ” Sewards: “will be showing drawings and a variety of small works. Using a square format, she is again creating evocative, spare images.” Sprague: “explores the relationship of landscape to the ebullient inscapes of her mind’s eye, working with pigment prints on paper and acrylic paint.”

From I-25, between Santa Fe and Las Vegas, take Exit # 323, turn south on NM 3, drive approximately two miles to Ribera. Turn right on B41F (El Ancon Road) immediately before the RR X-ing and continue one mile to the Romero compound. Park along the roadside, walk to the sign indicating the 4@47 exhibit.

The show will be open on Sundays, from 12:00 to 4:00 p.m., through the month of August until September 8, or may be open other times by appointment. For more information, call 575-421-7057.

PAS opens art competition

Placitas Artists Series is expanding the nine seasonal juried visual art exhibits to include an annual competition for a new visual arts image each year, inaugurating it with the 2014-15 season. The criteria is that the artist must be a New Mexico resident, the artwork must evoke Placitas in some relatable way, the artwork must include a statement about how it evokes Placitas, and the inspiration or process which led to its creation and the artwork must be submitted digitally. For details, go to and look on the left for the call for artists link. Deadline for submission of artwork image and statement is September 30, 2013.

“Music at sunset”

The Placitas Community Library is proud to announce our first free community program, “Music at Sunset” on August 25, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. on the patio of the PCL library. Local band “Rock Zone” will kick off the evening with an acoustic set including the Rolling Stones classic “Dead Flowers” and Porter’s original song, “Roll on the River.” Rock Zone’s current line-up is Dave Harper on guitar and vocals; John Scott, guitar and vocals; Porter Dees, drums and vocals; and Chris Daul, bass and vocals.

Next, Lily King, a fifth-grade student at Placitas Elementary School, will sing a song that is in remembrance of 9/11 and a song from the musical, “Oklahoma.”

Tim O’Rourke, Placitas singer-songwriter and guitarist, will be appearing with his friend and fellow musician Harry Guffee. Their style is a combination of country and folk rock. They will play some of Tim’s original songs. Also, the all-girl band, “Hiss,” which includes Camelia Ceniceros, age 13, on guitar and vocals; Bela Ceniceros, age 10, on keyboard, bass guitar, and back-up vocals; and Bela Smith on drums. They will be performing, “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons, and “Deceptacon” by Le Tigre.

Attendees are invited to pack a picnic dinner to celebrate the end of summer. Coolers, lawn chairs, and blankets are welcome. Cold drinks and watermelon will be for sale. Tickets for the PCL Fundraiser “Books on the Bosque” will also be available for purchase. The Library encourages everyone, of all ages, to attend.

Community Center Painters

The Placitas Community Center Painters will have their annual Placitas Library art exhibit on August 3 through August 30. Instructor, professional artist Elaine Slusher, has generously donated her time and talent, passing her knowledge gently but firmly to her students. Elaine is known for her ability to assist her students in developing their own styles and special artistic talents. The class meets at the Placitas Community Center Tuesdays from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Their reception will be held August 11 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. at the Placitas Community Library. Come and enjoy looking at the different ways the artists see the world.

Pencil portraiture exhibit

An exhibition of Rio Rancho resident Charron McFadden’s Pencil Portraiture and Other Special Memories will be presented from August 1 through August 30 in the Loma Colorado Main Library auditorium, 755 Loma Colorado Drive NE in Rio Rancho. This is a free, no ticket or registration required exhibition. Charron is the recipient of multiple awards, including the 2011 “Best of Show” and the third place honor in the 23 Annual Old Church Art Show, sponsored by the Corrales Visual Arts Council.

Symphonic Chorus auditions

Interested and qualified singers for all voice parts for the New Mexico Symphonic Chorus must be able to vocalize and sight read music and be available for all performances. For the audition, singers will be asked to sing an accompanied, prepared piece of their choosing. An accompanist will be provided for auditions held in Albuquerque on August 9, 10, 11,16, and 17. For details and to schedule, call 247-0181, email:, or go to

Peace’s New Century project

Betsie Miller-Kent of Jemez Valley and Masaru Tanaka of Hiroshima, Japan, have collaborated for many years. Their combined images consist of Masaru’s nature photos, collaged with Betsie’s paintings of a large earth guardian. The resulting digital images have been shown worldwide, including the War Memorial Building in San Francisco, the Mirasaka Peace Museum in Hiroshima, and the United Nations in New York. Masaru’s father was a young boy burned by the atomic bomb in 1945 while Betsie’s father was a young graduate student working on the Manhattan Project. Both artists have devoted themselves to the creation of peace imagery as a result of their family histories.

This project will be exhibited in two locations during August: at Fuller Lodge Art Center, 2132 Central Avenue in Los Alamos from August 5 through August 10 with a ceremony on August 6 at 4:00 p.m. and a reception following from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m., and at Jemez Fine Art Gallery, 17346 Highway 4, in Jemez Springs, from August 2 through August 8 with a reception on August 4 from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. Both artists will be present at all events.

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