Sandoval Signpost
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  Featured Artist

Signpost Featured Artist

Cindy and Joe McDonnell

Photo credit: —Oli Robbins

Fine art metal workers: Cindy working; Joe grinding

Whimsical, metal tree, 8’x8’x5’ by Cindy and Joe McDonnell

Metal art fire hydrant commission for a doggie B&B, by Cindy and Joe McDonnell

The ArtScapes of Cindy and Joe McDonnell

~Oli Robbins

Cindy and Joe McDonnell are a metalwork-making duo, from Rio Rancho, that creates masterful contemporary sculptures. The collaborators’ artistic virtuosity is reflected in both their small and large-scale pieces, which grow out of an extensive creative process.

Joe and Cindy have been married nearly four decades. They were both graphic artists at Albuquerque The Magazine when they met. Their artistic collaboration dates back to 15 years ago when a common interest in beautifying their home through landscaping and yard decor led to an impressive artistic partnership. Says Joe, “Once Cindy became skilled at welding, the possibilities opened up for us to work together on indoor and outdoor sculpture.”

Cindy’s professional background includes graphic design, printing, and advertising. Joe has worked for decades as a graphic designer and fine artist (he was trained at Paris’ Ecole des Beaux-Arts and through multiple apprenticeships).

As collaborative artists, Cindy is the welder and Joe the designer and colorer. For the commissioned sculpture “Whimsical,” a dynamic 8x8x5-foot metal tree, Joe initiated the process by conceiving of the form and hand-drawing it on a paper grid—as he does for each “ArtScape” they create. The two then mounted a piece of sheet metal to a frame and shot the metal with a shotgun hundreds of times to achieve a pebble-like surface. It was then cut, welded, ground, and assembled.

Paper templates of smaller, undulating forms became cut metal, bent to shape, and welded into position on the larger piece. After being tinted with various colors (chosen and applied by Joe), “Whimsical” was powder coated—a process wherein the metal is coated with powder via an electrical charge and then oven-baked—and finally transported to its permanent location.

While “Whimsical” demanded several months and hundreds of hours of work, other (smaller) “ArtScapes” can be completed relatively quickly. Cindy and Jim explain, “It’s exciting to discover what’s hidden in the raw sheet of steel. We’re taking the mundane and turning it into something extraordinary.” Indeed, their body of work is teeming with movement, color harmonies, and a sometimes-tense balance between forms. The artists are masters of line and shape; their work celebrates the interplay of the once-separate pieces comprising the whole.

Joe has identified as a fine artist for much of his life, having been exposed to canonical art since childhood, when he traveled the world in a military family. “The museums and cultural events stayed with me,” says Joe, who studied both commercial and fine art in college. Joe was also surrounded by craftsmanship in his formative years, through his father’s woodworking. The woodworking machinery that Joe familiarized himself with all those years ago is similar to that used by the McDonnells today.

Cindy explains that, at times, the two will have differing perceptions of a piece when in the early creative stages. She remembers welding a piece, believing herself to be following Joe’s drawing (which she usually prints to size), when he looked at the work-in-progress and said, “Well that’s not what I drew.” Cindy replied, “but that’s what I see.”

It’s not uncommon for Cindy and Joe to pause as they adjust to the other’s interpretation of their vision. Still, they are largely satisfied with their collection of work—which is teeming with the energy of not one, but two artistic forces. They explain, “Our collaboration is synergistic, resulting in far more than the merging of two imaginations. Together, we have created an inspired, dynamic, and sometimes whimsical collection of innovative and collectible metal art.”

The McDonnells have received numerous awards for their artwork, winning first and second place in their division at the NM State Fair art show. Much of their work is in Scottsdale at DeRubeis Fine Art Metal, but there are many opportunities to see their work here in NM. Several pieces were selected by the New Mexico Art in Public Places Program to adorn public spaces throughout the state, and can be found at the West Mesa Community Center, the Jeanne Bellamah Community Center, and the Jarales Community Center in Belen.

As members of the Rio Rancho Art Association, Cindy and Joe have work on display at the Association’s various venues, including Lovelace Hospital. Visit to view their galleries of work and watch footage of their process, and see their work in person at Old Town Albuquerque’s Copper Top Gallery, or Lilly’s Soaps in Old Town.

They can be reached by email at or by phone at 459-8050.

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