Local artist has lifelong love for area
Quiet and sleepy are words that might be used to describe Placitas even today, but when Elaine Slusher first saw the quaint little village in 1949 there was no doubt about it.
Elaine, one of the first Anglos to settle in Placitas, teaches the art class at the Community Center in Placitas and is herself an artist who has exhibited in the Placitas Artists Series shows and many others.
Photo Caption: Elaine Slusher in her yard in Placitas.
A visit to her house in the village of Placitas reveals her talent; her paintings are an integral part of her home. Her modesty prevents her from making too much of herself, but Elaine's art is only one part of her interesting life.
She grew up in Michigan, and after attending art school headed for the adventure of New York City. As fate would have it, her need to earn money resulted in taking a job as a model. By the age of twenty-two, Elaine was a successful model represented by the fledgling Eileen Ford Agency in New York, and featured on the covers of Mademoiselle, Glamour, Vogue, and Harper's Bazaar. Despite being sought after by editors of the foremost fashion magazines and photographers, including Diane Arbus, Cecil Beaton, and Richard Avedon, Elaine remained unimpressed by it all. "I didn't think of it like some people might," she said. "To me it was just a way to earn some money."
In 1949, she took a vacation to New Mexico to visit friends in Corrales. One of the sights they took her to see was a quaint little village in the mountains called Placitas. There were no telephones, no electricity, and no freeway.
Photo Caption: Elaine Slusher as a high-fashion model in 1951. Photograph by Cecil Beaton, best known for his portraiture of famous people such as Winston Churchill and members of the Royal Family of Britain.
Despite the inconveniences, Elaine decided to buy property in Placitas. "When I bought this property, I wasn't very old," she said. "I didn't have any business buying a house or property at all, except it didn't cost much and I just liked it." She laughed as she added, "It turned out later that it looked like I knew what I was doing."
The house on the property was not in a livable condition, so Elaine didn't stay. It wasn't until after she was married and pregnant with her first child that she and her husband decided to return to New Mexico. They had some work done on the little adobe house, and in 1953 the young family moved in. "There was no electricity that first year," she relates. "I had a gas stove, a gas refrigerator, and even a gas iron." Her husband, who commuted to Albuquerque on a two-lane road every day, took their laundry into the city.
Photo caption: “Waiting,” acrylic on paper, by Elaine Slusher, award winner in the Western Federation of Watercolor Societies show
When asked to describe life in Placitas during that time, she said, "Oh, we had horses, and I had a garden, and of course I had the children." Elaine raised three children in Placitas: Stephen, who currently lives in Albuquerque; Michael, who still lives in Placitas with his family; and Katherine, who now lives in Barcelona.
Elaine was an active member of the community from the moment she took up residence. Among her more memorable accomplishments was her involvement in bringing electricity to Placitas in 1954. In 1976, she organized the first Fourth of July Parade in Placitas, in honor of the bicentennial celebration.
After her children were grown, Elaine moved to Albuquerque for a few years. It was during this period that she returned to her art. She has never been motivated to sell her work, only create it. She gained recognition as a member of the New Mexico Watercolor Society, exhibiting and winning awards in the juried shows of the Western Federation of Watercolor Societies.
Elaine decided to return to the village about five years ago. She built a house on a piece of the original property she had purchased in 1949. She relates that when she returned, she ran into a lifelong resident of the village who told her, "I'm glad you're back. You belong here." Elaine, who is modest, dignified, and still beautiful at the age of seventy-five, smiles and says it makes her feel good to know she belongs in Placitas.