Photo: Bill Diven
Susan Gutt working on a sculptural piece in her studio
Untitled basket, by Susan Gutt
Basketmaker branches out
Few constants weave through human history like the over-and-under mixing of reeds and grasses to make baskets.
“Basically all baskets have been made with the same techniques for years and years and years,” said Susan Gutt, of Placitas. “I use all the techniques but have more freedom to explore since we don't need utilitarian baskets in our lives.”
With that freedom, Gutt (rhymes with hoot) turns willow, salt cedar, juniper root, rattan, bamboo, sweetgrass, and horsetail reeds into shapes and swirls as wall hangings and stand-alone art objects. She began as a fabric artist, however, earning a degree in visual arts and weaving at Franconia College in New Hampshire.
“At the time, in the late sixties and early seventies, it wasn't unusual to get a degree in weaving or fiber arts or ceramics, especially at a college like Franconia,” the Signpost Artist of the Month said. “What's unusual is to stay with it.”
Her practical side included certification in early childhood education, which kept her employed as she pursued her art in fabric and tapestries. Then a cousin's invitation to join her in basketmaking provided the this-is-it moment.
Gutt worked exclusively and successfully in traditional baskets for several years before shifting into sculptural forms. She became a basketmaker fulltime soon after moving to Santa Fe in 1990.
Her basic technique is well-known: wet the material to make it flexible and proceed to interlace one over another with simple variations like under two and over one. Then Gutt follows up with a torch to singe away errant fibers and repeatedly rubs in oil to produce a finish.
Not so simple is her response to the textures and colors. Peeled willow is light, steamed willow is dark, salt cedar may be purple, orange, or red, depending on the season, and raw roots turned up by construction or left by storm runoff provide myriad shapes and possibilities.
“My idea of a business trip is heading for an arroyo,” Gutt said.
With a show opening December 11 at the Arte Loca Gallery in Bernalillo's El Zócalo, Gutt currently is working on freestanding weavings she informally calls “walkable houses,” for their stilt-like framing and woven bodies. The title is just for her own reference, though.
“Every now and then something gets a name, but basically I number them, I sign them, and they're called baskets,” she said.
Art buyers and home decorators have responded as Gutt has shown in galleries and at art shows in New Mexico and elsewhere. A collector of her work from Scottsdale, Arizona, recently traveled to Placitas to commission a custom piece.
“People who buy baskets are really nice people,” she added.
The three-artist Arte Loca show opens with a December 11 reception from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. and includes furniture and art objects by Gutt's brother, Caballo craftsman John Goodro, and monotypes by Evey Jones. The exhibition continues through January 29 from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and by appointment (771-8097).
Gutt's work also can be seen in this issue’s Featured Artist Gallery. Her studio is open by appointment (771-8354).
Call for New Mexico artists
The month of April 2005 marks the seventh annual premier “MasterWorks of New Mexico” to be held at Expo New Mexico at the State Fairgrounds in Albuquerque. There will be four separately juried art shows, cosponsored by the Pastel Society of New Mexico, the New Mexico Watercolor Society, the Rio Grande Arts Association, and Miniature Arts Bardean. All shows are open to any artist residing in New Mexico. Entry slides are to be received by January 29, 2005. An artist may enter one or all shows. For details, contact Ktlandreth@aol.com, (505) 823-2048 (watermedia), email@example.com, (505) 823-2797 (pastels); 881-6801 (oil/acrylics); or Bardean@aol.com,(505) 260-9977 (miniatures).
Morning, Day After Thanksgiving, 2001
The flower of light opens
where last discovered
as trying, ignorantly,
I can’t find it.
Even any sense of its fragrance.
So I light a stick of incense
I have its presence
like all those who tell me
they love this delicate spiritual essence
that maintains such power
this more than anything
this more than a flower.
No word is enough.
I’m permanently lost
But go on and
sit, enjoy the incense.
Breathe it in with the air
my life depends on.
Placitas, New Mexico
Ten good years
The first sign of Christmas 2004 arrived in a newspaper ad in October. I looked at the cartoon of jolly ol’ Santa and his reindeer and said, like the angry Clint Eastwood, “You’re early.”
In late November I ate Sunday breakfast at the bar at the Range Café in Bernalillo. To my left was a humble Christmas tree thoughtfully decorated. Decades ago I became a Christmas curmudgeon. I grew weary of being pushed around by the Holiday. I never again wanted to see the inside of Williams-Sonoma, even though I’m in love with black-gripped designer potato peelers. The humble Christmas tree in the Range tweaked my dormant holiday emotions.
Last week Pat’s daughter Isabel, second grade, gave me a crayon drawing of a blue plate and two chocolate chip cookies. I thanked Isabel, for the art and for awakening a fond memory.
When I was a kid, we always left milk and cookies on the mantel on Christmas Eve. The next morning only crumbs lay on the plate and the glass was empty. I became suspicious the Christmas my father left a roast beef sandwich and a bottle of beer on the mantel.
Santa and I had ten good years together. I have never blamed Santa for the Holiday madness. I know he’s being used.
Placitas Artists Series presents special holiday concert by de Profundis
Board of Directors
Placitas Artists Series
On Sunday, December 12, at 3:00 p.m., the Placitas Artists Series will present de Profundis, an a cappella men's ensemble from Albuquerque.
During the renovation of the Las Placitas Presbyterian Church, the concert season continues with new and exciting programs for everyone in the area. De Profundis is in its ninth season of bringing quality music to their audiences.
The dozen voices of de Profundis will delight concertgoers with selections related to the holiday season, centering on Christmas and Hanukah. The program will offer various styles and moods, ranging from playful and joyful Christmas selections to deeply spiritual numbers. You don't want to miss this concert.
In addition, you are all invited to an artists' reception before the concert. This month's featured artists are Marla Parks Keaton, Hazel H. Orr, Emmanuel Portillo, and Dianna Shomaker, who is a member of the PAS Board of Directors. Examples of their work can be seen on the Placitas Artists Series Web site at www.PlacitasArts.org.
Tickets for the concert will be available at the door one hour before the performance or can be purchased ahead of time at La Bonne Vie Salon & Day Spa located in the Homestead Village Shopping Center in Placitas (867-3333). Tickets can also be purchased on-line. The prices for this concert are $15 for general admission and $12 for seniors and students. For additional information and ticket brochures, call 867-8080 or visit the Web site.
This concert and the visual art exhibit are made possible in part by New Mexico Arts, a division of the Office of Cultural Affairs, and the National Endowment for the Arts. There is handicapped access and free child care for children under six.
Glass artists shine
The South Broadway Cultural Center and New Mexico Glass Artists invite the public to the invitational glass-art show “Let There Be Light 2004–The Many Faces of the Divine Feminine.” This event was developed as an educational and cultural experience designed to acquaint the community with the many types of glass and the different ways that glass can be manipulated to create art.
The exhibits will incorporate different glass-art methods, including traditional stained glass, as well as fused, blown, cast, sandblasted, torch-worked, and mosaic glass techniques. All exhibitors are working artists from New Mexico.
The show’s theme complements the annual SBCC-hosted “La Guadalupana” exhibit, which features altars and related art of Our Lady of Guadalupe by local artists.
In addition to the exhibits, an educational area will show photographs and videos of several glassmaking processes that illustrate functions and applications for glass beyond common everyday uses.
An artists’ reception will be held on Friday, December 3, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m.
The show is open to the public from December 3 to 30 at the South Broadway Cultural Center, 1025 Broadway SE, just south of Central. Gallery hours are Mondays through Fridays, 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Admission is free. This facility is accessible to the handicapped. For special assistance, please call (505) 764-1743 at least three days in advance. The South Broadway Cultural Center is a division of the Cultural Services Department, City of Albuquerque. For more information, call (505) 848-1320.
Call for crafters and shoppers
The River's Edge One Neighborhood Association is sponsoring its fourteenth annual Arts and Crafts Fair on Saturday, December 4. The fair will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Enchanted Hills Elementary School, 5400 Obregon Road, Rio Rancho (near Highway 528 and Corrales Road). Arts-and-crafts booths can be reserved for $25 each by calling Jenny at 891-9194.
NM Arts & Crafts Fair calls for entries
The forty-fourth New Mexico Arts and Crafts Fair is accepting applications from artists and craftspeople residing in New Mexico. The fair will run June 24 through June 26, 2005. The deadline for submissions is January 21, 2005. A complete prospectus can be downloaded from nmartsandcraftsfair.org, or call (505) 884-9043 for a copy. Over 220 established and emerging artists vie for prizes totaling more than $4,500 in this juried show. An entry workshop on December 4 at 1:00 p.m. at the NMACF office (5500 San Mateo NE, Suite 106, Albuquerque) will answer questions about entering, preparing slides, and categories of work.