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SANDOVAL ARTS

Meg Leonard in her studio

Morning by Meg Leonard

Winter Sky by Meg Leonard

Signpost featured artist of the month:

Meg Leonard

Interacting with mind, heart, and memory

— KEIKO OHNUMA

“Life is too short for white walls!”

The website quip advertises her services in faux finish, or decorative painting, on walls and other interior surfaces. But it could just as easily be a motto for Meg Leonard, a landscape painter and pastel artist whose every utterance oozes color—evocative, atmospheric, suggestive, and exuberant color—after so many decades in which she struggled to stay neatly within the lines.

Leonard, who moved to Placitas last year, is finally filling in the sketch of her own destiny, a semi-secret, somewhat guilty desire to break free of the walls of wife, mother, and nurse in the wintry Midwest to live her summer art escapades year-round.

The fatal attraction began with a camping trip taken with a few other nurses when she was still in her twenties. Nurses being in such high demand, the women took three months off to camp out west—an Ohio girl’s first venture past the Mississippi River. “That first trip west was such a pivotal experience that I kept doing it every year,” Leonard laughs, her eyes reflecting the sun sinking below her Placitas patio wall.

Even after she married, moved to Wisconsin, and raised a family, Leonard would leave her nursing job every summer to escape out west and paint. She quickly turned to pastels, which are portable, quick, and easy to use outdoors (where she still prefers to work), without the need for carting along brushes or liquids.

New Mexico caught her eye in 1977. Like so many artists, Leonard said, “I felt this was where I belonged,” and she determined to live here someday. She came back often, either with friends or by making friends, and eventually had stints of house sitting or temporary work as a nurse. “I always met people who understood why I wanted to be here so badly, and they made it easy for me,” she says simply. All summer long, she would draw the land and sky.

“At home in winter, I would develop ideas that got started out here,” she said. “The strongest work came not from direct observation, but from memory. In the studio at night, I would put on music and could remember—it would be more about color, story, feeling. The work may not look narrative, but it’s narrative to me.”

Leonard describes her work as “perceptionist,” meaning that her landscapes strive less for faithful representation of how something looks than for rendering how it interacts with the mind, heart, and memory. “I want to portray the essential color relationships and minimize the superfluous detail, to facilitate more of an imaginative response to my work,” she says.

Though she credits an early talent for “close observation” for bringing her to both art and nursing, what Leonard observes in nature is not visible to most people except by her hand. Violet-blue hills tinged scarlet by the setting sun sink into an aquamarine sky. The Rio Grande cuts a deep crimson scar across the earth blackened by night under a shower of stars. The pieces that catch someone’s breath, she says, give her the greatest thrill—whether or not the memory evoked matches her original intention.

In 2004, Leonard bought her Placitas home overlooking both the Sandias and the sweeping vistas to the west; she paints in a small skylit room downstairs, having recently returned to the more deliberate medium of oil on canvas. Though she left nursing four years ago to practice faux finish painting in Atlanta, it took three more years of closing out her lives back east to make the move to New Mexico permanent last March.

“There are so many talented people here [in Placitas], it’s really a privilege to be part of this community that supports artists,” she notes especially of the Placitas Studio Tour and its web page. Leonard’s work is featured at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort, where she is also represented at the Galleria Tamaya, as well as at the Dartmouth Street Gallery in Albuquerque.

Her decorative painting work encompasses everything from faux crocodile to cracked plaster effect to embossed or stenciled patterns and hand-painted murals—obviously a source of challenging fun.

“Artists have the best job in the world,” Leonard writes on her website at web.mac.com/megleonard. “We can change a space with our strokes, add life and energy to places that need humanizing. Our higher purpose derives from the inherent sensitivity to serve as social and environmental barometers, hopefully creating to evoke a response in others, a stirring of their soul, awakening a memory.”

The completed portrait of Meg Leonard, in other words, was to be outdoors, in vibrant color.

“Broadway” presents the great songs of the great songwriters

On Sunday, December 9, the Placitas Artists Series will be presenting a concert called “The Great Songwriters…The Great Songs” by Broadway.

Broadway consists of six people who take pleasure in singing the great songs of the great songwriters. The idea for the act was hatched seven years ago by Myra Cochnar, the producer and one of the performers, who, with the invaluable assistance of John Clark, the music director, assembled the company in Albuquerque. Most of the performers have appeared together in performances of Musical Theatre Southwest, the Adobe Theatre and the Albuquerque Little Theatre. One member, Virginia Weatherill, was a member of The Company, a quartet of singers who performed for 20 years in New Mexico and throughout the Southwest. BROADWAY has entertained audiences at the Radisson Santa Fe, the Eldorado Hotel and The Bishop’s Lodge, also in Santa Fe; the Hiland and KiMo theaters in Albuquerque, and has performed at private engagements throughout the Albuquerque area. It is delighted to perform once again in the Placitas Artists Series

The concert is generously sponsored by Comcast.

Preceding the concert, a reception will be held for December visual artists Dianna Shomaker, a member of the Board of Directors of Placitas Artists Series, Lisa Chernoff, Roger Preston Blatz and Janet Yagoda Shagam.

The concert will take place at 3:00 PM on December 9 at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church; the artists’ reception begins at 1:30. Tickets for the concert will be available at the door one hour before the concert, or may be purchased in advance at La Bonne Vie Salon and Day Spa in Homestead Village Shopping Center in Placitas or on-line at www.PlacitasArts.org. Prices are $18 for general admission and $15 for seniors and students.

This project is made possible in part by New Mexico Arts, a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, and the National Endowment for the Arts. The facility is completely accessible, and free child care is provided for families with children under six. Las Placitas Presbyterian Church is located six miles east of I-25 on NM 165 (Exit 242.) For more information call 867-8080.

Solstice poetry by candlelight at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church

—JOHN ORNE GREEN

The tenth annual Winter Solstice Candlelight Poetry Reading at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church (LPPC) is scheduled for Saturday, December 22 at 7:00 p.m. in the sanctuary.

This year’s theme is “In Darkness, Memory” and some twelve poets from the Southwest and beyond will each read a poem to the light of a single burning candle.

Charles E. Little, the founder of this event a decade ago, will introduce the readings, dedicated this year to the memory of John O’Keefe, a longtime participant in the series. Over the years, the readings have featured distinguished poets and larger audiences. Little notes, “The early readings brought together fifteen or twenty attendees. These days we typically see well over a hundred.”

Each poem is followed by a short interlude of silence to provide attendees a moment of contemplation at the close of another year and the season of short days and long nights.

After the readings, refreshments will be served in the Church’s fellowship hall—a chance to meet and chat with this year’s readers. Placitas poets this year include Karen Bowen, Gary Brower, and Jim Fish of Anasazi Winery.

The Winter Solstice readings are a regular offering of the Earth Care Committee at LPPC as part of the Earth Vespers series. All are invited. If you have questions about this year’s event, please contact John Green at 867-0240 or email jogreenalb@aol.com.

By Laura Robbins

Altar for Wild Horses, by Laura Robbins

By Evey Jones

One Leads, One Follows, by Evey Jones

Jones and Robbins recognized in “Originals 2007”

—STEPHANIE GRILLI

Evey Jones doesn’t take shortcuts. Her monotypes are the last phase of an intuitive yet exacting process. When she travels, Jones might see something out a window that attracts her attention. The artist is drawn to light and color changes in an environment, which she photographs as an aid to her memory. At home, she prints these out and begins playing with the scale and format, using Xeroxes as a means of transforming the original information.

Moving to a sketchbook, she works out patterns and motifs in pen, which become the basis for a sequence of watercolors of varying sizes. This shift creates a very different relationship of her hand and movements with the page, as the process becomes increasingly tactile—from image to object. Jones then takes on large charcoal studies in which black and white assume a rich presence.

Finally Jones works the plate: “my fingers in the ink, mixing it, the texture, the smell of the ink, the ‘feel’ of the press.” Never spending more than two days, she becomes absorbed with the viscosity of the ink, adding and removing in a way that is almost sculptural. Printed on silk, the bold monotypes become one with a material of ancient association and itself a natural metamorphosis.

The haunting images that she creates are suggestive of narrative but defy defined space and linear time. Cloaked shapes contrast with outstretched figures—closed with open forms—simultaneously childlike and eternal. In the work selected for the “Originals 2007” show—One Leads, One Follows—the very title suggests how meaning consists of relationship and distinction. Yet Jones undercuts any absolute reading. Instead she allows for exchanges of spatial configurations and ground, which become more of a “conversation” among elements.

Admiring early Renaissance painters, Jones juxtaposes the iconic embodiment of light in her saturated blacks and whites with its more naturalistic representation. The illusory quality of light is woven into the composition as a rendered effect and as an almost mystical aura, a fluctuation from one plane or dimension to another. Combining individual memory and collective consciousness, flesh and dream, Jones seeks the unpredictable where “two unlikely things come together.”

Laura Robbins fashions mosaics that participate in our actual space and comment on our reality. Suddenly we find ourselves in an alternative world in which the endangered is honored and the discarded is holy. Using a centuries-old art form, Robbins enhances objects with pictures and designs in glass and clay that simultaneously glorify while dematerializing. The artist turns our commodity culture upside-down by reminding us of our “sense of place” and our “connectedness to the earth.”

Supervising a high school trip to Italy, Robbins was moved by her experience of the mosaics of Venice. The capacity for mosaic to allow exterior ornamentation and its response to light delighted her sensibilities. The medium can transform the mundane into the extraordinary, while always changing in relation to the surrounding conditions. Citing the similar origin of “muse” and “mosaic,” Robbins values the spontaneity that it affords her process.

Winning a Millicent Rogers Museum Award in “Originals 2007,” Altar for Wild Horses is an imposing work that situates a white mustang in the spot usually reserved for the divine. Attendants horses are in niches that usually house saints, with one spot reserved for an automobile—destroyer and namesake. Instead of sacred text, Robbins includes words from the Congressional act intended to protect these animals, which serves to underscore how we have chosen to ignore its ongoing transgression.

The effect of this piece is intensified by the sheer beauty of the mosaic work. The pictorial sections are reminiscent of Van Gogh’s expressive landscapes. The cobalt blue of the sky is repeated in the decorative work above, which is offset by a stylized glowing sunburst. The words themselves are integrated into the design, which only serves to point out the dissonance between the ideal and the actual treatment of the horses.

Robbins uses her art and her capacity to create beauty to suggest ways that we can find balance in our lives. Currently she is working on a piece that is about recycling gray water. This functional, sustainable activity is embellished with represented organic forms such as leaves and turtle shells—just the sort of human artifact you’d expect if we hadn’t gotten thrown out of the Garden of Eden.

Adobe Theater presents “The Gift of the Magi”

As its December production, The Adobe Theater will present “The Gift of the Magi” in a musical version by Peter Ekstrom. This is not a Christmas pageant, but a touching love story based on the tale by O’Henry and is suitable for all ages.

Set in New York City in 1905, this adaption features period costumes and wonderful songs. In our production, the roles of Jim and Della will be played by Kelly O’Keefe and Stephanie Burch, respectively.

A special gala opening night party will be held at 6:30 p.m. on November 30th, featuring great food, drink, live entertainment, and a silent auction of restaurant gift certificates, gift baskets, and much more! Tickets for the gala are $15 and will benefit the Adobe Theater renovation fund.

“The Gift of the Magi” opens November 30 and runs three weekends through December 16, with performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. The Adobe Theatre is located at 9813 Fourth St. NW, two blocks north of Alameda. Tickets are $14; seniors and students are admitted for $12. For reservations to the show and the gala party, call 898-9222 (weekdays only). For further information, contact director Becky Mayo at 897-9867.

Cloud

Cloud Acre Solstice

It isn’t so much the standing still that makes us

turn our busy heads, but the way the Sun escapes

each dust, sliding almost down to the Blues before

tromboning back to the high peaks of the La Sals.

When we raise our songs like flags, it has to be around

a fire large as we dare. Beating on drums. Mesmerized

by the soprano-stringed glissandos of a lone dulcimer.

A lark chanting the light back from the southern abyss.

This the season to be outside. Untamed. Free to exercise

the heart muscles. Where we can squeeze out fat & fail.

Release all that’s been given. As gift. As goad. Or what

we’ve chosen to hold onto, past all reason, until it too

gets tossed on the pyre. And we stand stripped bare.

Smudged with sage. Prepared for Gaia’s great dark spinning.

—ART GOODTIMES, from As If The World Really Mattered, La Alameda Press

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