Signpost featured artist of the month:
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
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”
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
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
—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 email@example.com.
Altar for Wild Horses, by Laura Robbins
One Leads, One Follows, by Evey Jones
Jones and Robbins recognized in “Originals 2007”
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
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”
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
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
Adobe Theater presents “The Gift of the
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 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