Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988


Signpost Cartoon c. Rudi Klimpert

Protecting authentic Indian art

The Indian Arts and Crafts Board (IACB) of the U.S. Department of the Interior and the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General announced that they have collaborated to publish a consumer protection brochure tailored to the New Mexico Indian arts and crafts market.

Called Take Home a Treasure from Indian Country: Buy Authentic New Mexico Indian Arts and Crafts, this new brochure provides information on the federal and state laws designed to protect the sales of authentic Indian arts and crafts, as well as helpful tips for buyers to determine the authenticity of the items.

“It is critically important that consumers educate themselves before buying Indian arts and crafts, because it is so easy to buy fake products,” says Attorney General King. “This brochure is an important consumer education tool, and we urge all consumers to take advantage of this valuable resource. I am grateful for the cooperation and assistance of the Federal Indian Arts and Crafts Board.”

“The IACB is very pleased to continue its close work with the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General through this excellent educational collaboration,” says IACB Chairperson Joyce Begay-Foss. “We would also like to thank the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture/Laboratory of Anthropology, Department of Cultural Affairs, for the use of their images in this lovely publication.”

Annual sales of Indian arts and crafts in the United States are estimated to total more than one billion dollars. Purchasing authentic Indian arts and crafts helps to preserve and perpetuate Indian culture and traditions. As the popularity of Indian arts and crafts increases, so does the sale of items misrepresented as authentic Indian products. By becoming more familiar with both the federal and state laws governing the sales of Indian arts and crafts, and by considering the shopping tips provided in the new brochure, consumers can help to ensure they are buying authentic Indian arts and crafts.

The brochure is available free of charge by contacting the IACB, U.S. Department of the Interior, at 1-888-ART-FAKE or 1-888-278-3253, or the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-678-1508. Additional information on the IACB is available at

Local artists display talents

On Sunday, December 7, the Placitas Artists Series will present the art of Lisa Chernoff, Joan Fenicle, Sally Hayden Von Conta, and Gail Diane Yovanovich. The show will be at the Las Placitas Presbyterian Church, where it will remain on display throughout the month.

Lisa Chernoff, a native of New Mexico, works with glass as her medium. She creates large wall and table sculptures, bowls, and jewelry. Her fused glass pieces suggest aspects found in nature. The glass is worked in many ways to complete the visual effect. The brilliantly colored dichroic glass presents great versatility in design.

Joan Fenicle paints in several media but prefers oils. Active in art for some time, Joan coordinates the monthly ArtsCrawl events and is photo editor for AlbuquerqueARTS Magazine. Recently, Joan has been working with old—some thirty-plus years—slides to rework the composition and colors, and applying filters that give them both a photographic and painterly appearance.

Sally Hayden Von Conta moved to Santa Fe in 1986 after a twenty-five-year career as an advertising art director in New York. She has been in numerous one-woman shows and national and international exhibitions. Now she is working in plein air pastels. Her work can be viewed on her website at

Gail Diane Yovanovich is an award-winning photographer who takes joy in sharing nature’s splendor through her images. Her photos and artwork have appeared in many books and national publications. She does all the work from shooting to printing, and even matting and framing. For a preview of her work, visit

A reception for the artists will be held at 1:30 p.m. on December 7 prior to a concert by Ronald Roybal. 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, Ah! Capelli Salon & Color Studio in Enchanted Hills Plaza in Rio Rancho, or online at 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. Las Placitas Presbyterian Church is located six miles east of I-25 on NM 165 (exit 242). For more information, call 867-8080 or visit       

The Placitas Artists Series presents Ronald Roybal

On Sunday, December 7, 2008, the Placitas Artists Series will present Ronald Roybal, playing solo classical guitar and Native instruments. As a native of the American Southwest, Ronald is a descendent of Spanish Colonial and Tewa peoples. He considers his ability to express both sides of his heritage to be a great gift and responsibility. Ronald is a six-time Native American Music Award nominee. He has been featured twice on National Public Radio’s Performance Today. His music has been included on several video soundtracks. Roybal lives in Santa Fe and performs extensively in the area. See his website at, where you can view videos and hear sound clips.

The concert is generously sponsored by Comcast.

Preceding the concert, a reception will be held for August exhibiting visual artists Lisa Chernoff, Joan Fenicle, Sally Hayden Von Conta, and Gail Diane Yovanovich.

The concert will take place at 3:00 p.m. on December 7 at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church; the artists’ reception begins at 1:30 p.m. 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, Ah! Capelli Salon & Color Studio in Enchanted Hills Plaza in Rio Rancho, or online at 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 childcare 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.

 Ralph Churchill 

Ralph Churchill's newest work ranges from geometric inlays (in his hand) to the abstract “Desert Cathedral.”

Emerald Island by Ralph Churchill Wire Pass Slot Canyon
Emerald Island” “Wire Pass Slot Canyon”

 Abiquiu View No. 1 by Ralph Churchill

“Abiquiu View No. 1.”

Signpost featured artist of the month: Ralph ChurchillWhittling to a different tune

—Keiko Ohnuma, Signpost

Ralph Churchill would be the first to tell you he is a most unlikely sort of artist. He won’t even use that word to describe himself, showing an engineer’s precision in measuring the label against the contents. But through his self-directed, experimental, persistent engagement with tools and materials, Churchill has, in fact, cut an archetypal artist’s path from copying to creativity.

Until he retired five years ago, Churchill was fully absorbed in his career as an environmental engineer, a direction he had settled on right out of graduate school. He designed wastewater plants, ran people’s companies, headed his own consulting business, moved from city to city, and raised a family. On retirement, his wife presented him with a set of wood-carving chisels—“mostly to keep me out of trouble,” he recalls. It was his first real encounter with wood beyond tinkering around the house and taking shop in junior high.

But, being an engineer, Churchill approached the gift as he approached everything: as a project. He had always considered math and science to be simply tools to accomplish a task, and these very sharp, curved blades were yet another set of tools, for which he set himself the initial task of copying the paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe in wood.

Why O’Keeffe? Not because he felt any affinity for her modernist abstractions—“which I still don’t understand too well,” he admits—but because he had been struck, while watching a show about her life, by her love of the New Mexico landscape. “It was everything we had been feeling for over thirty years,” he said of the many trips he and his wife had taken to hike the state’s mountains and mesas before they finally settled in Placitas in 2003.

Churchill shakes his head again as he recalls his early struggles with transforming blocks of soft basswood into O’Keeffe landscapes. Each step posed a new psychological hurdle. For a while, he had blocks of wood that he dared not cut; then came the closet full of finished carvings that he dared not stain.

“It was terrifying,” he said of his first attempts to color the bas-relief landscapes, whose oil-based pigments call for a no-turning-back plunge. He points to a carving of the Sandia range that “took forever—forever,” once he realized he had bitten off more than he could chew. In those days, he could work only thirty or forty minutes at a time before he grew dismayed at his progress and reluctant to admit defeat. “I couldn’t take the intensity of focus,” he says.

“As I gain confidence, it’s easier to sit and work for hours,” he says now, “because I know it will be OK.” Gradually, his understanding of tools and materials allowed him to give in to that uniquely human urge to experiment.

A pair of carvings in the living room illustrates the developmental leap that followed. One is a faithful rendition of an O’Keeffe landscape; the other came from asking himself, ‘What if I try to convey the same idea using just lines and shapes?’

 Five years after he first picked up a chisel, Churchill sees evidence of his progress in this move away from “just carving pictures” to carvings that are abstract. His newer work is not identifiable as particular places at particular hours, but vacillates instead between landscape and anatomy, colors in nature and color pure and simple. Consciously or (most likely) not, his undulating feminine forms draw inspiration from O’Keeffe’s fantastic, sensual abstractions.

Which is all the more remarkable when you consider that Ralph Churchill never harbored any special love of art, and basically approached life for forty years through the right angles and left brain of so many logicians. “I’m still project- or task-oriented,” he says, a man who still directs himself toward mastering the tools for the task—“making things, rather than creating things,” as he puts it. But what he can’t seem to account for is the point at which he started to step back, and consider his subjects in a different light.

Part of it is being retired, he thinks, and taking more time to see the world around him. He has always loved the outdoors, so it is nature, rather than art, that he would call his teacher. “Exposure to the outdoors, the sheer beauty and power of it, tends to draw things out of you,” he says simply. From his hillside perch in a house sprawling with vistas in every direction, the retired engineer from Pittsburgh witnesses the desert shifting from sunrise to nightfall.

“It’s always different—every hour, every day,” he notes. “To most people, the mesas are just brown or ugly, but if you watch them, they change. I still find that fascinating.” Now he finds that lines don’t have to be straight to be satisfying, and pictures don’t have to represent anything real.

“It’s part of a transition—maybe part of being retired too,” he says. “Being not so focused on the end point and getting done, but enjoying the process.” He has discovered, for example, that the satisfaction of finishing a carving is quite different from that of coloring it—often with results unplanned. “If it’s a stretch for an engineer to do wood carving,” he quips, “it’s a whole other stretch to do colors.”

Recently, he has tried some sculptural work using naturally colored woods that he leaves unstained, and indulged his inner engineer with geometric pieces that express mathematical formulae. Trim and quick, Churchill yanks examples from the corners of the tidy office where he does his work, clearly caught up in the wonder of navigating uncharted terrain—now that the initial terror of it is behind him.

This year he tried entering the Placitas Studio Tour, reasoning that he would have to find out eventually if his work had any audience. He sold a few pieces and earned the admiration of a son who marveled, “it takes guts to put yourself out there like that.”

But Churchill doesn’t feel he’s even halfway down the road to being a real artist. “It’s taken me a long time, and I wouldn’t propose to say I’m there,” he says. “But I have more confidence, and that gives me freedom.

“I’m still a long time from being an artist,” he concludes, shaking his head. “I’m an engineer who’s getting soft around the edges.”

 Bachelors by Lynne Pomeranz

“Bachelors” Photo by Lynne Pomeranz

 Squabble by David Cramer

“Squabble” Photo by David Cramer

A wildlife adventure for photographers, bird, horse, and nature enthusiasts

Join award–winning photographers Lynne Pomeranz and David Cramer as they guide you through the breath-taking landscapes of New Mexico that are home to wonderful birding and exciting wild horse experiences.

The adventure runs January 21 through January 25. You will experience some of the world’s best bird viewing at the Bosque del Apache, where you can observe and photograph in the famous New Mexico early morning and late afternoon light. The Bosque is winter home to tens of thousands of Sandhill cranes, snow geese, and many other varieties of birds, including pheasants, eagles, hawks and falcons, along with coyote, wild turkey, deer, and occasional elk.

Travel on the trail of wild horses to photograph them in the scenic nineteen-thousand-acre Bordo Atravesado Wild Horse Range and the high desert hills of Placitas. Woven into the workshop will be digital darkroom classes and educational presentations on our photographic subjects.

The workshop will start on the first day with an afternoon orientation, followed by an evening session photographing the wild horses near Placitas, just north of Albuquerque. The second day will start with a sunrise session with the horses, after which you will travel south to the Bosque del Apache and Bordo Atravesado area for the next three days. The workshop will end after an early morning shoot on the last scheduled day.

For tuition and registration information, visit or By phone, contact Lynne at (505) 897-4108 or David at (505) 771-0236.

Solstice poetry by candlelight

—John Orne Green

Daylight grows scarce and night longer. We feel it even here in New Mexico, despite our great abundance of light, until we reach what Robert Frost called “the darkest hour of the year”—midnight on the longest night—the winter solstice.

You can take hold of the dark and welcome in the slowly-growing days at the Winter Solstice Candlelight Poetry Reading at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church (LPPC), scheduled for Saturday, December 20 at 7:00 p.m. in the sanctuary—a tradition now for eleven years.

This year’s theme is “The Promise of Winter,” and some twelve poets from the Southwest and beyond will each read a poem to the light of a single burning candle. Placitas poets this year include Gary Brower and Jim Fish of Anasazi Winery, as well as Michelle Holland of Chimayo and nine others.

Each poem is followed by a short interlude of silence to provide listeners (as well as the poets) a moment of contemplation at the close of another year. After the readings, refreshments will be served in the Church’s fellowship hall—a chance to meet and chat with this year’s readers.

The Winter Solstice readings are a regular offering of the Earth Care Committee at LPPC and The Partnership for Earth Spirituality, 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

State Monument hosts Christmas gourd ornament workshop

Create your own Christmas gourd ornaments from buffalo gourds with Native American or Hispanic designs and images, or make your own designs. Make one to decorate the Coronado State Monument’s Christmas tree and a second to take home for your own enjoyment. Two workshops are offered on December 6, from 10:00 a.m. to noon, and from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

All supplies, including gourds, glue, paint, beads, feathers and other materials are furnished. Cost for the workshop is $5 per person or $10 for a family (limit five family members). Reservations are required as class size is limited. Please call Pat at 822-8571 to reserve your space.

The workshop will be held on the portal at Coronado State Monument off I-25 (Exit 242), west of Bernalillo on Highway 550.

Corrales Historical Society hosts twentieth annual Fine Crafts Show

The Corrales Historical Society’s Visual Arts Council presents the 2008 Fine Crafts Show in the Old San Ysidro Church, featuring many of New Mexico’s finest artists. The show includes traditional and contemporary artists, showcasing a wide array of art forms, including stained and etched glass, fabric art, dyed and painted silks, weavings, jewelry, traditional New Mexican art and pottery, contemporary Native American pottery, wood carvings and bowls, decorative eggs, folk art, pen and ink on sandstone, geodes and rocks, cut paper, painted punched tin, dried natural arrangements, homemade jams and jellies, Corrales Historical Society books, key rings, necklaces, and retablos.

Docents will be on hand to offer information on the history and architecture of The Old San Ysidro Church. The show is free and open to the public, and will be held on December 5 from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., December 6 from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and December 7 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The Old San Ysidro Church is located at 966 Old Church Road, across from Casa San Ysidro.

Dust off those boots for Country Heat

The country music duo Country Heat will perform an evening of country and western music at the Esther Bone Memorial Library on Tuesday, December 2 at 6:30 p.m. Dina and Andy Graham from Chama, New Mexico will perform classic country music and entertain the audience with beautiful vocals, guitar, and mandolin. If you like Patsy Cline, you will love Dina Graham, and if you like sweet mandolin picking and harmonies, you will love Andy Graham.

Admission is free, however, tickets are required, and are available at the Adult Information Desk in the library. For more information, please contact the library at 891-5012, ext. 3128, or email

Christmas at Kuaua

Enjoy the lighting of hundreds of flickering luminarias, dancing by the Jemez Oak Canyon dancers, listen to storyteller Emmett Garcia, and enjoy flute music by Andrew Thomas at “Christmas at Kuaua,” sponsored by the Friends of Coronado State Monument.

The celebration will be held at Coronado State Monument, located on Route 550 about one mile west of I-25, on December 12 from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. Children can create Christmas crafts in the Elves’ Workshop and can also visit with Santa. Cookies and hot cider will be served.

The event is open to the public. For information, call Scott Smith, Monument manager at 867-5351.






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