Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988

Signpost featured artist: Marie Maher

Marie Maher in her Placitas studio
Photo credit: —Oli Robbins

Garden of Ruin, by Marie Maher

The Tooth Dream, by Marie Maher

Seizing the illusive: The surreal worlds of Marie Maher

—Oli Robbins

Some art soothes and calms by providing visual respite. The French Impressionists, for example, fashioned paintings of leisure and idyllic landscapes. And while not always philosophically or intellectually stimulating, such images are generally agreed to be pleasant. Other art stuns by exposing ideas and visions that churn beneath the surface. Placitas photographer Marie Maher makes this kind of art—and it is arresting. It awakens the viewer and prompts him or her to meditate on subconscious emotions and memories. Despite her relative newness as a practicing artist (she’s been a photographer for only six years), Maher’s images are as effective at illustrating the realms of dreams and inner psyches as some of the most prominent twentieth-century Surrealists. 

Maher can’t remember a time when she didn’t love art. She fondly remembers going to a local bookstore with her mother and brother and looking at reproductions of van Gogh. She appreciated all of van Gogh’s work, but even then, when she was eight years old, she preferred his more obviously solemn and soulful works. Says Maher, “My favorite piece was The Potato Eaters. I remember just loving it, and thinking that I’d really like to try to create art like this.” Maher grew up in Dunkirk, NY, on Lake Erie. She took painting classes in school, but because she also enjoyed math and science, and worried that continuing with art may not be practical, she decided to study architecture in college. Soon after graduating from SUNY Buffalo, Maher moved to NM. She had family here and had developed a great appreciation for the state over years of visiting. She worked as a draftsman for a period in Albuquerque, but didn’t feel creatively challenged, so she quit and enrolled in art and photography classes at UNM. She was enchanted by photography, but still wasn’t convinced that she could make a living as an artist. Photography was placed on her to-do-later list, and she went back to school for a degree in pharmacy, working in that field for the next 13 years.

Maher’s life, career, and outlook changed in 2007 when she was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. Her doctors at the NM Cancer Center acted quickly and aggressively, and over the course of one-and-a-half years, Maher underwent chemotherapy and radiation and had multiple surgeries. Her fierce determination and the support of her beloved husband, Mike Schulz, helped her win the battle. She remains in remission six years later. Undoubtedly, the cancer forced Maher to reexamine her life and stop waiting for a better time to engage in the things she loves most. On a fateful day early into Maher’s recovery, she and Mike ventured out to Bosque del Apache. She noticed members of the Enchanted Lens Camera Club taking pictures, and realized right then and there that she wanted to go back to photography. She quickly enrolled in a photography class at UNM, and even though she had to do four more chemo treatments during that semester, she committed herself to learning all she could about digital photography. 

Back at the Cancer Center, Maher attended an art exhibit that, fortuitously, showcased works by the Enchanted Lens Camera Club. The photographers encouraged Maher to join them on a photography outing, and she took them up on it. “The first thing we did was go to the old Santa Fe prison. I loved it—that was the exact type of subject I was interested in.” She continues to be a member of that club, and in 2011 was invited to join Perspectives, a group that includes Placitas photographers Fernando Delgado, Joan Fenicle, Barry McCormick, Joe Cabaza, Tom Baker, and Ruth Butler.

While photography can be used scientifically, or to memorialize human interactions or passing moments of time, Maher doesn’t use it for such purposes. She respects all forms of photography, but has always been interested in manipulating and composing an image so that it becomes evocative. She tends toward darker subject matter—crumbling, deserted buildings, prisons, powerfully frightening mythological figures. And in order to devise truly illusive images, she uses Photoshop to composite multiple photographs. Some of her images are comprised of over a dozen photographs, while others required just 2 or 3. Says Maher, “I generally prefer to composite an image because that allows me to create another world. With straight photography, I feel too confined to ‘reality.’”

Many of Maher’s photographs are completed gradually, as she develops the idea and gathers all of the imagery needed to tell a visionary tale. For example, Maher began composing In Minerva’s Dreams after being drawn to “the movement of a curtain blowing in the wind in an abandoned building.” She knew she could build upon such an image, and began crafting an intense scene of vivid introspection, wherein the viewer becomes privy to the inner workings of the mind. Maher placed a woman—seated in an armchair, with severe features, and no hair or clothing—alongside the billowing curtain. Says Maher, “she is to represent Arachne, who was turned into a spider by Minerva, the Roman manifestation of the goddess Athena in Greek mythology. The title indicates that Minerva is the one who is dreaming—of the time when she can finally transform Arachne. I wanted Arachne to appear transfixed, perhaps frightened by the moon as it unfurls the web that will transform her.” Maher presents a dream within a dream, and the image is loaded with palpable anxiety. 

Maher will be showing at the Annual New Mexico Photographic Art Show at EXPO New Mexico from December 7 to December 28, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (closed Tuesdays). She is also featured in the “Best of 2014” group exhibit at The Artistic Image (1101 Cardenas Dr. NE, Suite 202, Albuquerque, NM), which runs from November 1 to December 31, with an encore reception on December 5, from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. You can contact Maher by visiting her website,, and view her photographs at Albuquerque’s High Desert Art and Frame and The Artistic Image.

Charles Little

Celebrate the winter solstice with poetry

—Earth Care Fellowship, LPPC

Join us at our annual celebration of the winter solstice on December 20, at 7:00 p.m., at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church. The theme this year is “Old Man Winter” and is dedicated to the memory of Charles Little. Our selected poets will each read a poem to the light of a single candle in the darkened LPPC sanctuary, with a minute or so of silence between each reading. This unusual and powerful experience will give us the courage and inspiration needed to face the long winter nights ahead.

After the readings, refreshments will be served, giving time to meet and honor our poets.

Arte de Placitas to host holiday open house

Arte de Placitas will host a holiday open house on December 6, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. Many of the 65 local artists and authors will be on hand to meet and greet. Refreshments and door prizes will punctuate the festivities throughout the afternoon. The unique holiday tree is adorned with imaginative ornaments for sale. All proceeds from the fabric holiday print gift bags will go to Casa Rosa. Arte de Placitas is located at 221 Highway 165 in Placitas in the Homestead Shopping Center.

Placitas has a little free library

Thanks to our friends at The Merc, Placitas now has a little free library. Located in a sheltered spot near the entrance, the sturdy wooden box contains books that anyone can borrow. Hopefully, the reader will return the book or drop off another. There’s no membership, and it’s free.

The Little Free Library movement   ( is a not-for-profit organization with thousands of members around the world, including all fifty states. Its goal is simple: to give neighbors an opportunity to share books with one another. People browse the books and pick one that seems interesting. Ideally, people will return the book or drop off another. The movement has had enormous success in helping people share books and building strong community bonds.

The little free library at The Merc has a few books already. It’s a simple box made of salvaged wood and hardware. The top of the box flips up, and it is designed to be accessible for children or people who use a wheelchair. It’s worth a trip to The Merc to see this unique addition to our community. You might find a book that you can’t resist, or perhaps you will drop off a book that you think others would enjoy.

Joe Sais Showcase releases new album

Local legendary singer Joe Sais with his Showcase band seems to have found the recipe for what may become New Mexicans’ favorite Christmas album this year and for years to come. Christmas New Mexico with Friends lends a good dash of Latin flavoring to traditional favorites. The title cut, Christmas New Mexico, is a lyrical and melodic mix paying homage to the diverse cultures of our state. It and two other originals written by Showcase keyboardist and local New Mexican, Carol Mayberry-Sanchez, combine with those timeless favorites, such as Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, to offer a blend of old and new.

The CD was released on November 11. A CD release party and Christmas will be held on December 19, at the South Broadway Cultural Center, 1025 Broadway SE, Albuquerque (tickets are available at 848-1320).

For more information call, 873-0690 or 615-6124. CDs will be available for sale at local merchants and online at

Leatherwork, by Gene Anderson

Sandhill Crane scarf, by Judith Roderick

Oh, come let us adorn you!

It’s time again for the third annual December wearable art exhibit and sale at the Placitas Community Library.

Six Placitas artists will be showing their original handmade adornments. A sampling of their work will be on display and can be purchased throughout the month. Many more items will be available for sale at their reception on December 6, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. The event is open to the public and free. The artists will donate a portion of their sales to the library. Participating artists are: Gene Anderson, Bunny Bowen, Sandy Johnson, Judith Roderick, Riha Rothberg, and Geri Verble.

Natural materials are the cornerstones of Gene Anderson’s designs in leather.

Bunny Bowen’s batik work continues a 2500-year-old tradition that has been practiced all around the world.

Sandy Johnson specializes in contemporary, usually bold jewelry designs, in a variety of techniques.

Judith Roderick, who has been painting silk scarves for the last 30 years, will have some local flora and fauna scarves, iris, crane, hummingbird, and some petroglyph scarves.

Riha Rothberg frequently departs from painting to enjoy combining her fiber and bead collections via her grandma’s crochet lessons.

Geri Verble’s Tribal Bear Designs will feature macrame concho button bracelets, knotted ethnic necklaces, and tribal earrings.

Santa Fe Opera offers free holiday concerts

—Daniel Zillmann

Two young singers from The Santa Fe Opera will be offering free holiday concerts in several cities in New Mexico in December. Soprano Amy Owens and bass-baritone Calvin Griffin, both former apprentices, will join pianist Kirt Pavitt for evenings of songs of the season, classical, and sacred works. Admission is free and all are welcome. Seating is on a first-come first-served basis. Doors open a half hour before each performance. One hour long, the concert is perfect for families and those swept up in the holiday rush.

  • December 3, at 5:30 p.m., at First Presbyterian Church in Santa Fe
  • December 7, at 3:00 p.m., at Cathedral of St. John in Albuquerque
  • December 9, at 7:00 p.m., at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church in Placitas
  • December 10, at 7:00 p.m., at Old San Ysidro Church in Corrales

Fine art photograph, by Amy Ditto

PAS presents

—Placitas Artists Series

The 28th season of the Placitas Artists Series continues on December 14, with a 3:00 p.m. concert, featuring Michael Chapdelaine performing pieces for classical and fingerstyle guitar in a variety of musical styles. He will announce from the stage the works he has selected for this concert. The concert is generously sponsored by Dave and Mary Colton, Robert and Claudia Moraga, and YogaCrossroads and Priscilla Sears.

Prior to the concert, a 2:00 p.m. artist reception will feature the art of Lisa Chernoff, fused glass; Amy Ditto, photography and digital art; Dianna Shomaker, acrylic and encaustic; and Kris Thoeni, fiber art. Their works, which are for sale, are on display at the church from November 29 to January 2.

In a third event this month, PAS is hosting one of three Albuquerque-area holiday concerts presented by the Santa Fe Opera and featuring two of their singers, a pianist and participants in the Young Voices of the Santa Fe Opera program. This free one-hour concert will be held on December 9, at 7:00 p.m. There will be no intermission. No tickets are required, but audience members are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item as a donation to the church’s Casa Rosa Food Pantry.

The PAS concert and artist reception, as well as the SFO holiday concert, take place at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church in the village of Placitas, located six miles east of I-25 on NM 165 (Exit 242). The facility is completely accessible.

Tickets for the PAS concert will be available at the door one hour before the concert or may be purchased for twenty dollars in advance at The Merc Grocery Store in Homestead Village Shopping Center, Placitas; Under Charlie’s Covers Fine Used Book Store at 120 E. Highway 550, Bernalillo; or on-line at Tickets at the door are twenty dollars for general admission and $15 for students with ID.

For more information call, 867-8080 or visit
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