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Katherine Christie Wilson

Katherine Christie Wilson in her Placitas studio

c. Katherine Christie Wilson

Forest Loop Road, painting, by Katherine Christie Wilson

c. Katherine Christie Wilson

The Old Corral, by Katherine Christie Wilson

Featured artist: The Maine attraction

The landscapes of Katherine Christie Wilson

—Oli Robbins

About 15 years ago, landscape painter Katherine Christie Wilson and her husband David flew into Albuquerque to visit David’s architecture partner. Katherine recalls arriving at night and being unaware of the beautiful scenery that awaited her. She woke up the next morning in Placitas, looked out the window and was blown away by the colors and shapes of the New Mexico landscape. She had been warned that, compared to Maine—where they were living at the time—Placitas would be a “nice shock,” but she was still surprised.

Says Katherine, “We fell in love with everything—the blue sky. It was amazing.” Katherine and David continued to visit yearly until, in 2007, they decided to make Placitas their permanent residence. The very same view that greeted Katherine on her first morning in Placitas continues to fuel her creativity daily; Katherine and David now live in the home they used to visit, and what once was their guest room has become Katherine’s studio.

Katherine has worked as an artist on and off for decades, but also spent many years teaching and working as a counselor in adult education, assisting students who had been long out of school, and wanted to reacquaint themselves with the skills required for college. She has enjoyed painting since childhood, though she admits that she originally wanted to pursue a different artistic route: “As a kid, I really wanted to be a ballerina, but I wasn’t built for it, and my parents really didn’t want to drive me all the way to the dance classes. A neighbor of ours offered art classes, so I got to go to them, and walk from our home.” Disappointed as she may have been initially, Katherine found that she enjoyed making art, and painting became a lasting hobby. She returned to art classes in her late twenties, when a friend suggested that they take an evening art class for fun. “That brought it all back,” says Katherine. “I started spending more and more time doing art, and studying with various artists.” Katherine eventually decided to go back to school for a second bachelor’s degree in fine art because, as she explains, “I just wanted to be better. I needed to bump it up a notch.”

Katherine’s oil paintings of the picturesque and timeless Maine waterfront bare resemblance to 19th-century American master Winslow Homer’s coastal depictions. Edward Hopper has proved to be another source for Katherine, who is fascinated by his treatment of light and shadow—two elements that she articulates beautifully in her own landscapes. Moving to New Mexico has prompted Katherine to experiment with bolder colors, like the profound pinks and reds that are so central to the grandeur of our state. 

An avid hiker and runner, Katherine finds herself in nature quite frequently. One of her favorite places to spend time in and paint is Placitas’ Forrest Loop. Says Katherine, “Visually, I know it now. I have it in me. It’s just a beautiful, beautiful place.”

She frequently paints from her own photographs, so she tries to remember to bring her camera along on outdoor activities. Says Katherine, “I wish I always had my camera with me. Half the time I don’t, and I have to go back, and the light will have changed.” While outdoors, Katherine is on the lookout for striking shadows and the designs they make in nature. Because shadows change with each passing instant in time, the photograph allows for Katherine to capture and reinterpret the moment. Recently, on one particularly cold and overcast afternoon, when the sky was preparing to release the season’s first real snowfall, Katherine found herself looking at a paint-worthy sunset without her camera. “The sun was just setting, and the light hit the mountains, and I’d never before seen such glorious colors. I didn’t have my camera on me, so I missed that one. But later I thought, if I had painted it, it probably would have looked overdone, because the colors were so unreal to begin with.”

Katherine and David still maintain a summer “camp” in Maine. Katherine describes a Maine “camp” as “a place way out in the woods, on a lake, that’s small and not very fancy.” David explains that, because they lived in Maine for so many years, and are fortunate enough to summer there, they don’t miss it while in New Mexico, which still grips their attention. Says David, “I haven’t gotten used to Placitas yet, and I won’t.” Despite how geologically different Placitas and the Maine Coast are, Katherine recognizes certain similarities. She is drawn to the magnitude of the beauty of both places, as well as the pervasive creativity. She explains that the coast of Maine, like Placitas, is “dense with artistic, creative people. I think the vibrancy of the creative people… it just keeps you going. You can’t really step aside and say, ‘I think I’ll just be an observer.’”

As a non-observer, and an active participant in various creative projects, Katherine recently wrote, illustrated, and self-published a cookbook—though she concedes that cooking is not one of her intrinsic talents. Says Katherine, “I’m not a great cook, but I care about what I eat.” As such, she compiled recipes that are easy to make, require little time, and consist of wholesome ingredients. Katherine gleaned inspiration from her time working as a counselor, when she encountered many students that had terrible nutrition because they didn’t know how to cook. An aesthetically pleasing and encouraging read, Great Dinners on a Shoestring: Easy, Delicious and Inexpensive Meals for All Seasons is worth checking out. Katherine’s paintings can also be found alongside and complementing the Maine-inspired poems by American poet Annie Finch in the most recent chapbook published by Voices from the American Land.

Katherine’s portrayals of New Mexico and Maine are on view this month at the Las Placitas Presbyterian Church as part of the Placitas Artist Series. The show will be up February 2 through March 2 and can be visited between 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.


Helen Hardin, Margarete Bagshaw, Pablita Velarde

Helen Hardin, Margarete Bagshaw, Pablita Velarde—circa 1965

Kate Nelson

Author, Kate Nelson

Kate Nelson tells Hardin’s story in Native American artists’ trilogy

The lives of celebrated painters Pablita Velarde, her daughter, Helen Hardin, and Helen’s daughter, Margarete Bagshaw, changed the course of Native American art while sweeping across a century of change. Their stories are told for the first time in a trio of biographies that includes Placitas resident Kate Nelson’s debut book, Helen Hardin: a Straight Line Curved.

Nelson and Bagshaw, author of Margarete Bagshaw: Teaching My Spirit to Fly, will read from the books and show video footage of the women at 2:00 p.m. on February 9 at the Placitas Community Library. The event is free; the books will be available for sale.

Shelby Tisdale, former director of the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe, and now vice president at the Autry National Center in Los Angeles, wrote Pablita Velarde: In Her Own Words to complete the set.

Filled with family photos and numerous examples of their artwork, the award-winning artists’ stories are told with truth, humor, passion, and sorrow.

Firmly connected and yet defiantly independent, each refused to be restricted by the rules of their time. Rooted in the geography of the Pajarito Plateau and grounded in the spirituality of both Santa Clara Pueblo and the Catholic Church, the saga begins at the dawn of statehood with an influenza epidemic that stole the life of a little girl’s mother. Pablita Velarde’s bereft father carted her to St. Catherine’s Indian School in Santa Fe, setting into motion a history that sweeps across numerous cultural touchstones. Among them: the troubled legacy of Indian boarding schools. Dorothy Dunn’s groundbreaking art classes for Native students. The brief promise of the WPA’s art programs. A postwar Albuquerque that mixed opportunity with bigotry, low-rent motels, and brushes with a criminal underworld. The civil- and women’s-rights movements. The establishment of the Institute of American Indian Arts and the explosive growth of the Native art market. And for each woman, a self-made mix of spirituality that haunts their canvases. (Not to mention a few dollops of soap-opera fever, episodes of Ponderosa, art-world gossip, and a kick-ass recipe for calabacitas).

“The constant for each of them,” Nelson said, “was a paintbrush and the vision to transform classic Native imagery into something uniquely her own. Pablita was the only woman in a vanguard of Native artists who elevated folk-art images into gallery-worthy art. Helen built on her mother’s style but mixed in the zeitgeist of her era—abstract expressionism—to reach a mainstream audience and, in a way, become the “it” girl of Native art. Margarete bundled it all up and jumped into the deep end of the modern art world with huge, exuberant canvases that shout, laugh, tease, and dance.”

Nelson came into the project late, after another author backed out. With only six months, she dedicated her evenings and weekends to learning about a woman who died in 1985, four years before Nelson made New Mexico her home.

“There was a mountain of information to sift through and the frustration was, thankfully, matched by the exhilaration of walking with this remarkable woman every day,” said Nelson, former managing editor of The Albuquerque Tribune and now marketing manager for the New Mexico History Museum.

Tisdale fact-checked a galaxy of inexact stories and employed hours of transcripted interviews to tell Velarde’s story. The book is destined to become the scholarly standard that future researchers and historians will rely upon in writing about Velarde, who died in 2006.

Simply by choosing to paint instead of create pottery, Velarde set herself against her pueblo’s leadership. She piled on the offenses by marrying an Anglo man, carving out a full-time career and, eventually, doing so as a single mother. Still, her casein and earth-pigment paintings faithfully depicted traditional Pueblo life so well that today they are regarded as historical references as much as art.

Bagshaw grew up in both women’s homes—whichever one wasn’t consumed by preparing for an upcoming show—and obtained an art education by osmosis. Her memoir carries the reader on a first-person jet stream in which she bares her soul with honesty, a little bit of scandal, and a healthy dose of sarcasm.

The complete set of books are available through Golden Dawn Gallery (named for Velarde’s Tewa name, Tse Tsan). For details, go to: www.goldendawngallery.com.


“Bawdy and Soul”

On February 9, at 7:30 p.m., in the Sandia Prep Theatre, local divas Dianna Hughes and Patty Stephens invite you to a pre-Valentine’s Day cabaret—“Bawdy and Soul.” This show will feature the tongue-in-cheek, saucy songs of the early twentieth century and beyond. The music promises to be “bluesy, bawdy, sassy, and steamin’ hot.” The dynamic duo of Stephens and Hughes will be joined by an all-star band—Zenobia, Wendy Beach, and Alexis Corbin. According to Stephens, these women will be heating it up, and putting the blush on your cheeks.

For your added enjoyment, a post-show reception will feature a mercado of choice merchants—Elixir Boutique Chocolates, Martha’s Body Bueno, Echo Canyon Massage Spa and others—for Valentine’s Day shopping opportunities. For tickets and further information, visit bawdyandsoul.com.


PAS presents “Paul Posnak, Classic and Jazz Piano”

Continuing its 26th season into the new year, on February 17, at 3:00 p.m., the Placitas Artists Series will present “Paul Posnak, Classic and Jazz Piano” at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church located on NM 165, six miles east of I-25 (exit 242). 

The program should include music by Domenico Scarlatti, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Frederic Chopin, as well as George Gershwin, Thomas “Fats” Waller, and Ernesto Lecuona. Dr. Posnak plans to play some of the note-for-note transcriptions he has made of some of the improvisations by George Gershwin and “Fats” Waller.

Paul Posnak is a world-renowned pianist, recording artist, scholar, and educator. His note-for-note transcriptions and breathtaking performances of the original, legendary improvisations of George Gershwin, Thomas “Fats” Waller, and Jelly Roll Morton have gained him international acclaim.

Preceding the concert at 2:00 p.m., a reception will be held for February exhibiting visual artists: Lynda Burch, mixed media; Judith Roderick, silk painting; Katherine Christie Wilson, oil painting; and Geri Verble, jewelry.

Lynda Burch, a resident of Albuquerque since l981, has been painting for the last 14 years and has been juried into over one hundred shows during that period. Judith Roderick touched upon the batik process while a painting and design major at Carnegie Tech, and has been working with fiber ever since, creating batiked banners, clothing and quilts. Geri Verble, a Placitas jewelry design artist, specializes in tribal and ethnic jewelry. Painter Katherine Christie Wilson is the featured artist in this issue of the Signpost. [See above.]

The concert will take place at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church. Tickets for the concert will be available at the door one hour before the concert, or may be purchased in advance at The Merc in Homestead Village Shopping Center in Placitas, Under Charlie’s Covers Fine Used Book Store at 120 E. Highway 550 in Bernalillo, Ah! Capelli Salon & Color Studio in Enchanted Hills Plaza in Rio Rancho, or on-line at www.PlacitasArtistsSeries.org. For further information, call 867-8080 or visit www.PlacitasArtistsSeries.org.

 
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