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  Featured Artist

Amy Hautman Bates

Amy Hautman Bates in her Placitas studio Photo credit: Oli Robbins

c. Amy Hautman Bates

Painting, by Amy Hautman Bates

c. Amy Hautman Bates

Prickly Pear, by Amy Hautman Bates

Experiencing life through paint—Amy Hautman Bates

—Oli Robbins

Many artists admit to having been drawn to art since childhood. They look back at years past and realize that art was, in some way, always a part of them. But fewer artists find themselves born into a world in which creativity abounds and art rules. In this world, from one’s earliest days, art is present. It is appreciated, taught, analyzed, and created. Such was the world of Amy Hautman Bates. Amy is one of seven children—most of whom are artists—born to a mother who, an artist herself, forever instructed her children to look. She alerted Amy to the world’s infinite patterns and compositions, teaching her to critically inspect and learn from things that others would disregard or even avoid. Amy remembers, for example, her mom saying, “Look at the beautiful color of that mud puddle!”

Says Amy, “maybe more important than teaching us how to paint, she taught us how to see.”

In this world presided by art, Amy and her siblings didn’t just doodle and finger paint, they used their ever-budding visual asensibilities to design, invent, and imagine. “We were encouraged to question everything and think differently,” says Amy. “Life was an art project.” She fondly recalls looking at the world upside down—literally—by lolling over the back of a chair and gazing. Her world teemed with such projects as making plaster birds, tempera paintings, paper flowers, and string balloon ornaments. With parents who admired and engaged with the arts with such fervor, Amy’s fruitful artistic career was almost predetermined. Says Amy of her parents, “Money did not impress them. Art did.”

The ubiquity of art and artistic practices in Amy’s childhood home led to great success for Amy’s family. Three of Amy’s brothers are award-winning wildlife painters, whose work can be found on more than fifty state and federal conservation stamps. So renowned by lovers of wildlife art, the brothers are mentioned in the movie “Fargo” and have received acclaim in a variety of national newspapers and magazines. Amy owned a gallery in Minneapolis—her hometown—for over a decade before moving, in 1996, to North Carolina. There, she raised two children with her musician husband Rog and painted. For Amy, painting is not a means of mimetic representation. It is, in her words, “the language I know best.” She uses it to focus, to center her energy, to live. She’s more interested in the underlying spirit of her subject than its outward appearance.

Many Placitans may know Amy for her fanciful and energetic paintings of chickens, which were on display in November as part of the Placitas Artists Series at the Placitas Presbyterian Church. The chicken entered Amy’s repertoire of motifs on her daughter’s sixteenth birthday, when two friends gifted her with four baby chicks. Amy became “the mother hen” to the chicks, which offered her a new source of inspiration. Says Amy, “I found the humor and emotion in my chicken portraits lightened the mood in my previously serious studio.” Amy also paints flowers, birds, landscapes, and abstracts. Her works are painterly and spirited, precise yet unrestrained.

Amy has always sensed the connectivity between art and healing. Teaching art (at various points during the three decades she devoted to painting) opened her up to the therapeutic potential of art. She often led her students in deep breathing exercises prior to art-making in order to cultivate an environment in which they could release external concerns and be fully present. Says Amy, “I watched people discover things, reveal themselves, explore possibilities, claim their voice and open up to new ways of experiencing life through paint!” Such experiences triggered Amy to learn more about art therapy, and eventually guided her to New Mexico, where she is now an art therapy graduate student at Southwestern College in Santa Fe. “I always thought of painting as a way of expanding consciousness and a way of healing, but I couldn’t quite imagine how a clinical application of creativity would look.”

Amy convinced her husband to move across the country, leaving both the home in which their children were raised, as well as their community and routines, all to try her hand, heart, and mind at a new career—one which will endow Amy with the tools needed to heal others, and enable her to be “of greater service to the world.” Amy and Rog decided upon Placitas for its landscape and quietude. Here, where the connection that exists between all things is illuminated, Amy awakes every morning, looks at the Placitas skies, and says, “Ah, yes... you get to have another day here.” In the evening, staggered by the sunsets, she says, “Thank you.”

Contact Amy and view a broad sampling of her paintings at

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