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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

Attention artists—2014 Placitas Studio Tour

—Riha Rothberg, tour founder and director

2014 brings the seventeenth year of the Placitas Studio Tour—a much-anticipated Mother’s Day weekend event. This tour is unique because it remains a true local artist, studios-only experience. I have already been fielding inquiries from potential new participants.

The tour is open only to artists and artisans who are either Placitas residents or maintain their working studios in Placitas. Detailed guidelines are part of the application form—to be available on February 1, via Deadline for application is always Valentine’s Day, February 14 with no exceptions.

Instead of the usual schlep of work to a distant venue, collectors come to us, and we can engage in a relaxed non-gallery setting, explaining and sometimes demonstrating techniques. People are truly fascinated to see the wide variety of work spaces created by various types of artists. The artists also have fun seeing each other’s studios on the Saturday following the tour. This has become a highlight of participation for many of us.

The Tour has always been all-inclusive in that it is not a juried show. Participants join a creative community and share their energies to make the event a success. Beyond paying the entry fee, artists are required to provide a high-quality digital image of their work, attend a mandatory orientation meeting, and help assemble, place, collect or disassemble the many road signs that make it easy for guests to locate the studios, and help with various duties required for several committees.

This is a call to artists to get your work photographed now and visit: Images stay online for a year, with links to studio sites. Our wonderful local sponsors are also listed year to year. Use the “Contact Us” button to inquire about sponsorship or with other questions.

c. Dianna Shomaker

Painting, by Dianna Shomaker

Placitas Artists Series presents strings and artists’ reception

—Patt Cain           

On January 26, the Placitas Artists Series will present Willy and Friends. Willy Sucre, viola, will be joined by Kevin Connolly and Justin Pollak, violins, and Sally Guenther, cello. The program will consist of Felix Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in A minor op. 13 and Antonin Dvorak’s String Quartet #10 in E flat major op. 51.

The concert will take place at 3:00 p.m. at the 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 ($20/$15). The concert is generously sponsored by Lafarge Sand and Gravel.

Preceding the concert, at the church, at 2:00 p.m., a reception will be held for December award-winning visiting artists Emily Holcomb, jewelry, and Dianna Shomaker, mixed media. The reception is free and open to the public. The works will be on display from December 28 until January 31. Gallery hours are 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m, Monday through Friday, and Sunday.

Holcomb combines assorted materials and techniques—dyeing, painting, needle felting, stiching, and beading—to create her art. Shomaker’s work, in mixed media, acrylic, oil, encaustic or 3D, uses degrees of abstraction and realism designed to intrigue the viewer and perpetuate a sense of immediacy, movement, and energy. These artists’ works may be previewed at:

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, or visit

c. Katherine Christie Willson

Forest Loop Road, by Katherine Christie Wilson

Placitas Community Library artist of the month—Katherine Christie Wilson

—Sonya Coppo

Katherine Christie Wilson lived all of her life in Maine, until moving to Placitas in 2008. She graduated from Colby College and later majored in painting at the Portland School of Art (now Maine College of Art). She received her Masters Degree in counseling from the University of Maine. She began her art career working in oils and watercolors, and during the 1980s, created silkscreen prints, posters, and cards. In the 1990s, she worked for BekArts, painting custom designs on ceramic tile.

Since her retirement from a career in education and counseling, Katherine has focused primarily on oil painting and watercolors. She is fascinated by light and shadow, color, and texture. She is drawn to the atmosphere and geology of New Mexico and to the softer, greener landscapes of Maine, where she spends the summer. Her landscape paintings are on display at the Placitas Community Library for the month of January. They highlight her love of the outdoors. She works from her own photos and, if the weather permits, she likes to paint “en plein air,” or on location.

Katherine’s paintings and serigraphs can be found at Arte de Placitas and at her home studio on Mothers’ Day weekend during the Placitas Studio Tour.

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