The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989


“Outburst,” by Ben Forgey

Outburst,” by Ben Forgey

The Bird Seller,” by Ben Forgey

The forms of the sticks

Barb Belknap

Behind the Range Café sits a rustic driftwood bench secured to the wall of the restaurant by a metal chain strong enough to hold an elephant. In front of Julianna Kirwin’s Studio/Gallery on the main street in Bernalillo, you’ll see another version of “the bench,” its fluid beauty formed by water-gnarled sticks, nails, and empty space. Around town, you’ll meet the bench again, but transformed into living-room chairs, couches, bed boards, dining-room tables, lamps, sconces, and picture frames—all treasured works of functional art. These are the creations of furniture-maker Ben Forgey. And now, after thirteen years of furniture making, Ben is offering us something different: a remarkable individual show of sculpture.

Ben always presents the unexpected at the art shows in which he participates, delighting the wine-and-cheese-weary crowd with fresh ideas for our living spaces. As a masterful “rustic” furniture designer, Ben paints, sands, beats, and sometimes brands his already weathered wooden found objects to get them “just right.”

Ben is presently gathering wood for two large gazebos and four poolside lounge beds. Regarding that project, he said, “This is the biggest and most exciting job I’ve had to date. The lounge beds look like sea creatures and are for an estate on the Chesapeake Bay. I’ll be trucking all that stuff out at the end of July.”

Ben Forgey hails from Washington, D.C., and Virginia and travels back to the East Coast on occasion. That is, when he is not having a furniture reception in Italy or contemplating whalebone remnants in the West Indies or just visiting abroad. At home now in the growing art community of Bernalillo, he spends some time gathering driftwood along the Rio Grande and at Cochiti using a boat or his truck and hauling it along in a special steel cart made by his friend and metal artist Jake Lovato.

About his upcoming show, Ben states:

I'm still using found things—in addition to driftwood. I'm using shredded re-treads found on I-25 and scraps from the booths I made for the Range Café—and this is an important element in my work. It seems to feed my creativity.

There are essentially three groups of work in this next show. The Coronado pieces are named after the old Coronado Airport where my new studio is. The Range booths were the first things I made there and I began playing with the scraps and the scraps of driftwood I had laying around. Since the bright colors of the Range work correspond to the colors of New Mexico, I see these pieces as landscapes. You can begin to see horizon lines and you can read the driftwood elements as stars or clouds. I like to show contradictions, so you will see stars on a bright blue sky, the sun on a dark purple sky, etcetera. I have been trying to synthesize my driftwood work and flat-wood work for a long time.

Another group you will see is called "The Outbursts" and it involves bundles of sticks coming out of boxes. They can be displayed on a table, floor, or, in the case of the show, the wall, where it really appears as if the stuffing of the wall was bursting through. I'm trying to get as much motion and energy as I can from the frozen forms of the sticks.

I also made one from shredded tires and there is a similar effect. It brings to mind comparisons between rivers and highways, the effects of nature and the effects of man, the idea of trash, flotsam, jetsam, and unwanted things. Maybe I should call the material the descansos (the left-behinds) after the crosses on the side of the road indicating scenes of highway deaths.

The third group is a series of cages that I have had in mind for maybe ten years. It is a combination of seeing these sort of beautiful ragtag cages in Mexico and the Caribbean, people using what they have to make do, and traveling the interstates here for so many miles. Maybe your mind gets bored and you start seeing animal shapes in the piles of shredded tire on the road: gators are easy because treads look like hides, but I also see birds and Dr. Seuss-like creatures. That they are black and in cages may make them seem wild and dangerous (and the sharp steel wires make them hazardous to work with) calls into question in my mind again why we associate black in that way and why we try to domesticate wild things. That they are tires directly relates them to global trade and consumption of oil, rubber, and steel. I suppose it also has to do with death on the highways.”

After Thirteen Years of Furniture: Sculpture,” a show of new work by Ben Forgey opens with a reception on June 28 from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. at Julianna Kirwin Studio/Gallery. The show runs through August 2. The gallery is open Friday and Saturday from 10:00 to 4:00 or by appointment. The gallery is at 1019 Camino del Pueblo in Bernalillo, 771-0590,


Concerts in the Park in July

The Albuquerque Concert Band continues its summer Concerts in the Park series on July 9 and July 30 at 7:00 p.m. at Eldorado High School Courtyard, Juan Tabo and Montgomery, NE. John Sanks and Bruce Kroken will conduct the eighty-member symphonic band. The program offers a wide variety of musical styles. Bring a comfortable chair and a picnic, relax, and listen to light band music, including marches, overtures, Broadway hits, patriotic themes, and more. There is no charge for admission.


Local printmaker Kirwin to hold workshop in Mexico

Use the printmaking facilities of Museograbado in Zacatecas, Mexico, from August 25 to 29 to create your own monoprints based on a theme of masks or your choice of subject with printmaker Julianna Kirwin, master printer Plinio Avila, and Royal Road Tours.

According to Kirwin, the city of Zacatecas provides an abundance of rich visual material for the printmaker. At seven thousand feet, the town is carved into the slopes of Cerro de la Bufa, a mountain whose shape resembles a Spanish wineskin. You will witness the amazing La Morisma de Bracho, an annual spectacle from August 28 to 31 during which thousands of Zacatecans, dressed in brightly colored costumes and armed with swords and scimitars, reenact battles among the Moors, Aztecs, and Christians. The tradition of La Morisma is believed to have arrived in Zacatecas in the early seventeenth century.

To receive a brochure or for more information, contact Julianna Kirwin at (505)771-0590 or or Herve Goujon at (505) 577-9643 or


Rag rugs revived in Santa Fe exhibitions

Eight years ago Shelley Horton-Trippe picked up her paints and easel and headed to Las Trampas, New Mexico, for a quiet place to paint. There she became acquainted with a group of women—most living below poverty level—who wanted to create a cottage industry. The women told her they wanted to learn to weave the rag rugs their grandmothers and great-grandmothers used to make. They wanted work they could do themselves and wanted to teach their daughters the craft without leaving their village, thus helping to preserve their cultural heritage.

The group turned to the New Mexico Women’s Foundation, whose mission is to create and support innovative programs that expand opportunities for New Mexico’s women and girls. With a grant from the foundation, a professional weaver was hired to teach the women rag-rug weaving, and looms were purchased so they could begin. Thus Rag Rug Revival, the rag-rug weaving project, was born at the Las Trampas Institute, founded by Horton-Trippe.

Rag Rug Revival work by women from the Las Trampas Institute will be on display July 10 through 14 at Alice, a nineteenth-century adobe at 313 West Manhattan Avenue in Santa Fe. During the weekend festival, the artisans will demonstrate their craft on looms of several sizes under a festive tent near Santa Fe’s Railyard district, just a block or so away from SITE Santa Fe and a few blocks from ART Santa Fe 2003. The show is sponsored by the New Mexico Women’s Foundation.

There is no charge for admission. For more information, contact Frieda Arth at 983-6155, fax 505-954-4662, or e-mail

Katherine Howard Signpost Web Featured Artist

Katherine Howard beside one of her paintings of ranch life.

Katherine Howard beside one of her paintings

Painting the joys of life

—Barb Belknap

As an adventurous New Mexico University graduate, Katherine Howard made her way to the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City. She intended only a short visit to the Big Apple, drawn there by the fair, the art and bustle of the city, and friends. She stayed for three years.

“It was to grow up,” she told me as she mucked the barn behind her rambling Placitas adobe home. “I painted my first picture in response to a dream I had in New York City in my early twenties, using a piece of cardboard and a friend’s paints and brushes,” she said. “I mostly painted people then—mostly nude people—and that’s probably where my most natural talent lies.”

On the gallery walls of Katherine and her husband, Marty’s, home, Katherine’s oil paintings are part of the couple’s impressive collection of fine art. Some were painted by her father, Hary Howard, and others by her uncle, Newton Howard, who was well known for his paintings of Gulf Coast wildlife. Katherine continues her uncle’s legacy of painting animals and frequently portrays them often in her work. “Some images, especially of animals, capture me,” she said, loading hay into a white horse’s stall. “These horses can be pretty compelling, and certainly favorite animals have to be recorded.”

“The Lesson,” oil painting, by Katherine Howard

“The Lesson,” oil painting, by Katherine Howard

At times, Katherine sees her art as a moment captured in time, referring to the light on a landscape or a moment in a spectacular New Mexican skyscape. With Marty active in the horseman’s circuit, herding cattle south of Socorro, going on trail rides near San Miguel County, and helps to organize endurance and trail rides throughout the state, horses and landscapes have become part of her life and have provided a new focus of interest. She said, “My paintings of ranch life seem like a record of a vanishing life, even though it is a resilient, vibrant experience at the moment.” Katherine’s traditional representational work reflects those things in life that bring her the greatest joy.

But painting hasn’t always been Katherine’s focus. From New York City, she claims a period of wandering until she settled down in the San Francisco Bay Area. There she enjoyed a concentration in ceramics. This turned into a career and she became a professional potter for about fifteen years. Regarding that time, she said, “I brought that career with me when I returned to New Mexico in 1981 to Rancho de Olguin on the Rio Vallecitos.”

She remembers the time spent at Rancho de Olguin fondly. “For three wonderful years, I lived independently as a full-time potter. It was a truly fulfilling time for me, living alone in a mountain situation, meeting the challenges of daily life, getting the wood chopped and in place, taking care of the pumps, irrigating my small field. Though it was remote, I managed to meet people in the valley with whom I developed life-long friendships. When reality required it, I returned to civilization to earn a more reliable income and, by the by, fell in love with one handsome cowboy executive.”

Closing the stable gate, Katherine confided that she still has her friend’s old box of paints and brushes from New York and uses them in her work today.

Katherine Howard has shown locally at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church in Elaine Slusher’s student art show. More recently, she has been selected to the professional exhibit at the New Mexico State Fair and has been a guest artist in the Placitas Artists Series preconcert art show. Her home gallery has been a destination in the popular Placitas Studio Tour.

To view full-color photographs of Katherine Howard’s work, visit the Featured Artist Gallery.


Sixth Annual Placitas Studio Tour artists and support-team members relax at Anasazi Fields Winery after another successful Mother’s Day Weekend studio tour. (standing) Lisa Chernoff, Chuck Callahan, Mel Chernoff, Jim Fish; (seated) Bianca Harle, Wayne Mikosz, Lynne Arendall, Andi Callahan

Sixth Annual Placitas Studio Tour artists and support-team members relax at Anasazi Fields Winery after another successful Mother’s Day Weekend studio tour. (standing) 
Lisa Chernoff, Chuck Callahan, Mel Chernoff, Jim Fish; (seated) Bianca Harle,
Wayne Mikosz, Lynne Arendall, Andi Callahan


Painting, by Lorna Smith from Placitas

Painting, by Lorna Smith from Placitas


Ten audacious artists to exhibit LUSH

LUSH is a temporary autonomous zone created by ten audacious artists. In the desert, it’s a state of mind—the inner lushness that can thrive in a spare landscape. LUSH is pushing out of the conventional space—the fenced yard, the commercial gallery, the solitary artist in the studio—and growing into something more.

The artists in this zone include David Bach, photographic explorations of decrepitude, night scenes, jazz; Matt Brackbill, conceptual installations utilizing image, shadow, and form; Lauri Dickinson, peeling back, scratching through, and tearing away; Becky Holtzman, the stretch of “life,” no matter the physical form; Carrie McChesney, sculptural themes of expression, immanence, and transcendence; David Ondrik, photographic rehearsals for being lied to … if you only knew who’s doing the lying; Jimmy Pontzer, smart compositions, superbly executed with care and modesty; Rebecca Salazar, narrative scenes with people in them; Caroline Fisher-Siegfried, anthropomorphism in pop culture and religion; and Lorna Smith, modem translations of ancient Celtic geometries. The LUSH gallery installation is coordinated by Suzanne Sbarge.

An exhibition by these “ten audacious artists” runs from July 3 through 27 at the Manual Lujan Fine Arts Building at the New Mexico State Fairgrounds. The exhibit is closed July 4. An opening reception will be held on July 11 from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. Gallery hours are Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Fridays from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. To make arrangements for private viewings, call 766-9178.




[Front Page] [Up Front] [Animal News] [Around Town] [Community Bits] [Calendar] [Community Profile] [Dark Skies] [Eco-Beat] [Fire and Rescue] [Featured Artist] [Gardening] [The Gauntlet] [Community Links] [My Wife and Times] [Movie Reviews] [Sandoval Arts] [Schoolbag] [Senior News] [Time Off] [Ask Uncle Duffy] [Back Issues] [Ad Rates] [Contact Us]