Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988


Cate Clark with mosaic

Cate Clark estimates she spent 200 hours creating the mosaic behind her.

Dancing Bunnies, c. Cate Clark

One of Clark’s tile mosaics, Dancing Bunnies.

Colorful, multi-faceted artist finds medium that pulls it all together

—Keiko Ohnuma, Signpost

Cate Clark is not your typical grandmother. Even among the adventurous, independent, silver-haired women of Placitas, Clark takes “free spirit” to new levels.

Seated on an island of cushions on the floor of her “everything” room—that everything including guests only if they sit on the floor and arrive fragrance-free—the lithe artist, dancer, and massage therapist exudes the sort of natural high that makes you want to order a glass of whatever she’s having.

“I’m an introvert with extrovert tendencies,” she says, searching for a unifying explanation for her unusual life choices. “My interior landscape is so important to me, it spills over into what’s important to me in the world. Not a lot of external, mainstream things matter to my internal world.”

That’s why you won’t find Cate Clark espousing the usual goal-oriented ambitions or external measures of success. What matters to her, it seems, is how things feel, how they resonate at a deep internal level.

Take her latest art form, mosaic panels. Clark had been a ceramic artist for more than a decade after studying at the well-known Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, Montana, where she lived for ten years (in a home-built Earthship, no less). Last year she got involved with the Placitas Wildlife Mural, a collaborative mosaic project led by Laura Robbins and Cirrelda Snider-Byran. In no time at all, Clark was completely hooked on the medium.

She had reached a point of easy artistry with her earthenware masks, based on Tarot and Green Man archetypes; mosaics presented a universe of new challenges and subject matter. Clark dove in, and over the space of a year has turned out an impressive body of work: nearly a half-dozen large panels representing hundreds of hours of cutting glass, modeling and glazing clay, and arranging the pieces into harmonious compositions. Combined experience in painting and sculpture pay off when it comes to mosaic, an ancient art form enjoying a renaissance in Placitas, thanks to Robbins, et al.

“I just loved the way mosaic looked,” Clark says of her instant enchantment with the colored tiles. “Something about the gleaming shards, and combining them with intentionally-cut ceramic, creating something new, like collage.”

Metaphorically, mosaic does make sense for Clark, who gravitates toward techniques for integrating real-world interactions with the mysterious wellsprings of the internal. Born in Quincy, Illinois, and raised in Albuquerque in what she calls a mainstream American family, she quickly emerged from the checkpoints of a conventional biography—marriage, childbirth, remarriage—to the rhythms of a different drummer.

Her second husband was a musician and free spirit who tapped her art skills—she had won art classes as a child—to access her natural delight at treating life as play. “We would play music and dance, the whole family,” she says with a nostalgic twinkle. “I used the skills and materials from my childhood and brought them into my daughter’s life. My ‘mother’s brag’ was that I had a six-year-old who could be trusted with an Exact-o knife!”

Fast-forward to 1993, when Clark was riding on the wings of inspiration with a new man. She sold the trailer in Placitas where she was living with her daughter and moved to Montana, where land was available for $800 an acre. “It was the hippie dream,” she laughs now. “It wasn’t practical at all. It was like, ‘I’ve got $600 in my pocket, let’s go to Montana and buy land.”

This is precisely what she did. Over the next three years, the couple built an Earthship, where Clark lived until they split up and sold the property in 2003. A veteran of odd jobs, she found employment in Helena with an older dentist. Working with him taught her the skills that would help her succeed as a massage therapist, work she had done on the side since 1991.

By the time she left Montana, Clark had fully embraced an “alternative” lifestyle. She was working in clay and had found a dance group made up of artists and massage therapists who practiced a silent form of bodily communication called Contact Improv. Her daughter had moved to Idaho, where she now has two young children. Free of attachments, Clark bought a pickup truck and started traveling around the Northwest, looking for her next roost.

She knew she had to leave Montana, whose social homogeneity had never sat well with her. “For the ten years I was there, I could never forget that I was an outsider,” she says. “Even though I’m white, people could tell I was a free spirit.”

Her travels took her to Santa Fe, where she hooked up with the local Contact Improv group and discovered a much larger community known as Embody Dance. “Then I knew where my next home was going to be,” she says with finality—Santa Fe. She rented a house in Placitas, temporarily—and is still there five years later.

“Business keeps me here,” she says with a shrug. “I love my clients.” Clark also has a neighborhood following for her artwork; the recent Placitas Studio Tour was her best yet, with strong support for her new direction.

At least twice a week, she makes the trip to the City Different for her dance groups, which serve at once as friends, family, church, therapy, and expressive outlet. “I feel a lot of acceptance in this community,” she says with the lushness that colors her voice in talking about ecstatic dance. “It’s friendly, inclusive.”

With both Contact Improv and Embody Dance, “it’s an experience where I dance from my own center, my own groundedness,” Clark explains. Both forms are experiential rather than performance-oriented; there is no audience but the dancers themselves. “It’s free-form, spontaneous. You dance on your own, but it’s contact-friendly. Many people consider it their spiritual practice,” Clark says.

Kept busy with a full-time massage practice, her art making, and dance groups, Clark makes no apologies for retreating to an alternate universe. Her daughter is quite conservative, she says with a smile; her sister is totally mainstream. Yet, for Cate, who finds herself free of attachments again, the choice is to pursue “people who are like-minded, with like interests.”

On—which is where I first ran into her—Cate Clark belongs to a dizzying number of groups: Heart of the Tribe Drum Circle, The Inner Circle, The Santa Fe Institute for Dream Studies, Soul Dance, Active Boomer Singles, ABQ Dance Crew, The Work of Byron Katie, Albuquerque Artcrawlers… and others whose names slip her mind.

Fearlessly adventurous at age fifty-one, Clark embraces new experience with a readiness more typical of youth. On the Placitas Artists’ page, composed before she started making mosaic, she describes this tendency in terms that echo the harmonious placement of odd-shaped tiles:

“As differentiated aspects within the individual are made conscious and added back into the collective deck of options, we begin to heal our whole selves. We learn to appreciate free will and assume the power and responsibility for the roles we animate in our plays of choice.”

See more of Cate's work at

Luna Bathing, c. Barry McCormickLuna Bathing by Barry McCormick

Placitas photographer accepted for
Photo NM show 

—Keiko Ohnuma, Signpost

Barry McCormick, Placitas fine art figurative photographer, has had one of his images accepted for the Photo NM show opening at Matrix Fine Art in Albuquerque on July 3. He is one of only twenty-one New Mexico photographers to have his work accepted into this prestigious show.

This year’s juror was Katherine Ware, Curator of Photography at the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe. During the month of July, additional images by McCormick will be included in “Saints & Sinners,” showing concurrently at the Kimo and 105 Studios; “The Body Show, the Art of the Human Form“ at Gallery OneTwelve at 105 Studios; and a group show at Chroma Gallery, all in Albuquerque.

Blades’ Bistro announces jazz on the patio Fridays in July

Blades’ Bistro in Placitas will launch a summer jazz series on Friday nights beginning July 3 with master guitarist, Michael Anthony, and bassist Michael Olivola. Blades opened in March of 2009 and has enjoyed an enthusiastic reception by diners from Placitas, Albuquerque and Santa Fe and has received excellent reviews from the dining press. Blades’ serves a European-inspired menu in a chic, art-filled setting with an open-air kitchen and laid-back, unpretentious atmosphere.

Chef Kevin Gladergroen, his wife, Anja, and his brother, Michael, form the trio that oversees this unique brand of modern dining that is comforting and sophisticated. In addition to Chef Kevin’s personal preparation of dishes such as mushrooms baked “escargot style” in a rich wine and butter sauce, saffron-infused Spanish paella, succulent London Steak topped with bleu cheese and a red wine demi sauce, Blades’ has an extensive wine list with selections from Europe, South America and the U.S. hand-picked by master taster, Anja.

Opening the summer jazz series is guitarist, Michael Anthony, who spent fifteen years in Hollywood recording for studios at Paramount, MGM, 20th Century Fox, Universal, Warner Brothers and Walt Disney. His diverse career has included working with Tony Bennett, Johnny Mandel, Burt Bacharach, Diana Ross, Henry Mancini, Quincy Jones, Ray Brown, Gil Evans and dozens of other legendary jazz musicians, composers and arrangers. He will be joined by bassist Michael Olivola who relocated to Albuquerque from New York where he performed with such jazz luminaries as Larry Coryell, Charlie Palmieri, Dakota Staton and others. Their extensive experience and style lends itself well to the casual-chic ambience at Blade’s patio.

Blades’ Bistro is located in the Homestead Village Shopping Center, 221 Highway 165, Placitas, New Mexico 87043. Reservations may be made by calling 505-771-0695. For the complete menu, wine list, driving directions and information on Chef Kevin Bladergroen, visit their website at

Ben Forgey's Land Art

Under the dome (right to left) are Ben Forgey, Tom Keene, and Jack Knight. Ben describes it as a "canopy of driftwood under the canopy of the cottonwood under the canopy of the sky." He thought the project would take three weeks, but it took three days, with the help of friends and donations from TaGrMo Hardware.

A collaborative exploration of land-based art in New Mexico

In the summer and fall of 2009 a group of New Mexico arts organizations will join together to present LAND/ART, exploring relationships of land, art and community through exhibitions, site-specific art works, a speakers series, performances, tours, excursions and a culminating book.                 

Focusing on “environmental” or “land” art, the collaboration seeks to address our changing relationship to nature, and to offer a new or previously unconsidered understanding of the place in which we live.

Historically, New Mexico has been a place where the intersection of nature and culture is at issue. In the 1960s and ‘70s, the American Southwest was the location of the first generation of Land Art or Earthworks, including such major projects as Walter De Maria’s The Lightning Field, Charles Ross’ Star Axis in New Mexico, Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels in Utah, and James Turrell’s Roden Crater in Arizona. Since then, the Land Art genre has been subsumed under the more general term “environmental art” which is a highly diverse and vital feature of contemporary art around the world.

This new genre recognizes that what we now think of as the “environment” has broadened to include the global community, the microscopic world and cyberspace as well as wilderness, the urban environment and suburban sprawl. It includes ecological activism, reclamation and remediation projects, ephemeral site-specific performances and many other approaches, all of which have in common art and artists that respond to features of our natural environment.  

LAND/ART involves over 25 presenting organizations in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Mountainair, New Mexico, and is coordinated by 516 ARTS. Participating organizations include the Albuquerque Museum, UNM Art Museum, THE LAND/ART site, the Center for Contemporary Arts, the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native

Art, SITE Santa Fe and many others. All LAND/ART programs are listed on the project web site, and will be included in the complete program guide which will be available in May 2009. The culminating LAND/ART book will be published by Radius Books (, and will be available in December 2009.

For information about speakers, tours & events, visit


Signpost Cartoon c. Rudi Klimpert

Rio Rancho presents music in the park

Sunday nights from July 12 through August 30, Haynes Park at 2006 Grande Boulevard in Rio Rancho will be the site for free musical entertainment from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. as part of the city of the Rio Rancho’s Music in the Park series.

Citizens are encouraged to bring their lawn chairs, blankets, and a picnic and listen to a variety of acts playing at the park’s Rotary Club Barbeque Pavilion. Those performing* include:

  • July 12: Holy Water & Whiskey (bluegrass, folk, cowboy, and gospel)
  • July 19: Plat-Eye-Prowl (blues, rock, and soul)
  • July 26: Still Vertical (classic rock and blues)
  • August 2: West Ella (jazz, rock, rhythm and blues)
  • August 9: Dennis Higgins & MH2 (folk, blues, and contemporary jazz)
  • August 16: John Emory (symphonic music)
  • August 23: Gary Reynolds & Southwest Winds (folk, country, and western)
  • August 30: 505 Blues Band (classic and contemporary blues)
  • * Bands subject to change.

For additional information, please call the Parks, Recreation, and Community Services Department at (505) 891-5015 or visit the city online at

Gene McClain and Gary Roller

Gallery partners Gene McClain and Gary Roller relax on McClain's irreverent chairs.

Expanded Placitas gallery now rockin’ around the campfire

—Keiko Ohnuma

You can take the Western theme out of the Rockin ‘R Gallery, but you can’t take the gallery out of the West. That much I learned on a visit to the colorful new art shop that spent years hidden away in an office complex on Homestead Road.

Since gallery owners Gary and Carolyn Roller opened the doors to a more colorful presence between The Merc and The Piñon Café, including the artwork of three new business partners, interest has widened along with the gallery’s range of cultural events. “We’re not trying to keep Western art or even music as the theme,” said Carolyn Roller, who sells her handcrafted jewelry at the gallery. “We want Native, Celtic, whatever, but we want to get established acts. We invite anyone to call us.”

“However,” notes her husband, Gary Roller, “we do all live here (in the West). So we reflect what we are through our art.” And he should know: Roller’s talents, which range from sculpture and painting to music, are all devoted to the culture of the wide open range.

Indeed, it would be as much of a shame to take the Wild West out of the Rockin ‘R as to take the gallery out of west Placitas, since those are its greatest strengths. Part of the growing entertainment at The Homestead Village shopping center, which also now has a restaurant and bar, Rockin ‘R is unique for attracting a nexus of artists and musicians drawn by the images and energy of the wide-open west.

Carolyn hastens to mention the important contributions by partners Amado Peña, an established Native painter who operates his own gallery in Santa Fe; Gene McClain, whose gaily painted humorous retablos and furniture draw customers into the shop; and photographer Tim Nadeau, whose rich stock of affordable photos fill the bins in back.

But the original vision was Gary Roller’s. When he and Carolyn moved to Placitas in 2002, he wanted to create “a crossroads for music and art—and more than that, a variety of artistic disciplines—an arts center.” His two decades of experience as a touring musician gave him a leg up on attracting the top names in Western music.

Such names might not resonate with people under the age of forty, or with urbanites at all. But Michael Martin Murphy, the “cowboy poet” with whom Roller has toured for nearly twenty-five years, is largely credited with reviving an American musical form that was in danger of extinction. Roller has also brought to Placitas the Grammy-winning band Riders in the Sky, and just last month Tex-Mex singer Tish Hinojosa played a thundering (literally) set under the stars, filmed by the cable TV show “Music From the Q.” Suzy Bogguss is scheduled to play July 9.

Ask Roller to explain the difference between country and Western music, and he shakes his head. “The difference is that Western is good,” he deadpans, before explaining that Western music is based in the imagery and traditions of the West: broad open vistas, singing around the campfire, missing your sweetheart—rather than bemoaning her cheating ways. “It’s more uplifting,” he says.

Lumped together for the convenience of music marketers, the “Country/Western” category has greatly eclipsed the latter in recent decades with the growing popularity of “new” and alt-country. Roller describes Western music as “American roots-music stylings:” a fusion of the folk music brought by Irish settlers with the cowboy music of Mexico, popularized by Hollywood cowboys Roy Rogers and Gene Autry.

“In a world where there’s a lot of change and uncertainty, it’s nice to look to our ancestors, our heritage, and re-establish a sense of place,” says Roller, a native of Amarillo, Texas. He always brings artwork from the Rockin ‘R Gallery to sell on tour, to help drive home the Western cultural connection.

At home, too, the concerts build an audience for the gallery, and vice versa. Thanks to such diverse revenue sources, Carolyn and Gary Roller never had to tap their personal resources to keep the gallery afloat. But with the move to a larger location, they knew they needed business partners.

Rockin ‘R Gallery now operates as four separate businesses under a single roof and name. Offerings range from affordable trinkets to jewelry and paintings worth thousands. Each month, the partners choose two outside artists to show in the gallery, giving preference to artists based in Placitas. And they plan more tie-ins to other art forms soon, which they’re not quite ready to discuss.

Already, with the opening in February of both the gallery and the neighboring Blades Bistro, activity has picked up around the stop-and-shop Merc, which benefits from the added traffic for its Friday wine tastings.

“It’s more of a community thing,” says gallery partner Gene McClain, a retired art teacher and longtime artist who shows his work in multiple venues but enjoys the community involvement of the Rockin’ R. McClain can often be seen working on his irreverent chairs and retablos right outside in the parking lot, out of the back of his pickup truck.

“It’s fun being invested in what’s going on.”






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