Kevin Tolman, at work in his studio
Flutter/Outono, acrylic and mixed media on canvas,
72" x 72", Karah Ruhlen Gallery
Signpost featured artist of the month: Kevin Tolman
Having your heart in it
In a state populated with artists—part-time artists, dabbling
artists, would-be artists, and their entourage—Kevin Tolman
is the real thing. He makes his living at art, as he has done most
of his life, and is represented at the Albuquerque Museum, the State
Capitol, and a half dozen galleries. Since childhood, he has never
wanted to be anything but an artist, and for at least fifteen years
he has painted every day, six days a week, like a regular job.
Only it’s not a job to be an artist, exactly, in that there’s
no job description, no organizational flowchart, no billable hours.
To step into Tolman’s studio is to taste the nebulous activity
that occupies him from morning to night, in the absence of any guidelines.
Indeed, to be an artist full-time consists largely of writing those
guidelines for yourself every day.
The object, of course, is to create objects. But what is the goal?
For Tolman, it seems to be about refining the process of art-making
itself: noticing what interests him in the world and then “distilling”
it, as he puts it, onto canvas or paper. This is not the cliché
of “inspiration”—which hardly arrives at work
with his morning coffee—but the discipline to “constantly
turn the crank” in the act of painting, inspired or not.
His project, these days, is large canvases—three to six feet
per side—awash in earthy acrylics and layered with drips,
squiggles, dots, and scratches that reveal layers of painting underneath.
Warm, lively, and harmonious rather than frenetic or cerebral like
so much abstract expressionism, Tolman’s paintings are continuously
compelling: They draw you into looking over and over, edge to edge,
without ever being really knowable. Almost always, their source
turns out to be the close study of nature.
Again, this is not inspiration as we think of it—representing
nature’s beauty in a landscape (although he did start out
painting impressionistic landscapes)—but distilling that beauty
through the eyes, hands, and mind of a craftsman who seeks the essence
of a mark, like a Chinese calligrapher, to emerge effortless and
true. Tolman likes to tell the story of a dragonfly that flew into
his studio and preoccupied him for some time, leaving its influence
only in a cryptic squiggle across the top of a drawing. He is similarly
captivated by clouds, leaves, rocks, the way that nature wears on
“I try very hard not to think too much while I’m painting,”
he explains. Whether or not you see his squiggle as a bug’s
flight is of no consequence to him—Tolman paints for himself,
he says, in a private dialogue, a personal effort to arrive at forms
and relationships that satisfy him enough to stop.
Often this involves working on several pieces at a time in the
adobe home he built twenty years ago in the North Valley and has
since converted to a studio. Moving from one canvas to another helps
with detachment, he says, in “an elaborate improvisational
game” that alternates between the deliberate courting of chance—nature
in its constant unfolding—and periods of concentrated looking
and decision-making, layer upon layer.
Large canvases compete for wall space in his former living room,
while a shaded patio in back accommodates even larger canvases on
a permanent easel. In the bedroom, works on paper are stacked in
drawers under the bed; in the driveway, a vintage Pontiac Grand
Am with flat tires testifies to his origins in Motor City.
Born in 1949 in Detroit, where he graduated from the Art School
of the Society of Arts & Crafts, Tolman got the travel bug in
his late twenties—spending time in Ireland, Texas, Kansas,
and Los Angeles, usually as a result of a personal relationship
rather than career planning—before ending up at the Ramah
Navajo Reservation in New Mexico in 1981. He has since been to Portugal,
France, Italy, Spain, and Sweden, and looks to travel to recharge
his batteries with new impressions. The rest of the time, he makes
a home in Corrales with his wife, gallery owner Sara Smith, who
also represents him.
Slight and soft-spoken, calm and unassuming, Tolman is wary of
being quoted or posing for a photograph; he seems to prefer keeping
the focus on his art rather than risk misrepresentation by other
media. In a half-dozen artist’s statements written in as many
years, he states and restates, as in his paintings, what it means
to him to be an artist.
Art, one learns, is mostly about working—maintaining continuity,
sincerity, and focus from day to day and year to year. “If
you have heart in your work,” Tolman says, “you can’t
go wrong”—eventually it will resonate with the public.
But more important to the artist, what keeps him going is that there
isn’t anything in the world he would rather do.
“I paint because I am in awe of it all,” Tolman writes.
“I suppose making art is my way of celebrating, and explaining
to myself, what this incredible beauty and mystery all around me
is. … On a daily basis, never is this anything but interesting,
even at its worst. This is great fun.”
Kevin Tolman’s “Improvisational Journeys” opens
at Karan Ruhlen Gallery, 225 Canyon Road, Santa Fe, on June 13 with
a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. The exhibit runs through June 26. www.karanruhlen.com,
Priester unveils latest stereogram book
Hidden Treasures—3D Stereograms, published by Sterling
Publishing Company, Inc., New York/London, is Gary Priester’s
third book of stereograms and his fifth published graphics book.
The book contains sixty of Priester’s and sixty of co-author
Gene Levine’s latest stereogram images. Also included is a
short history of stereogram images, tips for viewing the hidden
3D images, and an explanation of the different kinds of 3D images
included in the book. Hidden Treasures—3D Stereograms
can be purchased at Barnes and Noble or from any of the online book
Eye Tricks—Incredible 3D Stereograms, Priester’s
last book of stereograms published in 2006 by Arcturus Publishing
in London, has sold over 180,000 copies. Priester and co-artist
Levine are also the sole contributors to the popular Japanese magazine
series, TJ MOOK, now up to Issue 15. Published by Takarajimasha,
Inc. in Tokyo, the TJ MOOK series has sold over 3.8 million copies.
Priester has been obsessed with stereograms since the mid 1990s
when the Magic Eye series first took the world by storm. He has
created well over five hundred 3D images and is currently creating
a new body of images for his next book. Levine and Priester have
been called stereogram masters and credited with taking the art
of stereograms to new levels.
In addition to stereograms, Priester has produced monthly online
step-by-step tutorials for British graphics software company Xara
Group Ltd. for thirteen years and has contributed over fifty software
and hardware reviews for Communication Arts Magazine. In
his spare time, Gary designs websites, logos, and more stereograms.
[See his stereogram, on page 33, this
Signpost, and on the Signpost website at www.sandovalsignpost.com.]
Albuquerque Folk Festival returns
The Albuquerque Folk Festival celebrates its tenth year on Saturday,
June 21 at EXPO New Mexico, expecting to attract more than three
thousand music, dance, and folk arts fans to participate and learn
during a full day of 120+ performances at eighteen venues throughout
the grounds. Festivities begin at 10:00 a.m. (gates open at 9:30
a.m.) and end at 11:00 p.m., with the three concurrent dances beginning
at 7:30 p.m.
Festival goers can look forward to Main Stage debuts by Autoharp
Hall of Famer and master storyteller Bryan Bowers, and The Wilders,
who hearken back to the formative years of recorded country music.
Also making their Main Stage debuts will be Le Chat Lunatique from
Albuquerque; Los Primos, who won Albuquerque The Magazine’s
2006 “Best of the City” award in the Mariachi Band category;
and Native American folk stories and songs from Mike Lopez, with
traditional flute from Richard Hardy. Additionally, returning to
the Main Stage is Syd Masters and the Swing Riders, renowned for
Masters’ melody “Under New Mexico Skies.”
The LadyFingers will perform on Stage 2 from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m.
as part of the venue for local performers.
The three dances at 7:30 p.m. are a Barn Dance under the Stars
with music by South by Southwest; a FolkMADS Contra Dance with live
music by the Albuquerque Megaband (introductory instruction for
beginners at 7:30 p.m.); and an African dance featuring music by
Public radio station KUNM (89.9 FM) will be broadcasting live from
the Main Stage between 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 noon.
Admission is $10 in advance for adults; advance tickets can be
purchased in Albuquerque at Baum’s Music, 292-0707; Encore
Music, 888-0722; Apple Mountain Music and Harp Shop, 237-2048; Marc’s
Guitar Center, 265-3315; Bally Dun Celtic Treasures, 881-0980; Grandma’s
Music and Sound, 292-0341; Music Go Round, 875-0100; and Music Mart,
889-9777. The Rio Rancho ticket outlet is Baum’s Music, 994-1108.
Gate prices are $15 for adults, $5 for seniors 60+ and children
ages eleven to seventeen. Children under the age of eleven will
be admitted free of charge. Evening dance tickets only are $10 for
the public and $7 for FolkMADS members. In-and-out parking passes
may be purchased from EXPO’s parking lot attendants for $6.
Detailed information is available from the website, www.abqfolkfest.org,
by email at email@example.com,
or by telephone at (505) 255-6027.
The Albuquerque Folk Festival is a nonprofit, 501(c) 3 organization.
Call to Artists! Placitas Holiday Sale applications
Artists are invited to apply for the 27th annual Placitas Holiday
Fine Arts & Crafts Sale, a juried show that takes place the
weekend before Thanksgiving, on November 22 and 23, 2008. The event
has acquired an excellent reputation for high quality fine arts
and crafts, good food, fine wine, and lots of fun at 3 central locations
in the historic village of Placitas: Anasazi Fields Winery, Placitas
Elementary School, and the Big Tent next to the Presbyterian Church.
Artists do not need to be Placitas residents to apply and can print
an application from the website at: www.placitasholidaysale.com/
If you would like an application mailed to you, call Bunny at 867-2731
or Nancy at 867-2450. The deadline for application submission is
July 21, 2008.
The Cradle Project raises awareness and funds
for African orphans
The Cradle Project will open on Saturday, June 7 in Albuquerque.
This historic and unprecedented art installation—two years
in the making—will feature over five hundred cradles and cribs
made by artists from around the world, using solely scrap and recycled
materials. Using the symbolism of empty cradles to represent the
lost potential of an estimated forty-eight million children orphaned
by disease and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, The Cradle Project
is designed to provoke action. The ultimate mission is to promote
awareness about this crisis and to raise financial support to help
feed, shelter, and educate these forgotten children. Set against
a towering backdrop of falling sand, these empty cradles will speak
volumes about the permanence of loss, as children’s lives
and potential—these cradles—become buried.
In order to raise funds, The Cradle Project requested a sponsorship
of $100 for each of the cradles in the installation. Additionally,
all cradles will be available for purchase through an online auction,
beginning June 7 and closing June 17 at www.thecradleproject.org.
All proceeds from the sponsorship and purchase of cradles will be
donated to The Firelight Foundation, which awards grants to grassroots
initiatives that are directly addressing the needs of children affected
by HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.
The exhibition is open Thursdays through Saturdays from 1:00 to
5:00 p.m., with an opening reception on June 7 from noon to 5:00
p.m. at The Banque, located at 219 Central Avenue NW in Albuquerque.
Rio Rancho libraries offer musical entertainment
The folk music duo Charmed will perform a mix of violin, keyboards,
and vocals at the Esther Bone Memorial Library on Thursday, June
19 at 6:30 p.m. Most of their material is original with a new-age
feel. The duo describes their music as “twisted folk”
and their sound truly makes for an enchanting evening. This program
is free; however, tickets are required and are available at the
adult information desk. The Esther Bone Memorial Library is located
at 950 Pinetree Road SE. More information is available at 891-5012,
ext. 3128 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Summer reading programs start at the Loma Colorado Main Library
on June 11 at 2:00 pm. with a program entitled, “Catch the
Reading Bug.” Indiana Bones, aka Mike McCartney, a talented
and creative performing artist will spin his tales of bugs and other
Singer/songwriter Andy Mason will bring his special brand of music
to the Loma Colorado Library on Wednesday, June 4 at 2:00 p.m. Andy
will have children and parents alike hand- clappin’ and foot-stompin’
to his engaging original tunes.
The 2008 teen summer reading program, Metamorphosis @ Your Library,
is themed around the various transformations teens go through as
they move into adulthood. Teens can register for the program at
three locations beginning Tuesday, May 27: Loma Colorado Main Library
at 755 Loma Colorado Drive NE; Esther Bone Memorial Library at 950
Pinetree Road SE; and the Star Heights Learning Center at 800 Polaris
Summer story times for children ages three to six will take place
at the Loma Colorado Public Library at 10:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.
on Mondays beginning June 2. For more information, call the library
at 891-5013, ext. 3032.
On June 24, award-winning virtuoso guitarist John Sheehan will
play a free concert at the Loma Colorado Library at 6:30 p.m. His
eclectic repertoire includes elements of rock, blues, jazz, folk,
pop, Celtic, and classical music. Admission is free, but tickets
are required. For information, call 891-5013, ext. 3030.
Chamber Music Albuquerque presents June concerts
Chamber Music Albuquerque will present two free concerts in conjunction
with ABQ Uptown Shopping Center. The Borealis String Quartet will
perform on Saturday, June 7 at 2:00 p.m. and the St. Lawrence String
Quartet will perform on Saturday, June 14 at 2:00 p.m. Both concerts
will be at the ABQ Uptown fountain.
Founded in 2000 in Canada, the Borealis String Quartet has become
one of the hottest of the younger string quartets performing today.
The Borealis String Quartet has established itself as an ensemble
praised for its dynamic performances, passionate style, and refined
Among the most popular ensembles to appear on the June Music Festival,
The St. Lawrence String Quartet (SLSQ) has established itself among
the world-class chamber ensembles of its generation.
CMA will also present the 67th Annual June Music Festival from
June 6 through June 15 with the Borealis String Quartet (June 6
at 7:30 p.m., and again on Sunday, June 8 at 4:00 p.m.), Antares
Quartet (Wednesday, June 11 at 7:30 p.m.), and the St. Lawrence
String Quartet (Friday, June 13 at 7:30 p.m. and again on Sunday,
June 15 at 4:00 p.m.) at the Simms Center for the Performing Arts
on the Albuquerque Academy campus, 6400 Wyoming Boulevard NE.
Comprised of four virtuoso instrumentalists, Antares draws from
a vast and colorful repertoire for violin, cello, piano, and clarinet,
as well as its various trio and duo configurations.
Ticket prices for these concerts are $22 to $44 when purchased
in advance or $24 to $46 when purchased at the door. Student tickets
are half price. Tickets may be purchased online at www.cma-abq.org;
at the CMA office, located in the Symphony Center at 4407 Menaul
Boulevard NE in Albuquerque; or by phone at (505) 268-1990. There
will be a free pre-concert discussion one hour before each concert.