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c. Greg Reiche

The thirty-two-foot-tall "Camino de Sueños," made of glass and steel, is at the Camino Real International Heritage Center, south of Socorro.

Greg Reiche

The sculptor at work: Which now involves a lot of renderings, correspondence, presentations, and reports.

The bigger the project, the more talents needed

—Keiko Ohnuma, Signpost

When Greg Reiche calls his work monumental sculpture, he’s not exaggerating. We’re talking six thousand pounds of glass in a monolith thirty-five feet tall. We’re talking projects with art budgets that exceed $1 million.

Maybe you’ve seen some of his work. How about the Big I (freeway interchange)? Reiche designed the steel ornamental walls installed during the 2000-2002 reconstruction. As you might guess, his focus is large public works projects, which he wins through competitive bidding.

He wasn’t always this ambitious. The Placitas artist started out like most—drawing, painting, and taking classes in sculpture. A native of Socorro, he would depict wildlife because he spent a lot of time outdoors, rock-hounding and hunting.

But after studying art at UNM for a few years, Reiche’s career took a decidedly atypical turn. He wouldn’t describe it that way—switch-hitting from right to left brain come so naturally to him that he considers his first career as a certified public accountant a matter of simple practicality.

“I found it hard to make a living (as an artist) because I didn’t know about marketing and pricing,” he explains—before adding that he did, in fact, make a living as a jeweler and furniture maker from the age of sixteen all the way through college.

Reiche eventually found the accounting business “painful,” and focused his energy on sculpture, which his tax business allowed him to do for most months of the year. He began experimenting with abstraction, putting together tabletop-size works of stone, glass, and other materials that appealed to him. In 1983, he decided to open his own art gallery, which consumed him so much that he sold the tax business a few years later.

It was during the fourteen years that he ran Mirage Gallery in Albuquerque that Reiche really learned about the business side of art. You could say that he’d been heading in that direction his whole life, switching between skills rational and intuitive.

“It helped me understand how the system works, what motivates people,” he said of the gallery business. “It’s all about personal relationships. Of course, it’s about beauty too—everyone wants beauty in their lives. So it’s connecting with people who share your aesthetic, and figuring out what they need.”

Ironically, the gallery left Reiche little time to make art on his own. He had to adapt quickly to the marketplace to survive, moving from limited-edition fine art to corporate art and framing, both of which turned out to be profitable and stable. He met his wife, artist Laura Telander, when she applied for a job at the gallery. In 1997, they sold the gallery to focus on making art full-time.

By that time, the couple had two young children and a house in Placitas. Reiche’s work had grown with his network, and he was selling through a gallery in Santa Fe, with agents in Oklahoma and Denver. The first public art project he got had a budget of $12,000, “and I thought that was huge!” he laughs. “Awesome—I could do this all my life!”

Reiche describes his progression to the kind of projects he does now—city monuments, park fountains, university and museum entrance gates—as gradual and marked by plateaus. But it was clearly a decade of rapid self-education.

Today, he employs an engineer and two plants that fabricate his works in stone and metal. His sketches get translated via computer to animated 3-D fly-throughs, so that the hiring board—a city council or arts committee—can more easily picture his proposed structure. He makes presentations, builds models, and then oversees a construction team when a project is approved. All of this calls on skills far beyond the scope of those who focus solely on making art.

It hasn’t come naturally, Reiche protests modestly; he did it because he had to survive. But one of his guiding principles has been to jump at every opportunity, no matter how far above his head it seems. Help will come when you need it, he says.

Also, enthusiasm drives him. “I really like doing these projects,” he says of the fiercely competitive world of RFPs (requests for proposal). “It’s like cultural anthropology—it’s fun. It’s cool. The process is fascinating.”

With boilerplate application packages at the ready, Reiche might spend only a few hours on an RFP initially. Out of every ten or fifteen of them, he might end up a finalist on one—though the process has gotten much more competitive recently. Finalists generally receive a small budget to put together an actual proposal, which might take another hundred hours of work. Every dozen or so of those might actually land him a contract.

Such a project can easily net a million dollars, but Reiche says he takes home a smaller percentage of profit than with his gallery work, because his costs are also sky-high. On a recent project for a ski resort in Colorado, he went through several versions of steel fountain-towers before settling on a design, echoed in the main entrance, which serves as both a fountain and static sculpture. The entrance gate changes color with temperature, so it connects to the seasons and environment.

“Every project has a different committee, and you never know what they’re looking for” going in, he said. “I look for projects that I think are really interesting, and write a statement to that effect. From there, it’s up to the universe.”

Public art projects demand great flexibility of artists, as well as the teamwork to work successfully with architects, engineers, fabricators, and landscapers.

“It’s really fun,” Reiche grins. “It’s everything from conception to realization. I get so much out of public art projects, because I want everybody to enjoy it.”

A successful artist by any standard, Reiche says the current environment is the toughest he’s seen in thirty years of doing creative work. One of his projects in California just got cancelled; another in Colorado is on hold until the city can sell more bonds. And the competition for public works projects continues to swell, as gallery sales and other artistic venues dry up.

But to put things in context, Reiche does not measure things by the same scale as the rest of us. If you buy a piece from him (as someone did at the recent Placitas Studio Tour), it will require a forklift to take it home. Around his yard he keeps an inventory of “small” pieces, temple-like oases of calm that weigh just a ton or two, that “anyone” can pick up for a few thousand dollars.

For a little more spare change, Reiche is offering a piece he donated to the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, to be sold this month at the Vintage Albuquerque Fine Wine and Art Auction. “Flor de la Luz” is 1,600 pounds of stone, glass, and stainless steel and stands 7’3” high. All proceeds from the auction go to support symphony outreach in the public schools, which reaches forty thousand students statewide. For more information or to bid online, visit www.vintagealbuquerque.org.


Signpost Cartoon c. Rudi Klimpert


Third Duende Series reading features three well-known poets

—Gary L. Brower

The third of four readings for 2009 in the Duende Poetry Series of Placitas, now in its fifth year, will be presented at 3:00 p.m. on June 14 at the Anasazi Fields Winery. Three poets will read—two well-known performance poets from Albuquerque, Hakim Bellamy and Maria Leyba—as well as one of the most famous Native American poets in the country, Luci Tapahonso, often referred to as the Poet Laureate of the Diné (Navajo) Nation.

After their reading, there will also be a half hour of open mic readers.

Maria Leyba is a passionate poet from Barelas, one of Albuquerque’s oldest neighborhoods, whose literary works reflect the pain and struggles of being Chicana, and the experiences of growing up (partly) in the New Mexico State Penitentiary, where her father was a prison cook. Today, Maria works as a preschool teacher with very young children and also with at-risk youth, incarcerated youth, abused women, and women in transition. She also works with poets and artists who are incarcerated. Her work has been published in several anthologies, including Just Outside the Frame: Poets from the Santa Fe Broadside (Tres Chicas Press, 2005) and Earthships (Horse & Tiger Press, 2007). She is the author of two books of poetry and one volume of plays, including Prisoners in My Backyard (La Guerita Press, 1998) and Divine Wings (La Guerita Press, 2006). She has read her poetry around the state in many venues.

Hakim Bellamy is a slam poet who has gone beyond the slam scene. He is a two-time National Poetry Slam Champion, a member of the 2005 Albuquerque National Champion slam team, and a member of the 2006 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational Champion UNM team. He won the 2005 Albuquerque City Slam Championship and won three consecutive UNM LOBOSLAM titles. He has also read his work on KUNM-FM and in many poetry venues around the area and was the poetry coach of the South Valley Academy Poetry Club. His work has been published in the Harwood Anthology (2006), Earthships anthology (2007), Lunarosity.com, Sin Fronteras, A Bigger Boat (2008), and Looking Back at Place (UNM Press, 2008). He also won the Route Words competition (2005), resulting in his poems being placed on the sides of Albuquerque city buses. He currently works for the New Mexico Office of African American Affairs, and is a board member of the Poetic Justice Institute and Black Cowgirl Productions.

Luci Tapahonso, a native of Shiprock, New Mexico, is a Professor of American Indian Studies and English at the University of Arizona in Tucson. She is the author of six books of poetry and three children’s books. The many awards she has won include a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writer’s Circle of the Americas (2006); the Kansas Governor’s Art Award; the National Association of Women in Education’s Distinguished Woman Award; a Girl Scouts Council of America Award; and she has been honored by being named the Grand Marshal of the Northern Navajo Fair Parade.

Tapahonso’s work has appeared in many print and media productions in the U.S. and internationally, and her poems have been translated into German, Italian, and French. Some of her well-known books of poetry include The Women are Singing; Blue Horses Rush In; and her latest book, A Radiant Curve (University of Arizona Press, 2008). She has also been featured in several poetry CDs from Rhino Records and various PBS films, such as “The Desert is No Lady,“ “Art of the Wild,“ “Woven by the Grandmothers,“ and “American Passages. “

The next reading in the Duende Poetry Series will be on Sunday, September 13 at 3:00 p.m., and will feature poets Joanne Kyger and Donald Gurevich.

For all of our readings, wine, free snacks, and non-alcoholic drinks are available to the audiences. The event is free, though we encourage donations for the poets. For more information about the event, contact Jim Fish at the winery (867-3062) or online at anasazifieldswinery@att.net or Cirrelda Snider-Bryan (897-0285) or online at cirrelda@laalamedapress.com.

To reach the winery, turn onto Camino de los Pueblitos from Highway 165, across from the Presbyterian Church, go two stop signs, and then turn left into the parking lot for the winery. From outside Placitas, take I-25 to exit 242, drive six miles to the Old Village, turn left just before the Presbyterian Church and follow Camino de los Pueblitos through two stop signs to the winery.


Friends of Coronado State Monument present landscape painting workshop

The Friends of Coronado State Monument are sponsoring a workshop on outdoor landscape painting on Saturday, June 6 and Saturday, June 13 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Participants will learn techniques for painting outdoors in oils while experiencing the beautiful views around Coronado State Monument.

Individual instruction in these small classes will be given by artist Vicki Van Vynckt, who has been painting for twenty-five years. Previous experience in oil painting is helpful.

A supply list will be provided after signing up for the class; the cost is $75 per person for the two classes. June 20 has been set aside as a rain date.

To reserve your space, contact Pat Harris at 822-8571. Coronado State Monument is located at 485 Kuaua Road, west of the town of Bernalillo off I-25 on Highway 550.


Make traditional adobe bricks and mud plaster

The Friends of Coronado State Monument are sponsoring an adobe and mud plastering workshop on Saturday and Sunday, June 13 and 14.

John Cutler, Francisco Uvina, and the Bernalillo Youth Conservation Corps will give a lecture and hands-on workshop on making traditional adobe bricks, mixing and applying lime-mud plaster, and traditional and restorational building with adobe brick.

The program will be held at Coronado State Monument. Reservations are needed; the registration fee for this two-day workshop is $50 per person. Call 867-5351 for further information and reservations.


Phi Mask

The “phi mask” was developed by Dr. Stephen R. Marquardt, a researcher in human beauty, who bases the structure of the ideal face on the Golden Ratio. He gives instructions for measuring any photograph against the mask at www.beautyanalysis.com/index2_mba.htm

The Golden Ratio

The Golden Ratio of 2:3 is used to locate the focal points of interest in a rectangular image.

Fibonacci spiral

The following diagram shows how successively larger Golden Rectangles, which are created by adding squares to the longer side, relate to the logarithmic spiral, or Spira mirabilis, “the miraculous spiral.” If you measure the longer side of each rectangle in turn, you will get the Fibonacci Sequence.

This page follows the law of the universe — 2:3

—Keiko Ohnuma, Signpost

Imagine if the newspaper in your hands were square instead of rectangular, or a skinnier or fatter rectangle. You wouldn’t find it very appealing to hold or read, according to the rule of the Golden Ratio. Rectangles whose sides are in a ratio of about 3.2 to 2 are the most naturally pleasing to the eye.

How do we know this? It has been a claim of geometry at least since the ancient Greeks, and possibly even the Egyptians. Greek mathematicians noticed that this ratio appeared often in the geometry of pentagrams and pentagons, and labeled it phi (much as they named pi, another irrational number with an infinite number of decimal places). Phi begins 1.61803 and is also known as the Golden Mean or Golden Section. The Greeks associated the number with perfection.

Pythagoras first linked the ratio to the Golden Rectangle, defined as one that can be divided into a square and a smaller rectangle with the same proportions as the larger. The long and short sides of the rectangle are always in the Golden Ratio. Because of its many intriguing mathematical properties, the Golden Ratio has been a subject of fascination throughout history, not only to mathematicians but also to architects, artists, historians, scientists, psychologists, and even mystics.

The claim is that this ratio, which occurs regularly in nature, carries an inherent sense of harmony—or that it might even define our sense of harmonious proportion. Some students of the ratio, beginning with Leonardo da Vinci (especially in his drawing Vitruvian Man) have claimed that the ratio underlies our sense of beauty in ideal body proportions and facial physiognomy.

It’s no wonder that architects and artists have applied the Golden Ratio throughout time, consciously or not. Golden Rectangles are seen repeatedly in the structure of the Parthenon, while the Golden Ratio describes the relationship of height to base of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

In contemporary times, the Swiss architect Corbusier deliberately applied geometrical systems of proportion to his designs, claiming they resound in us “by an organic inevitability.” Salvador Dali’s Sacrament of the Last Supper is intentionally designed around the Golden Ratio. And the Dutch abstract painter Piet Mondrian based many of his compositions on Golden Rectangles.

More commonly, the Golden Ratio is taught as a basic rule of composition in painting and photography for placing the focal point of interest.

Perhaps the most formative use of the Golden Ratio for ordinary people has been the invention of the 35mm camera, which produced film (deliberately or not) in a 3:2 ratio, helping to shape our modern sense of composition.

We cannot go far in talking about the Golden Ratio without looking also at the closely related Fibonaccci Sequence, another mathematical phenomenon that occurs in nature. In this series, each number is the sum of the two preceding, beginning 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13 and continuing infinitely. This sequence often appears naturally in cases of exponential growth, as in the reproduction of rabbits, the size of chambers in a nautilus shell, the spirals in the heads of sunflowers and daisies, and the arms of spiral galaxies and tropical cyclones. The relationship of each number to the one preceding is near the Golden Ratio, and gets closer to it the further one goes in the sequence. Check any two numbers in the sequence: 13 8 = 1.625; 610 377 = 1.618.

That’s why the number of spiral arms in the head of a sunflower or in the structure of a pinecone, which are Golden Spirals, are always successive Fibonacci numbers, and thus in the Golden Ratio of 1.6.

It should come as no surprise that, with the force of the cosmos seemingly behind it, this proportion would be used widely in advertising and other applications where design can help persuade or gain influence. Cereal boxes, wide-screen TVs, and credit cards are often made in the Golden Ratio. Check the dimensions of magazine or web pages that appeal to you, and chances are that they exhibit the Golden Ratio. Interior designers and landscape architects have used it to determine how much wall space should be devoted to furniture or paintings, or how much of a yard to blooms.

Applications of the ratio have gotten increasingly fantastic in contemporary times as the notion of natural order has married profit potential. One website advertising “The Adonis Effect” promises to help men develop selective muscles to sculpt bodies exhibiting the Golden Ratio, and thus become irresistibly appealing to women. Financial gurus have used the ratio and the Fibonacci Sequence to predict patterns in the stock market, based on the idea that human activity is patterned according to natural laws. They claim that the Golden Ratio appears often enough in the timing of highs, lows, and price resistance points to predict key turning points in the market. Surf the web for “Golden Ratio,” and you’ll discover the extremes to which its fans will go, with some advocating entire universities to study its properties, and railing at the academic establishment for giving it short shrift.

At the more elevated end of the spectrum, the Golden Ratio and Golden Spiral are described as objects of meditation to attain higher states of consciousness in sacred geometry, which posits a mathematical order to the universe. Here, the Golden Mean and Golden Spiral are seen as analogies for how spirit operates through the material world.

Just as nature-lovers see evidence of the divine in the beauty of the physical world, lovers of geometry see beauty in mathematical order and structure. The Golden Ratio, Golden Rectangle, and Golden Spiral are to their fans the equivalent of the Himalaya in offering an experience of the sublime, leading to such passionate excesses as the life work of German psychologist Adolf Zeising. This 19th-century researcher, who is largely responsible for modern interest in the Golden Ratio, attempted to prove it was the foundational law of the universe, and thus “the fundamental principle of all formation striving to beauty and totality…”


c. Barb Belknap

Barb Belknap, one of five finalists in the New Mexico Wine Festival poster contest, enters her glass artwork “From water grows the grape”—a watery scene of grapes growing up a trellis along the Rio Grande with wild yellow roses and Sandia Mountain in the background.

New Mexico Wine Festival poster artist up for public vote through June 11

Five finalists are now competing to be chosen as the next New Mexican artist whose work will be featured on the 2009 commemorative poster for the 22nd Annual New Mexico Wine Festival at Bernalillo.

In the running are Barb Belknap (glass art window), Johnny Mullins (watercolor), Ivan Rane (abstract impressionist painting), Anna Rivera (pencil on board), and Wendell Unzicker (colored pencil).

Selected artworks will be on display for public vote in Bernalillo at The Range Café from May 22 through 28, at Abuelita’s from May 29 through June 4, and at The Flying Star from June 5 through 11. Ballots and ballot boxes are available at all of the display locations. The winning poster image will be announced on June 12.

The five finalists’ works were chosen from eighteen entries of original artwork which depicted the historical or present New Mexico Wine industry of the Middle Rio Grande Valley. The selected artwork will be reproduced as the festival poster image and placed on other promotional items such as the festival t-shirt.

The selected artist will receive up to $2,000 for the original artwork and rights of reproduction; one hundred copies of the reproduction; and a booth at the New Mexico Wine Festival at Bernalillo, which takes place on Labor Day weekend, September 5, 6, and 7, 2009.

Questions about the wine festival may be directed to Ida Fierro at (505) 867-3311, ext. 133.


Gitanos*

(For the Placitas wild horse herd)

—Poem by Gary L. Brower, Placitas

This small equine tribe,
often spooked by humans
and other dust devils,
searches for shelter
in shadowy canyon niches.

A gypsy herd,
mirage become flesh
when it trots closer in curiosity,
it is often a sudden mirror-flash
in our peripheral vision,
which startles those
who didn’t know these horses
still survived,
ever existed.

We too have been gitanos
in our day,
more tumbleweed
than we often admit,
avoiding lasso,
evading lariat,
running in the wind
of four knives
that carves the gallop
of our hearts
when we remember
we too could once
outrun
our
fears.

*Gitanos=gypsies

Gary L. Brower, who holds a B.A. degree from Drury University in Spanish and History, M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Romance Languages and Literatures from the University of Missouri at Columbia, has taught at Baker University (Kansas), Rogue Community College (Oregon), University of Kansas, University of New Mexico, University of Southern California, University of California at Los Angeles, University of California at San Diego (visiting), as well as directing academic programs in Barcelona and Madrid, Spain, and Guadalajara, Mexico. A specialist in Hispanic Literature, especially of Latin America, he has published numerous essays in Spanish and English. He has also written two books on the impact of Japanese haiku on western poetry.

He has read widely with guitarist El Nino David & dancer Susannah Garrett at such venues as the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, the Church of Beethoven, the Sunflower Festival in Mountainair. He is currently one of the organizers of the Duende Poetry Series of Placitas.

 

     

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