Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988

Joan Fenicle

Artist Joan Fenicle in her Placitas studio Photo credit: Oli Robbins

c. Joan Fenicle

Devotions, fine art photography, by Joan Fenicle

Signpost featured artist
Preserving the story:  The art of Joan Fenicle

—Oli Robbins

Some adventurous spirits travel to the ends of the earth in search of exciting people and places. Others, like Placitas photographer and painter Joan Fenicle, revel in the surprising encounters that can happen closer to home. While she holds the landscape and unparalleled beauty of her native Colorado close to her heart, she credits New Mexico for introducing her to the stuff that art is made of.

Fenicle grew up in Idaho Springs, an old mining town in Colorado, and enjoyed making things from an early age. Fenicle recalls, “Growing up, what you played with were colored pencils and crayons. My dad, he didn’t believe in toys, so you made your own. You colored, you built things.” Her father, who came of age during the Great Depression and was born on an Indian reservation in Wyoming, fostered Fenicle’s creative nature. He too had an aesthetic sensibility; he traveled extensively, internationally working on power plants and pictorially recording his many journeys—sketching what people were wearing, or sending back pages of postage stamps that had a particular appeal. Still, Fenicle’s dad wanted to ensure that his daughter enjoyed a stable career and income, so he encouraged Fenicle to go to college for business rather than art.

While she always made time to nurture her love of painting, it wasn’t until Fenicle moved to Placitas in 1999 that she became heavily involved in the art scene. In 2011, when she turned seventy, Fenicle finally said to herself, “If I’m not going to take myself seriously at seventy, when am I?” She pulled away from the many organizations and causes to which she had been devoting so much time and decided it was time to become a full-time artist.  

Fenicle first came to New Mexico as a wide-eyed middle school student. “It was so different,” she remembers. “The little town I’m from is very white—most of the people are either English or Swedish. There’s not much variety. I went to a museum in Taos and saw my first Penitente death card, and for a Methodist girl from Colorado, it was like ‘what is this?!’ New Mexico always had an appeal to me, a draw, and I was happy I could come back.”

She still finds herself surprised by the sites and experiences our state offers. “I love going down old dirt roads and seeing what you find. Or, I look out my kitchen window, up the canyon at the Sandias, and I’m happy.”

Fenicle introduced fine art photography into her oeuvre quite late. She used to treat photography as a necessary step in the painting  process, snapping pictures to gather material. Then, one year for the Placitas Studio Tour, she figured she’d frame and display a few of her photographs, for which she received positive feedback. Now, she photographs and paints, but is becoming more experimental with both. Says Fenicle, “I want to become more abstracted, but not abstract.

“I’m still interested in things,” she explains as she shows me a photograph of a dilapidated but serenely beautiful old hotel/bar/dance hall in a little ghost town in Guadalupe, NM. The stories she attempts to tell in her photographs are “so tangible,” and so important to Fenicle, that she oftentimes exhibits postcard-sized text alongside her images in order to share the loaded and unique backstories of the many places she has found. “The stories: I think that’s what I’m trying to preserve the most. My eye is still drawn to these objects—and I like them—I just want to go a different direction in my painting.” Perhaps the realism Fenicle so appreciates can be satisfied by her photography, which can allow her paintings to break away from the places and objects of the real world.

Recently, Fenicle has been working on her “Spirit Guide” series, which is comprised of photographs that juxtapose ancient and modern and highlight New Mexico’s vibrant ancestry. Ghostly images of timeless Native American figures are superimposed on photographs of New Mexico landmarks, such as Tent Rocks. Fenicle hopes that these images prompt the viewer to hear the sounds made and stories told by the people who once inhabited these lands.

“I spend a lot of time outdoors here, and I can imagine the history,” Fenicle continues. “When you go to Tent Rocks, think about it as being a sacred place and imagine the echo of drums. Insert yourself there.”

Journeying across New Mexico in search of subject matter is an integral part of Fenicle’s creative process. The memories she makes, and the stories she uncovers, become indelibly connected to the artwork itself. For example, to visit and then photograph an old church in Las Trampas (in between Santa Fe and Taos), which Fenicle believes to be “one of the best preserved examples of Spanish Colonial Mission architecture,” she first had to find the key to the church, which villagers take turns keeping safe. Says Fenicle, “If you go and the church isn’t open, you must go to the nearby store and ask who has the key. You then go knock on that person’s door, and they will go open the church for you.” Many of Fenicle’s photographs are the result of the artist’s strong will and desire to locate remote and seldom-visited places, as was the case for a photograph that features a small morada in Taos. This site sent the artist on another goose chase, requiring that she drive in circles trying to find it and eventually leave her car and walk around a gate that read “authorized personnel only.” Says Fenicle, “I was just determined and got the last light of the day—which is the best—with Taos mountain in the background.”

A self-taught photographer, Fenicle has taken various painting workshops throughout her career as an artist. Her photographs often bear resemblance to paintings, in part because many have been printed on watercolor paper, which as the artist explains, endows the image with a softness. Lately, Fenicle has been experimenting with encaustic, which also lends her photographs a reductive, painterly feel, and is achieved by fusing multiple layers of wax with the photographic image.

Fenicle’s first book, Placitas del Sol, brings together her imagery and the poems of her cousin, Karen Biddle. It can be previewed and ordered on the artist’s website, This month, Fenicle’s work will be showcased at the Las Placitas Presbyterian Church as part of the Placitas Artist Series. The reception will take place on April 21, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. Fenicle’s work is also on display at Arte de Placitas and can be seen on the Placitas Studio Tour this May.

Community gallery—Arte de Placitas —celebrates first year

Arte de Placitas is celebrating their one-year anniversary with a “birthday” reception open to the public on March 30, from noon to 3:00 p.m. Gallery co-owner Linda McClain said, “We owe the community a huge amount of gratitude for their support and participation in this community gallery. We want to thank everyone with some birthday cake, door prizes, gift certificates, and live music.” 

The McClains also invite local artists to participate in their community gallery, along with the existing fifty artists who show their two- and three-dimensional art and literature there. Arte de Placitas is located in Homestead Village on Highway 165 in Placitas and also on the Web at

An Unquenchable Thirst, by Mary Johnson

An Unquenchable Thirst— new book, by Mary Johnson

An Unquenchable Thirst by Mary Johnson is a powerful, unforgettable spiritual biography about a woman’s coming of age and her search for her true identity. With vivid testimony, Mary Johnson traces the yearnings, doubts, and reflections from her twenty-year tenure as a nun within Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity to her return to the secular world. Mary’s remarkable journey of self discovery—her magnetic pull to love, and her search for understanding and identity renders this story universal in scope and is sure to leave an indelible mark upon readers. Now available in paperback this edition includes questions for reading groups as well as a wonderful conversation between Johnson and Mira Bartók.

At just eighteen years old, after seeing a photo of Mother Teresa on the cover of Time, Johnson made a life changing decision to become a nun. Despite being a boisterous teenager, Johnson threw herself into the sisters’ austere life of poverty and devotion, stripping herself of all things familiar—family, material indulgences, intellectual autonomy—to become Sister Donato, poor, chast, obedient. Yet beneath her white and blue sari, Johnson’s curiosity stirred as she grappled with her faith, her sexuality, and the politics of the order. Eventually, after twenty years of service, she left the church in search of authentic spiritual fulfillment and to discover who she truly was beyond the cloistered walls of the Missionaries. On this new journey, Johnson experiences an awakening of her soul and a profound connection to her female spirit. She comes to learn that a full life is marked by the receipt and expression of unconditional love and can be realized in a myriad of ways, including in the flesh of her own human experience.

An Unquenchable Thirst grapples with the eternal questions of faith and self—discovery that touches us all. Writer Anne Rice wrote, “A candid, generous, and profound spiritual memoir. This is a book that deserves a great deal of thoughtful discussion.”

And Rosie O’Donnell stated: “An Unquenchable Thirst is an amazing book. You can’t really imagine until you read the book what it was like to give up all your earthly possessions and live a life of poverty. It’s really a beautiful book.” Also praises were published from The Los Angeles Times, Slate Magazine, More Magazine, Christian Science Monitor, The Denver Post and Sister Joan Chillister, OSB, author of Called to Question.

Ms. Johnson will discuss her memoir and sign copies of her book at a book signing on March 15 at 10:00 a.m. at the Placitas Community Library. Copies of her book will be available for purchase.


Placitas Library exhibits quilts

In observance of National Quilting Month, the New Mexico Quilters’ Association (NMQA) is hosting a month-long exhibit at the Placitas Community Library in the Colin Room beginning March 2 through 28. A public reception is schedule on March 8 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. Quilted work from Placitas artisans who are members of NMQA will be on display, and the show coincides with NMQA quilt exhibits in public libraries in Bernalillo, Belen, Los Lunas, and throughout the Albuquerque metro. NMQA is a three-hundred-plus member organization, focused on promoting quilting and providing education and outreach in the community.

The guild donates more than seven-hundred quilts each year to adults and children in hospitals, Veterans’ centers, and for use as fundraisers. A feature of the Placitas Library exhibit is the large pieced quilt created for Linda Cotton who served as NMQA President in 2007. Linda’s quilt theme is Flowers and Hummingbirds.

After March 8, additional large quilts will be rotated throughout the month in place of Linda’s quilt. Quilters displaying their work include Mary Oberg, Maris Mason, Marlene Walker, Rod Daniel, Judith Roderick, JoAnne Fredrikson, Betsy Bik, and Linda Cotton. Quilting has become big business around the world, a $2.5 billion industry reported by the Creative Crafts Group in 2010. The typical quilter matches the demographics for a large segment of residents of Placitas: 62 years of age, 72 percent attended college, affluent, spend an average of $2,442 per year on quilting and own up to four sewing machines each. People integrate silks, hand dyes and every variety of cloth into their quilt pieces. Celebrate quilting as a prized art form at the library during the month of March. You may leave questions for the artists during the show or ask them yourself at the reception on March 8. Just remember to use the available white gloves to touch any of the quilts.

Evening of tango to benefit homeless veterans

Las Puertas Events Center, with the support of the New Mexico VA Health Care System, are bringing to Albuquerque, direct from Buenos Aires, the Tango Zone Dance Company in a benefit performance on Friday, March 22, and Saturday, March 23. All proceeds will go to VA programs that help homeless veterans transition to stable homes.

“There are today as many as 1,200 homeless vets in New Mexico,” said Daniel Mintie, a VA social worker. “Each day, VA programs help these men and women and their children come in from the streets and forests and mesas and finally return home. We are very grateful to Las Puertas for opening their doors and hearts to these veterans and very excited to be bringing to Albuquerque some of the best dancers in the world.”

Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. and will be held at Las Puertas Event Center, 1512 First Street NW in downtown Albuquerque. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for hors d’oeuvres and a silent auction. Following the performances, Las Puertas will host social dancing from 9:00 p.m. to midnight.

“If you’ve never tried Argentine tango, this is your chance!” said Mintie, himself a dancer. “Local dancers will be on hand to help all brave souls take their first steps down the wonderful road that is Argentine tango.”

Tickets for the entire evening of fun cost $25 and are available at Additional event information is available at, or by calling Daniel Mintie at (505) 934-2155.

Bill Freeman

Artist and collector Bill Freeman

c. Bill Freeman

Pottery reproduction, by Bill Freeman

Ride on, Bill Freeman

—Tom Frouge

Bill Freeman, painter, potter, collector, cowboy, naturalist, mentor, and so much more passed peacefully this February.

I had only known Bill for about five years and really only somewhat well in the past three years. As some of you may know he was my wife, Jade Leyva’s, mentor, dear friend, and in many ways her “American father.”

Bill led a rewarding, interesting, and exciting life—one well lived. He was raised on a cotton farm in Texas, became a horse wrangler and worked for the US Forest Service where he would go off into the woods for months at a time to count big horn sheep. He left that job because he couldn’t listen to his beloved classical music—where was the iPod when one needed it!

He was also a talented and renowned Western landscape painter, although that extended to wildlife and portraits, and he eventually left that behind as well to become one of the foremost makers of ancient pottery and antiquity replicas, as well as a leading restorer and authority of real artifacts. His collection was as amazing and extensive as it was eclectic. After five years, I still find things I have never seen before in his house.

Bill was someone who saw life and talent as something to share. I know three people that not only learned elements of their craft from him, but more importantly learned from him that they could be professional artists. They didn’t need to wait tables or work in galleries. They could be in galleries.

I saw what Bill gave to people through my wife, Jade. She loved him dearly, and she spent the last two months of his life by his side. And I understand why; though Bill could be ornery, he was always giving and loving to her—and I don’t mean in a material way. He taught her to appreciate things beyond just art: from geology to astrology to hiking, right down to figures of speech, that a young Mexican woman learning English would pick up and use until this day. Bill brought Jade’s innate confidence out in a very meaningful way, nurturing her to be not only an assured artist but in many ways the woman she is today. To Bill, Jade was family, and visa-versa.

Bill was surrounded by dear friends and family in the past weeks. The love was palpable. I know each and every one has a hole in their hearts, but they also have all he gave them, and the memories of the times they share that will keep him in their hearts and minds always. He is likely looking down right now with that wry, mischievous smile, saying “carry on.”

I am going to miss Bill Freeman. His corny humor, his “let-me-sing-you-this-song” where he would sing ten verses of an old cowboy camp song (ringing my “ethnomusicological” bells) or his showing me his collection, explaining in detail what each piece was, from whence it came, and what the people that made it were likely all about, talking about the stars or rocks (he collected them too, along with armor, masks, instruments, guns, spears, fossils, and bones—and I mean freaking real dinosaur bones and saber-tooth cat skulls!).

Bill built tons of molds in his life, but who or whatever built the mold he was cast from surely broke it afterwards, because Bill Freeman was one-of-a-kind.

Ride on, cowboy. There are new worlds for you to explore.

Duende Poetry continues

The Duende Poetry Series of Placitas, now in its ninth year, will begin its 2013 season on March 10 at 3:00 p.m. with a reading at the Anasazi Fields Winery in Placitas. This reading will feature the new Oklahoma Poet Laureate Nathan Brown, and Albuquerque poet Cathy Arellano.

Brown, who has read in New Mexico before but who will now read for the first time as Poet Laureate, studied at the University of Oklahoma and has taught there, but now mostly travels, reads poetry, and encourages students in various institutions to study poetry and creative writing.

Nathan Brown is also a photographer, songwriter, and musical performer as well as the author of eight books of poetry: Hobson’s Choice (2002); Suffer the Little Voices (2005), a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award; Ashes over the Southwest (2005); Not exactly Job (2007), a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award; Two tables over (2008), winner of the Oklahoma Book Award; My Sideways Heart (2010); Letters to the one-armed poet: A Memoir of Friendship, Loss and butternut squash ravioli (2011); and, Karma Crisis: New & Selected Poems (2012). He has received two Pushcart Prize nominations and in 2010 he released a CD of all-original songs, Gypsy Moths. His poetry has also appeared in many journals, such as World Literature Today, Descant, Blue Rock Review, Concho River Review, Malpais Review, and in several anthologies such as: Travelin’ Music: A Poetic Tribute to Woody Guthrie; Ain’t Nobody that can sing like me: New Oklahoma Writing; and, Eight voices: Contemporary Poetry from the American Southwest.

Albuquerque poet Cathy Arellano, who teaches Developmental English at Central New Mexico Community College and Creative Writing in the Chicano(a) Studies Program at the University of New Mexico (from time to time), also facilitates community groups and workshops such as “Fact, Fiction and Funk: A Writing Workshop for Women of Color” at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. She has been awarded the Hispanic Writers Award for the Taos Summer Writer’s Conference, and in the past, also won a Literary Arts Grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission.

Arellano has recently published her work in Feminist Formations (University of Arizona Women’s Studies Program); Huizache (literary journal of the University of Houston at Victoria); Mas Tequila Review; Malpais Review; Turtle Island to Abya Yala:A Love anthology of Art/Poetry by Native American & Latina women; Chicana Lesbians: The Girls our mothers warned us about; Days I moved through ordinary sounds: The Teachers of Writercorps in poetry & prose; El Tecolote; Cipactli; Fourteen Hills; La Voz, La Bloga; Duke City Fix. Her poetry and prose collection Salvation on 24th Street will be published by Korima Press this Fall.

The Duende Poetry Series sponsors four readings a year in March, June, September, and one floating date. For all Duende readings, wine, free snacks, and non-alcoholic drinks are available to the audience. The event is free, although we encourage donations for the poets (donation jar as you enter). For more information, contact Jim Fish at the winery at, or 867-3062. To reach the winery, turn onto Camino de los Pueblitos from Highway 165 in the old village of Placitas, across from the Presbyterian Church. Drive past two stop signs, turn left into the winery parking lot. From outside Placitas, take I-25 to Exit 242, drive six miles to Placitas and follow Camino de los Pueblitos through two stop signs to the winery.

Placitas Artist Series— Third Annual David Cramer Photography Memorial Retrospective

—Shirley Ericson

On March 24, the Placitas Artists Series will present the Third Annual David Cramer Photography Memorial Retrospective with a reception at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church. The church is located on NM 165, six miles east of I-25 (exit 242). The works will be on display from March 2 and continue through March 29.

One hundred percent of the income from sales of these works will go to the Placitas Artists Series Endowment, David Cramer Memorial Fund.

David Cramer was one of New Mexico’s finest nature photographers before his sudden death in 2010, at age 58. He was known for his remarkable images of the wild—especially the wild horses near his home in Placitas. David had been a psychologist for most of his life until he found a new home with his life partner, psychiatrist Avi Kriechman in 2001. He quickly evolved into a visionary photographer and teacher, winning multiple awards for his wildlife photography, including top honors in the international photography contest “All Things Horses” at the Center for Fine Arts Photography and at the Bosque del Apache “Festival of the Cranes.”

David Cramer was a proud member of the Board of Directors of the Placitas Artists Series, and Avi is delighted to offer David’s work in support of the Series’ Endowment Fund.

For more information, see our website at

A public reception for the display will be held at 2:00 p.m. on March 24, prior to a concert by Willy Sucre and Friends of the Matisse Trio. [See details, page 2, this Signpost.]

Calling artists for the Placitas Artist Series

Would you like to show your artwork here in Placitas? Placitas Artists Series will jury for its 2013–2014 Season in April. For 26 years, PAS has been bringing excellent live music to our community, and each monthly concert has had a corresponding art show of four visual artists. (See the front inside cover of the Signpost). The Las Placitas Presbyterian Church has a large, light-filled gallery space where the exhibits occur. The art is seen by the concert-goers, the congregation, and all of the groups, including Jardineros de Placitas, who meet there. There is a reception for the artists before each concert. The artists are on the PAS website for a year and in our advertising.

Whether you are an established artist who shows far and wide or an emerging artist who would like to have a local show, here is your opportunity.

PAS is a juried show. You need to apply by April 1 to be considered. Go to our website (, find the Visual Artists section, and in the first paragraph you will find a link to our prospectus. Print it out, and mail it in. You must send your images digitally. Your community looks forward to seeing your art!

Bosque Gallery welcomes new artists

The gallery, located at 4685 Corrales Road in Corrales, announces that Dennis Lee Gomez, Doris Wagner, and Flo Stein—jewelers—have joined the gallery. Alice Webb, who does large abstracts and is well known among accomplished artists in the southwest, has also joined. The post holiday show will remain until March 20 when the gallery will hang their benefit show. This year, the beneficiary will be the Corrales Library. A reception for the show will be held on March 22 from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. Forty percent of the proceeds on opening day will go to support the Library programs. From May 17 through July 17 the summer guest artist show will be featured.

Old Church Artfest looking for artists in annual juried show

The Visual Arts Council of the Corrales Historical Society calls for artists to show in the 22nd Old Church Artfest, held on June 1 and 2, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily. The work must be original in concept and executed by the artist himself. Paintings, sculpture, pottery, gourds, fabric, weaving, metal work, and jewelry are a few of the varied medium looked for in this juried show. Music and a food vendor add to the festive atmosphere. The Artfest is free, open to the public with free parking. Net proceeds of the show help with maintenance and preservation of the Old Church and programs of the Corrales Historical Society. For further information, contact Bev Darrow at 505-301-0042.

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