Sandoval Signpost
An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Featured Artist
 

Signpost featured artist: Steve Spaulding

Steve Spaulding in his Placitas studio

c. Steve Spaulding 

c. Steve Spaulding

c. Steve Spaulding

Paintings, by Steve Spaulding

Remembering Steve Spaulding, artist

—Oli Robbins

Steve Spaulding carried many titles—husband and father, furniture maker, car restorer and racer, boat builder—but his lifelong engagement with art seemed to float under the radar. Steve, who passed away on the first day of this year, was a skilled and experienced painter, draftsman, photographer, and sculptor. Only a selection of his friends and family were aware of Steve’s artistic talents, and it is the hope of Linda, his widow, and Dylan and Oliver, his sons, that his art might finally be acknowledged.

Before moving to New Mexico, Steve held several celebrated positions in New York City’s art world. In addition to working as an art conservator and restorer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art—the capital of American fine art museums—he also did work for the Metropolitan Opera, the Cooper Hewitt Museum, and the Leo Castelli Gallery. While he enjoyed being amid great art, he always longed for his work to be discovered and lauded, allowing him to create full-time. But he never publicized his work.

After moving out of NY, meeting Linda and starting a life in Placitas, Steve satisfied his artistic predilections by working in carpentry and furniture building. He opened a shop in Santa Fe—which was later relocated to Placitas—and completed commission work for both private homes and museums. Steve’s work ran the gamut from furniture, windows, and doors for elegant Santa Fe homes (Gene Hackman was a client) to installations of art objects at museums to panels or display cases for shows at such as institutions as the Smithsonian and Denver Art Museum. He further exercised his creativity by restoring antique cars and building boats. It was no doubt satisfying for him to craft things that were both aesthetically pleasing and able to be enjoyed in the functional realm. Dylan, reflecting upon all that Steve endowed him with, said: “I think that what he gave me was an appreciation for art and craftsmanship and an appreciation of ‘form’ in the artistic sense. That included the car restorations, the boat-building, and, more generally, ways of thinking about how to make something (almost anything) both utilitarian and artistic. That included the value of doing things with my hands—of creating—and of the processes involved.”

Pratt Institute in New York City offered Steve formal art education, and he remained a student of art throughout his life. Not only did Steve produce art weekly in drawing studios in Albuquerque, he amassed an impressive collection of art history and theory books. He taught himself by close inspection of art by the masters and by carefully reading his art history tomes alongside more esoteric art philosophy. His artwork ranges from realistic to abstract, and he experimented with various mediums, favoring graphite and pastels. His most beloved pieces are figurative and feature sketchy, highly emotive nudes that recall the psychologically intense portraits of Egon Schiele and Lucian Freud. Other standouts are his Fauve-like cityscapes and mixed-media narrative portraits. In a 2001 interview with Wes Pulkka, Steve said, “I leave the interpretation of my work to the viewer, but I place clues along the way to help tell a personal story within each piece.”

Steve didn’t often show his work, but when he did, it received the acclaim he sought. He participated in “Contemporary ’97,” an exhibition at Expo NM curated by SITE Santa Fe, and won the award for “Excellence in Contemporary Art.” A few years later, in 2001, his drawings and mixed-media constructions were part of a group showing at the Ortiz Domney Gallery Studio in Nob Hill, where Steve’s works were positively reviewed.

Says Linda, “Steve always wanted to be in Europe or a different time or different place. The art may have been what took him there—that and the armchair traveling through his books.” And even though Steve didn’t get to live in France as an artist in the 1920s, he did enjoy traveling and did so whenever possible. The Spauldings actually took a year off from work and school to sail the North Sea from 1989 to 1990. Steve navigated the family in a 33-foot, live-aboard sailboat from England to Holland, where they wintered. While abroad, they made lifelong friends, one of whom was to be the recipient of Steve’s very last painting, which he was completing at the time of his death. Says Linda, “All three of us appreciate that Steve was a traveler and left us with amazing memories of our family trips and adventures—at sea and on land.”

The Spauldings invite the community to celebrate Steve—the artist—on the afternoon of March 28, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m., at their home (09 Dos Hermanitas) in Placitas. This open house/memorial will be an art retrospective of sorts, with Steve’s pieces adorning the home and turning it into a gallery. Friends will finally get to see the fruits of Steve’s artistic dedication.

For more information, email Linda at: spaulding.lasswell@gmail.com.

 
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