Photo: Bill Diven
Figurative gourd artist Susan Jordan holds one of her “gourdtellers.” Peering over her shoulder are (from left) white-buffalo dancer "Bringing Balance and Harmony," deer dancer "Elder at Dawn," and buffalo dancer "Honoring the Buffalo."
Signpost featured artist of the month
Homegrown gourd art by Susan Jordan
The long-necked gourd sitting on the counter whispered whenever Susan Jordan walked by.
“Giraffe,” it said. “No,” the artist responded, thinking back to a childhood passion for collecting giraffes. “Giraffe,” the gourd said again and again until Jordan relented.
And so the gourd became a giraffe, with little gourd giraffes nestled against its belly in a variation of the Native American storyteller. And it joined Jordan’s “Whimsical Collection,” an occasional diversion from her figurative gourd art firmly rooted in the cultures of the Southwest.
“The gourds themselves are an inspiration of what you want to do with them,” the Signpost artist of the month said. “I’m sort of stunned. I never imagined I’d ever be doing anything like this.”
Forget the calabacillas growing in roadside jungles during the rainy season. Instead consider large gourds, some a yard in length, with names like canteen, torpedo, bottle, snake, and “zucca”—many imported, others grown in Jordan’s Placitas garden.
From this collection of shapes and sizes, Jordan takes one standing alone, or combines it with another, adds a clay face and embellishes the figure with colored stains and waxes, cloth, hair, and headdresses. The result may be a buffalo dancer, a storyteller, or an elegant woman with a parasol.
A Colorado Springs native, Jordan earned a degree in anthropology but made her career in human resources. After eighteen years of corporate life in New Jersey, she moved to Placitas in 1995 and opened a consulting business.
Over the years, she pursued art in various forms, taking a class here and there and developing an appreciation but not a passion. That changed two and a half years ago when memories of a childhood trip to New Mexico met the inspiration of talking gourds.
“I remember we took a road trip into Taos, and I saw the dancers and was so moved,” she said. “I’ve always been interested in other cultures. If I were in New Jersey, I would not be doing this.”
Her earlier gourd art has evolved with the recent addition of a self-hardening clay used to form the faces. With her active consulting practice during the day, she refers to art as her night job.
“There’s a fine line between passion and obsession,” she said. “Going until 1:30 in the morning is probably obsession.”
Passion or obsession, her work is gaining recognition and recently was accepted for the highly competitive New Mexico Arts and Crafts Show in June. It also will be on display during the annual Placitas Studio Tour May 8-9.
Jordan is on the board of the recently formed New Mexico Gourd Society, already grown to 120 members, mostly artists and growers. And she tracks the history of the hard-shelled plants, from a Tucson group distributing native seeds to traditional Native American uses as dippers, rattles, and storage vessels.
Jordan’s studio-gallery is open by appointment by calling 867-8440. Her gourd art also can be seen in this month’s Featured Artist of the Month Gallery.
Route 313 ... heading south out of Bernalillo ... to the west, in a fenced five acres ... cattle feeding ... ravens on the ground waddling unspooked ... and a coyote. At fifty miles per hour I had a five-second glance and I knew right away the coyote was mimicking the movements of the cattle, the lazy amble, mock grazing, the pause, head up, quick scan, back to the brown grasses. The ravens remained unspooked, even oblivious ... perhaps until the moment the coyote grabbed a little breakfast.
Revisit to Placitas the 13th of March 2003
There they remain, where I left them, the canyons
Del Orno (the furnace), Del Agua Sarca (the blue water)
The ones that still evoke the mystery of duality
Provoke the ascending upstream
In search of the fountain, youth, death
Will he, once again get lost? He that climbed among the juniper and pinyon
He that collided with the disfigured oak
Bent low by the years, stubborn, he that no matter what the wind
Would not move nor be moved like the immovable canyons,
Not he, he notes how the cottonwoods have changed
And the tranquil image of the blue-water pool appears crystalline.
Willy Sucre & Friends plays string quartets in May—Placitas Artists Series season finale
PAS Board of Directors
It’s hard to believe, but another season of “beautiful music in the mountains,” the Placitas Artists Series concerts, is having its season finale on May 23. What a great season it’s been, and the finale will be no exception. Willy Sucre, violist of the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, will be joined by violinists Martha Caplin and Valerie Turner and cellist Joan Zucker. The concert is being sponsored by an anonymous donor who wants to ensure continued high-quality music for the people in Placitas and the surrounding area.
Willy Sucre has served as conductor and music director of the Albuquerque Philharmonic Orchestra and assistant conductor of the Canada Symphony Orchestra and the NMSO. Martha Caplin is active as a soloist and performs with the acclaimed 20th Century Unlimited Chamber Music Series and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. Valerie Turner, who has played in the PAS concerts in the past, has had an extensive career performing with many orchestras and chamber ensembles, including the Manhattan Philharmonic, the New York City Ballet, the Santa Fe Opera, and others. Joan Zucker, who has also played in the PAS series many times, is the principal cellist of the NMSO and has performed in many of New Mexico’s finest ensembles, from the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival and Opera to 20th Century Unlimited.
The musicians will be playing Fritz Kreisler’s String Quartet in A minor, Gershwin’s “Lullaby for String Quartet,” and Verdi's String Quartet in E minor. For a complete listing of the program for this concert, please see our Web site, www.PlacitasArts.org.
The concert will be held at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church, six miles east of I-25 on NM 165 (Exit 242). There will be an artists reception at the church before the concert. This month’s featured artists are Mary Beth Goforth, Eloise Rogers, Kay Richards, and Emily and Bob Sharp.
Mary Beth Goforth’s favorite subject is wildlife, especially equines, which she depicts in a realistic-impressionistic style. To her, the subject is all-important, so most of her creative energy is put into that rather than emphasizing the creatures’ surroundings. Eloise Rogers says that “the understated serenity of Shady Lakes; the sensual, flowing lines of gladiolas, hollyhocks, calla lilies; the excitement of feast day dances at San Ildefonso; the colorful sandstone cliffs of Ghost Ranch, jutting into the crisp blue skyline ... I see painting as a means to get closer to the true beauty and spirit of things that inspire me.” Kay Richards devotes all her time to watercolors and collages. She captures the beauty and feeling of each subject with a liberal use of vivid colors that reveals her strong ties to and personal affection for the Southwest. For a number of years Bob and Emily Sharp have created one-of-a-kind footstools. Bob devises bases that complement the needlepoint tops that they both design and carry out. Their creativity has now extended to basketry. They use the coil method, each of them expressing enjoyment in building containers that are not necessarily utilitarian. Bob's are more fanciful; Emily's more traditional. Please view samples of the artists works at www.PlacitasArts.org.
Tickets for the concert will be available at the door one hour before the performance, or may be purchased ahead of time at La Bonne Vie Salon & Day Spa in the Homestead Village Shopping Center in Placitas (867-3333). Tickets may also be purchased on line. The prices for this concert are $15 for general admission and $12 for seniors and students. For additional information and ticket brochures, call 867-8080 or visit our Website.
This concert and the art exhibit are made possible in part by New Mexico Arts, a division of the Office of Cultural Affairs, and the National Endowment for the Arts. There is handicapped access and free child care for children under six.
June Music Festival brings great music to ABQ
The June Music Festival is one of the hidden jewels of the Albuquerque music scene. Its presenter, Chamber Music Albuquerque, is taking steps to get the message out to a broader audience: this is great music worth hearing.
The sixty-third June Music Festival runs June 4 to 20 in the Simms Center for the Performing Arts at Albuquerque Academy. As every year, this year’s festival features award-winning, internationally renowned musicians. The St. Petersburg String Quartet performs on June 4 and 6, the Takács Quartet on June 11 and 13, and OPUS ONE on June 18 and 20. Friday concerts are at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday concerts at 4:00 p.m. Each concert is preceded by a free lecture on the day’s program.
“This is music that can be appreciated by everyone whether they are hearing it for the first time or the fiftieth,”said KHFM radio personality, Dan Haik, who presents the lectures. “We especially encourage people new to chamber music to join us for a concert or two.”
Works by Russian composers are featured on both programs by the St. Petersburg String Quartet, while the Takács Quartet will perform an all-Beethoven weekend, including pieces from its Grammy-winning CD. “This quartet is known for its fire and intensity,” Haik said. “You will be riveted to your seat.” Both OPUS ONE programs pay tribute to composer and violinist Antonin Dvorák on the 100th anniversary of his death.
June Music Festival tickets may be purchased on-line at www.cma-abq.org or from Chamber Music Albuquerque, 505-268-1990, Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Single tickets are $15 to $32, and ticket packages are $57 to $171, with student tickets half price. Tickets may also be purchased at the door. Complete concert information is available on the Web site or through the box office.