Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988


c. Marjie Bassler

"Out of the Mist,” Marjie Bassler

Placitas Artists Series artistic finale

On Sunday, May 23, 2010, The Placitas Artists Series will present the art of Marjie Bassler, Renée Brainard Gentz, Meg Johnson, and Gary W. Priester with a reception at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church. The works will be on display from the first Saturday of this month through the first Friday of the following month.

 Marjie Bassler began selling her paintings in 1989, following years as a weaver and leatherworker. Her most recent exhibitions were in the International Exhibit on Animals in Art at Louisiana State University and Miniature Arts Bardean at Master Works in Albuquerque where she took first place in mixed media. Bassler served as co-director and curator of the New Mexico State Fair Professional Fine Art Gallery, was on the board of directors of the New Mexico Arts & Crafts Fair, and has been a juror and judge for art shows. She is currently represented in Albuquerque by Sumner & Dene Gallery, Weyrich Gallery, and Casa de San Felipe. Also look for her work at Earth Spirit in the Albuquerque International Sunport, at Bow Wow Blues, and at the Doggie Door Door Company.

Renée Brainard Gentz graduated from San Jose State University with a degree in art. She does fabric constructions and collages. After dyeing and painting the fabric, she cuts and reassembles it by piecing and appliqué techniques. Quilting adds texture and another layer of color, as do multitudes of long, dangling threads. Seen in many juried and invitational shows such as “Elements” in Cary, North Carolina, the Los Ranchos Village Hall, The Society of Layerists in Multimedia National Conference, the New Mexico State Fair and the New Mexico Arts & Crafts Fair, her awards include first place in multimedia at the state fair and the arts and crafts shows.

Meg Johnson is a Placitas artist who creates beautiful hand dyed and painted silk scarves, wraps, and kimonos.  She brings a painter’s vision to fashion in her silk chiffon scarves and her organza coats and kimonos. Primitive motifs from Celtic, African, and Aboriginal cultures are brought to life in her soft flowing pieces. Rich and subtle color palettes create a visual drama that is further enhanced through the translucent play of layers. Johnson’s aesthetic, combined with meticulous attention to details, is found throughout her collection.

Gary W. Priester has been creating 3D hidden and floating image stereograms for more than 12 years. He is the author of five books and is one of two contributing artists to the popular Japanese TJ Mook series. He also reviews graphics software and has been the author of hundreds of Web and magazine articles. Born and raised in Los Angeles, he graduated with honors from the Art Center College of Design in his hometown. Priester has worked in advertising as a print and TV art director and was a principal in The Black Point Group, a graphic design company in San Francisco. He lives with his wife in Placitas.

A reception for the artists will be held at 2:00 p.m. on May 23, prior to a concert by Willy Sucre and Friends. For more information, call 867-8080 or visit

May 2010 El Rinconcito español

• A bien obrar, bien pagar.

For good work, good pay.

• En la tierra de los ciegos el tuerto es el rey.

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed is king.

• Unos nacen con estrellas y otros nacen estrellados.

Some are born under lucky stars and others are born seeing stars.

c. Rudi Klimpert

Calling all art lovers: The 13th Annual Placitas Studio Tour is about to begin

The 13th Annual Placitas Studio Tour will take place on Mother’s Day weekend, May 8 and 9, 2010, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. This free, self-guided tour is an excellent opportunity to visit fifty artists and artisans in their own unique workplaces, enjoy demonstrations, refreshments, and purchase art.

In the process, explore the scenic rolling hills of Placitas and understand why so many creative individuals have been drawn to live here. Take I-25 to Exit 242 and follow the signs to the starting point at the top of the hill. There you can browse tour books for a preview of the studios and pick up a copy of this guide.

To help plan your tour and for more detailed information on our artists, visit the Placitas Studio Tour website at For further information, call 505-771-1006.

Willy Sucre & Friends back for an encore

On Sunday, May 23, The Placitas Artists Series will present Willy Sucre & Friends with violist Willy Sucre, violinists Gabriel Gordon and Carol Swift Matton, and cellist Joan Zucker.

Violist Willy Sucre is a member of the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra (NMSO) and the driving force behind the Willy Sucre & Friends concerts. Gabriel Gordon is currently a member of the NMSO and is in the finals for the concertmaster position of the Santa Fe Symphony. A conductor as well as a violinist, Gordon is also currently the conductor of the Albuquerque Youth Symphony and music director of the Old York Road Symphony. Carol Swift Matton is the assistant principal second violin in the NMSO. Joan Zucker is principal cello of the NMSO.  New Mexicans first heard Zucker in the mid-seventies, as jazz cellist with the Johnny Gilbert Quartet and as principal cello of the Orchestra of Santa Fe. Since then, she has performed in many of New Mexico’s finest ensembles, from the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival and Opera to Twentieth Century Unlimited. 

The program should include: String Quartet No. 1, “A Revival Service” by Charles Ives; String Quartet No. 3 in G Major, K156 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; and String Quartet in F Major, op. 135 by Ludwig van Beethoven.

For a more complete description of the concert and the musicians, please refer to this link:

The concert is generously sponsored by The Placitas Artists Series board of directors.

Preceding the concert, a reception will be held for May exhibiting visual artists Marjie Bassler, Renée Brainard Gentz, Meg Johnson, and Gary W. Priester.

The concert will take place at 3:00 p.m. on May 23 at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church; the artists’ reception begins at 2:00 p.m. Tickets for the concert will be available at the door one hour before the concert or may be purchased in advance at La Bonne Vie Salon and Day Spa in Homestead Village Shopping Center in Placitas, Ah! Capelli Salon & Color Studio in Enchanted Hills Plaza in Rio Rancho, or online at Prices are $18 for general admission and $15 for seniors and students.

This project is made possible in part by New Mexico Arts, a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, and the National Endowment for the Arts. The facility is completely accessible, and free child care is provided for families with children under six. Las Placitas Presbyterian Church is located six miles east of I-25 on NM 165 (Exit 242). For more information, call 867-8080.

Jana Grover

Like many artists, Grover classifies her paintings into “real” work and “novelty” subjects, for which she is more often recognized: Her expressionistic renderings of crows and ravens typify the interior at Indigo Crow restaurant and sell quickly at local art venues.

c. Jana Grover

“Even Artificial Women”

c. Jana Grover

“BJ the Crow skis the Rockies”

c. Jana Grover

“Hiding From Pain,” Jana Grover

A childhood redeemed

—Keiko Ohnuma, Signpost

To say that Jana Grover found art late in life doesn’t begin to tell her story. She didn’t know what art was until well into grade school. In rural Idaho, where she grew up, the nearest art museum was in Jackson, Wyoming, three hours away.

“We didn’t have plumbing until I was in third grade,” she recalls. She rode a bus 30 miles to a school that wasn’t even accredited. The only art she can remember seeing were drawings that her stepmother had done as an adolescent and which she never thought of attempting herself.

Many decades later, as a seasoned urbanite living in San Francisco, Grover was talked into taking an unusual class called “The Edge of Vision.” Taught by famed portrait artist Elaine Badgley-Arnoux, it featured “weird music” and a woman in strange costume “dancing around doing bizarre movements.”

It was her first experience with art since a drawing class in college, and “I loved it!” Grover laughs. “It was art therapy,” she admits—with exercises like closing your eyes and revisiting childhood to paint your feelings from that time. “I didn’t remember my feelings, but I was hooked.”

Grover didn’t just keep taking classes with Badgley-Arnoux, who developed a huge following over the years. She ended up taking over the building where the classes were held and where she now co-manages 40 artist studios in San Francisco’s SoMa District, a number of them rented to other acolytes.

What made Badgley-Arnoux such an inspiring teacher, Grover recalls, was that she could spot instantly what was needed for someone’s development and give each student individual direction. “At first I took classes and didn’t care about what I made,” she says. “Then I got good at it, and Elaine would give critiques that were very helpful.”

It was no accident that the teacher resonated with Grover. Badgley-Arnoux had learned at age 13, as an innocent girl from rural Nebraska, that her father had spent time in prison for statutory rape. She went on to marry four times and had an artistic awakening at age 50.

Grover also got a startling perspective on her roots when she moved to Arlington, Virginia, at age 15 to live with her mother, a woman she hardly knew. Only then did she begin to understand the strangeness of her upbringing in a secluded world of stern Mormon men who didn’t think women should drive cars or write checks. Her mother had fled Idaho soon after Jana was born, abandoning her only child for a career as an actress and teacher.

Ironically, “the one thing she did that was most damaging to me—the abandonment—was also in a way the best because this was a woman who did her own thing,” Grover says. “At least she was some kind of bizarre role model.”

Jana never looked back either. “I had a childhood from hell, which shows up in my art,” she says, an outspoken woman now who moves and paints with great energy and lives comfortably alone for part of the year in a ramshackle little house in the Corrales bosque. Even as a child, she had known there was something peculiar about her; she had no interest in boys and could not imagine getting married and having children. “I don’t know what I saw, but I never saw myself getting married.”

With no real direction, she went on to “Podunk colleges.” No one in her family had gone to college, so it never occurred to her that the choice might matter. Following her mother and stepfather back west, she eventually ended up at San Jose State University, where she studied physical education. And there she stayed. For three decades, Grover taught in Bay Area schools, first PE, then special ed.

And for most of those years, art remained peripheral to her awareness, she says, still amazed that this world was unknown to her for most of her life. Yet the substance of her paintings—moody, dark, intuitive emotional portraits, mostly figurative—clearly had been brewing under the surface for years.

Like many artists, Grover classifies her paintings into “real” work and “novelty” subjects, for which she is more often recognized: Her expressionistic renderings of crows and ravens typify the interior at Indigo Crow restaurant and sell quickly at local art venues. “People say, ‘Oh, you’re the crow lady,’” she says, which has prompted her to start painting armadillos and javelinas as well.

 Her serious emotional portraits deal mostly with disappointment, loss, or heartache. Many also have a political edge. “I work quickly,” Grover explains of her intuitive style. “The longer I spend, the worse it gets.” Also, the titles usually come first, a predilection that may be handed down from her actress mother and storytelling grandfather; his stories about  “Blackjack the Crow” inspired her series The Ten Crowmandments.

Both kinds of paintings have done well, to Grover’s surprise. “I used to say, ‘It would be great to sell my art, but I don’t have to sell it.’ I used to say I would only make art I wanted. But it’s seductive, I’ll tell you,” she says with a shake of the head. Retired since the turn of the century, she travels to art fairs four or five times a year, spending most of the winter in San Francisco and doing a series of exhibitions and art fairs from her base in Corrales in the spring and fall.

“I’m lucky in that I have two support systems,” she says. Grover settled in Corrales in 1989, when her mother and stepfather retired in Albuquerque. Her small adobe house is precisely what she had wanted: a casita with no main house attached. The humble structure with its two tiny outbuildings sits far back from the road, under a dense canopy of cottonwoods in the heart of the village.

Finding art late in life, Jana Grover has brought her whole life to the altar of art. Late-blooming artists thus serve as a testament to the transformative power of creativity, quite aside from the success of its products. Of course, Grover doesn’t mind that her paintings sell like hotcakes. But the real truth of the matter, she says, is that “doing art has saved my life.”

Jana Grover shows her work in the exhibition Now and Then at SCA Contemporary Art (524 Haines NW, Albuquerque; 228-3749) through May 7 and in the Corrales Studio Tour May 1-2.






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