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

Signpost featured artist:

Vangie and Bill Dunmire, artist and author, are the featured artists in this November’s Placitas Holiday Fine Arts and Crafts Fair

Two of Bill Dunmire’s fine art book covers

Winter Snowstorm in Placitas, painting, by Vangie Dunmire

Landscape painting, by Vangie Dunmire

Writing and painting nature: Bill and Vangie Dunmire

—Oli Robbins

Duo Bill and Vangie Dunmire, longtime residents of Placitas, are students, recorders, and researchers of nature. They are the special guest artists of this year’s Placitas Holiday Fine Arts and Crafts Sale. While Vangie is the visual artist of the two, painting from site and imagination since the 1980s, Bill is a different kind of creator—one that uses nature as his guide to investigate and write on the wildlife that surrounds us. Bill received his undergraduate degree in wildlife conservation and his masters in zoology from UC Berkeley. His education, coupled with his love for the outdoors and our country’s landscapes led him to several positions within the National Parks. It was while working at Yellowstone that Bill met Vangie, an art enthusiast whose creative interests and instincts would be realized a couple of decades later.

Bill’s desire to work in the national parks dates back to his boyhood. “I can trace it back to age seven when we were at some national park, and I said ‘I’m going to be a ranger when I grow up.’” Says Bill, “I’m an outdoors person, interested in environmental education. It was just a natural draw.” During his time in the park service, he became an adept photographer, selling photographs to a variety of natural science groups. While working at Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii, for example, Bill photographed and filmed a volcanic eruption and the subsequent photographs gained popularity. Bill’s final park services position was at Carlsbad Caverns. Bill and Vangie moved from Carlsbad to a rental in Albuquerque and then to Placitas.

When living in Albuquerque, Vangie completed her art history degree at UNM. Once in Placitas, Vangie found time and inspiration, and began devoting herself to watercolor painting. “When you live out here,” says Vangie, “there are endless things to use as subject matter. Early on... I was painting by all the windows, and there were sunflowers outside. I started painting sunflowers in all postures and positions, and made a mural out of that.” She began concentrating on landscape painting—and having lived her adult life amid our country’s greatest landscapes, there is little question why. Outside of her studio, Vangie became an active community member, volunteering for the Art in the School program at Placitas Elementary, and later joining the board for Placitas Artists Series.

Bill felt right at home in Placitas. As an outdoorsman (who became a top mountaineer), he is more comfortable living outside of the city and values the cultural and natural diversity here. New Mexico ranks third in natural diversity in the US, and since moving here Bill has written on the state’s assorted landscapes and ecosystems. Research and writing continue to enliven Bill, and it’s proving unlikely that he’ll ever actually retire. Says Bill, “I haven’t done it yet, and I’m 84.” His most recent book, New Mexico’s Spanish Livestock Heritage, presents a history of livestock in New Mexico, while his five previous publications focus on plants and their characteristics, evolution, and historical functions. Says Bill, “I don’t call myself a historian—I’m more of a biologist.” Bill and Vangie teamed forces for Bill’s popular book Gardens of New Spain, for which Vangie provided watercolor illustrations. Gardens of New Spain explores the dissemination of plants and food from Spain to Spain’s settlements in the New World, and the significance of the fusion that followed.

As the featured artists of the 33rd Annual Placitas Holiday Fine Arts and Crafts Sale, Bill and Vangie can be found at Site #1, inside Anasazi Fields Winery. Bill’s books and Vangie’s paintings will be on display, together representing New Mexico’s landscape and wildlife both literally and visually. Bill will also be selling his books at the Weems Artfest the weekend before, November 14 through 16, at the Expo New Mexico Fairgrounds. Vangie’s paintings can be viewed and purchased year-round at Arte de Placitas Gallery.

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