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FEATURED ARTISTS:

GENE MC CLAIN

JIM FISH

ARTURO CHAVEZ

ANGEL ROSE

LYNNE KOTTEL

KATHERINE HOWARD

ALVARO ENCISO

BARRY McCORMICK

BARTLEY JOHNSON

KATRINA LASKO

EDWARD GONZALES

GARY ROLLER

SUSAN JORDAN

BIANCA HÄRLE

MARCIA FINKELSTEIN

LYNN HARTENBERGER

DAVID W. CRAMER

MICHAEL PROKOS

LAURA ROBBINS

SUSAN GUTT

EVEY JONES

GARY W. PRIESTER

GENE McCLAIN

DAWN WILSON-ENOCH

LINDA HEATH

MARY CARTER

LISA CHERNOFF
 
JON WILLIAM LOPEZ

SARA LEE D'ALESSANDRO

RUDI KLIMPERT

DIANNA SHOMAKER

BUNNY BOWEN

ED GOODMAN

GARY SANCHEZ

MARILYN AND HERB DILLARD

GERALDINE BRUSSEL

SAMANTHA McCUE ECKERT

SHARON SCHWARTZMANN

JIM FISH

C.E. FRAPPIER

TONY PARANÁ-RODRIGUES

FERNANDO DELGADO

JB BRYAN

LORNA SMITH

KATRINA LASKO

BILL FREEMAN

JULIANNA KIRWIN

LENORE & LARRY GOODELL

RIHA ROTHBERG AND WAYNE MIKOSZ

KATHERINE SLUSHER

 


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Katherine Slusher

Katherine Slusher outside the “Lee Miller: Picasso En Privat” exhibition which she curated, in Barcelona, Spain

Lee Miller (USA, 1907—United Kingdom, 1977) took over a thousand photographs of Picasso during the thirty-six years of their friendship. The Lee Miller: Picasso in Private” exhibition shows a selection of more than one hundred of these pictures and also offers a taste of the production of Lee Miller as documentary and advertising photographer, as well as war correspondent.

Featured artist of the month: Katherine Slusher

From high desert solitude

—KEIKO OHNUMA
Artists attuned to the magical, fantastic, revolutionary aspects of creation—that element of surprise and enchantment—feel an elemental tug to the European Surrealist movement of the 1930s and ‘40s. Growing up in the desert tableau of Placitas, wrapped in the enchantment of her mother’s private world of art, culture, and high fashion, Katherine Slusher found a natural muse in the Surrealist Lee Miller. The 1930s-era photographer, artist, and free spirit who was close to Man Ray and Pablo Picasso has become a natural forebear to the girl from Placitas herself.

Slusher, an independent curator schooled at Barnard College, University of New Mexico, and Syracuse University, just wrapped up a three-month exhibition at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, where she now lives. “Lee Miller: Picasso in Private,” along with Slusher’s 2007 biography, Lee Miller and Roland Penrose: The Green Memories of Desire, are helping to revive interest in a woman whose influence was long overshadowed by her famous contemporaries.

Just like Slusher’s glamorous mother, Elaine—who still teaches painting in Placitas—Lee Miller began her career as a high-fashion model on the cover of Vogue. That’s how she came to meet Man Ray in 1929, who fell instantly and perilously in love, eventually training her in the art of photography.

Lee Miller’s life had multiple phases, as Slusher writes in the catalog to the exhibition. From surrealistic photographs of Paris under the tutelage of Man Ray, to commercial work in New York, where she opened her own studio in the mid-1930s, to haunting photos of the desert in Egypt, where she moved with her first husband, Miller embodies the Surrealist ethos of embracing the irrational, accidental, and unseen, of peering behind the fabric of the ordered world to tease out forces of the subconscious.

Miller lived an adventurous life according to her own principles, embracing her freedom long before it became a cultural norm, Slusher writes. She socialized with the likes of Andre Breton, Max Ernst, and Paul Eluard—a mostly male group known for treating their women “like poodles,” as Jackson Pollock’s girlfriend Lee Krasner remarked of the European Surrealists—but Miller “was no poodle,” Slusher writes.

Miller’s best-known work was as a photojournalist for Vogue in the 1940s, documenting the effects of the war and liberation. But it is as a confidante and portraitist of Picasso that Slusher has brought Miller’s work to public attention. Thousands of photographs taken over thirty-six years testify to the intense triangular relationship between Miller, Picasso, and the British artist Roland Penrose, with whom she had a love affair and marriage that spanned from 1937 until she died in 1977.

It is here that Slusher’s own life meets art, for she “discovered” her subject initially through a chance encounter with Anthony Penrose, the son and biographer of Roland Penrose. Having written his parents’ story as players in the Surrealist movement, Anthony encouraged Katherine to tell the story of his parents’ symbiotic relationship blooming in the strange creative soil made up of Man Ray, Marx Ernst and Leonora Carrington, Paul and Nusch Eluard, Picasso and Dora Maar.

“What is a mystery in most people’s minds is how an American girl from Poughkeepsie ended up on the cover of Vogue representing the quintessential look and style of 1920s New York,” Slusher writes in the biography, “[and] moved on to take her place at the center of the Surrealist effervescence in Europe, then returned to New York City to open her own successful photographic studio, all before she was twenty-five-years old.”

One might ask the same of the girl from Placitas, who, her mother says, went from UNM to Quito, Ecuador, traveled around South America and ended up in Spain. An interview with the artist Jesus Vilallonga for a school paper eventually led to marriage, and Katherine Slusher found herself ensconced in the European art world. After earning a degree in museum studies from Syracuse, she became a curator, and thereby met Anthony Penrose.

Their collaborative relationship as curators and biographers has sparked a four-year (so far) investigation into the lives of Miller, Picasso, and the Surrealists that may yet lead Slusher to author studies of Man Ray and Max Ernst. Chance encounter—that darling instrument of the Surrealists—bore fruit for the adventurous curator raised in desert solitude with a sophisticated sense of style.

Her mother Elaine takes credit for the latter. “Katherine used to thank me for teaching her good taste,” she winks, “so she knew what to buy” on her travels. Waving off her own accomplishments, Elaine Slusher says she enjoys being active with the New Mexico Watercolor Society, painting retablos and teaching painting, and visiting with Katherine, who comes back to her hometown of Placitas once or twice a year.

 

 



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