Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988


Sarah Madigan

Sarah Madigan casts her bronze sculptures at the Adobe Forge and Foundry.

c. Sarah Madigan

The theater of remembrance—bronze, stone, and Hawaiian sea salt

Finding beauty in ‘small deaths’

—Keiko Ohnuma, Signpost

The art is thematically fitting for October: lifeless birds, trees stripped of leaves, boats as a metaphor for passage from one incarnation to another, all fossilized in bronze. The artist, however, is young and full of life—a paradox.

Sarah Madigan doesn’t quite see things as most people do. To her, the dead birds are beautiful, and for the past seven years she has been “taken with them,” ever since she first got the courage to pick up a dead bird by the side of the road and hold it in her hands.

She had had a conversation with her father, a photographer who told her that as a child he had shot an entire roll of film of a dead bird in a gutter, disgusting his parents. His experience resounded with hers.

“I was intrigued by finding beauty in things that are not beautiful,” Madigan explains, adding, “and you know why that was,” referring to two years of personal tragedy that had preceded her return home. “I didn’t feel beautiful. I was a mess. So the process with the birds parallels my own.”

It’s hard to believe, coming from a woman who exudes vibrancy and life, but Sarah Madigan has seen a lot in her three decades. She was attacked in India. Got malaria in Ghana. Married and separated. Lost a child at birth. And now, after seven years back in Albuquerque, she wears along with the easy grace of bohemian youth a sense of timeless compassion.

Her work is not easy to appreciate and not at all easy to make. Metal is a demanding medium, and casting requires days of time-consuming steps. When Madigan says she “spends time with the bodies,” it is not a manner of speech.

To reproduce a bird body in bronze, she first covers it in alginate, the seaweed-based gum used for dental molds. Dental plaster poured inside creates a positive mold of the bird, which is then coated in rubber to create another negative. Wax is poured into the rubber mold to create a positive replica, which is hollow. This is coated, inside and out, with ceramic slurry, which can withstand the heat of melted bronze. The clay is fired, the wax melts out, and the final negative is ready to be poured with bronze.

At each step, the positive replicas have to be cleaned up and the details carved or sandblasted back in place.

“I feel like I take care of them,” Madigan says of the bodies, which she began to notice everywhere. “And I believe that small deaths need to be taken care of, also in ourselves.

“Small things die all the time.”

Each experience in Sarah Madigan’s life seems to have been, at once, a birth and a death. After graduating from high school, she was too restless to start college, so she headed to Latin America to teach English.

In Ecuador, she started making wire jewelry while traveling around the Andes with the artesanos, the craft nomads who ply their wares on the streets of Latin America. That sparked an interest in metal art, which led Madigan to an alternative, experiential degree through the Friends World Program (now Global College) at Long Island University in Brooklyn.

The degree is based on experiential study abroad, which was the only way she could have withstood four years of college, she said. To learn metalworking, she traveled to India and found a sculptor in Tamil Nadu who was willing to take her on as an apprentice.

“I wanted to have that relationship with a teacher—I was attracted to that way of getting to know the material,” she explains. Learning art-making in a traditional culture turned out to be both fascinating and frustrating, bound by rules and relationships handed down from antiquity.

“Here, art is all about personal creativity. In India, the artist is in service to the community,” Madigan explains. “Along with that come specific images and processes steeped in so much tradition.” The apprenticeship was supposed to last eight years, progressing from the least permanent material, clay, through metal, to stone.

But Madigan left after one year. A man who frequented the artist community where she was living attacked her, a harrowing ordeal that sent her home in crisis. After “tons of therapy” and a period of recovery, she headed to Ghana to learn their unique casting techniques—only to end up in the hospital with malaria.

Back in New Mexico in 2002, Madigan began her current period of foundry work, first at Shidoni Foundry in Tesuque, then at Adobe Forge and Foundry in Corrales, which reopened in the North Valley this year after a fire in June 2008.

At Adobe Forge, she trades part-time work in all stages of bronze casting for use of the equipment to make her own art. Four days a week, she teaches art and Spanish at Holy Ghost Catholic School, after earning a degree at UNM in art education.

“People either love it or find it disturbing and sad,” she says of her bronze sculptures, each of which features a casting from a dead bird, which dictates its setting. “I don’t know what to say to those people,” she adds. “It never strikes me as sad. It’s part of life.”

But Madigan feels it’s important to put people in touch with those metaphorical birds in the gutter, and to “re-present” them such that it is safe to approach and maybe see death differently. On a personal level, the birds embody and facilitate her own transformations and passages.

“What they do is make me pay attention,” she says. “And I find that when I do that, the world pays attention to me.”

Finding beauty in mortality—in the particulars of how small birds fall and die, which is inscribed on their bodies like a story—turns out to be the dimension that adds depth to youthful beauty. “There must be a witness to the death of small things,” Madigan writes in her artist statement. “…The ones we ignore. I take care of them and they locate my peace, using death as a compass.”

c. Arturo Chavez

Arturo Chavez wins best of show at Indianapolis Western Art Exhibit

On Saturday, September 12, the Quest for the West annual sale and exhibition opened at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis, Indiana. The juried exhibition included 170 works of art by fifty of the most talented western artists selected from across the United States. Placitas artist Arturo Chavez was awarded the Victor Higgins Award of Distinction “Best of Show” for a 48-by-96-inch painting entitled “New Mexico Warmth.”

One of the judges, Thomas Smith, Director of the Petrie Institute of Western American Art at the Denver Art Museum, noted, “Arturo Chavez’s painting, New Mexico Warmth, was an obvious selection for best of show at the recent Eiteljorg Museum’s annual Quest for the West exhibition and sale. Avoiding the monumental, Chavez chose to depict an intimate moment when the sunlight illuminated orange cliffs during a New Mexico winter. Not only was the work ambitious and superior in technical proficiency but his incorporation of snow in the painting‘s foreground created a large white mass of negative space which was clever as well as a great abstract design.

Arturo Chavez said, “Winning this award is the highlight of my career so far. The Quest for the West exhibition includes artists whose work I have admired for decades and to be singled out in this crowd was definitely a huge honor. I was especially proud that the prize-winning painting showcased how spectacular the ordinary scenery is here in our beautiful state.”

Arturo Chavez, a local artist, lives and paints in Placitas. Mr. Chavez is represented in Santa Fe by the Gerald Peters Gallery. For more information about Arturo Chavez, visit or contact Jennifer Chavez at 238-5333.

Karkowska SistersKarkowska Sisters Duo to perform for Placitas Artists Series

On Sunday, October 4, The Placitas Artists Series will present Anna and Kasha Karkowska, violin and piano duo. Anna plays the violin while Kasha plays the piano. Praised by the press for performing “virtuoso pieces with virtuoso accompaniment” (Union Journal Chicago) and “telling fantastic stories with music that literally takes one‘s breath away” (Fairmont Chamber Music Society), the duo is a nationally and internationally acclaimed ensemble.

The sisters have performed both in North America and Europe, meeting with rave reviews and standing ovations. Their debut at the Carnegie Hall, a tribute to benefit victims of the national tragedy at the World Trade Center on September 11, was an unmitigated success, crowned with long standing ovations and encores. The sisters have been invited to record several programs for Polish National Television and Radio (Written by the Bow, Karkowska Sisters Duo, “Kamerton,” Pegaz); appeared on PolVision in Chicago; on PBS  in Buffalo; and together won many prestigious prizes and awards, including top prizes at the national competitions in Poland, the first prize at the international competition at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado, and at the WGUC International Radio Competition in Cincinnati, OH.

They have performed to great success at some of the most prestigious venues, including Carnegie Hall in New York City; Gusman Center for Performing Arts in Miami, FL; Ford Community and Performing Arts Center in Dearborn, MI; and The Grace Crum Rollins Fine Arts Center in Willamsburg, KY, to mention only a few. They were invited to play for Pope John Paul II’s eightieth birthday in Chicago, and held concerts at the special request of the Governor of Kentucky (Henry’s Clay Award Ceremony), and His Imperial and Royal Highness Prince Henri Constantine Paleologue. They also performed at a special event organized by UNICEF to raise funds for the children of Guatemala in Miami, FL, and the Panasonic Foundation in Colorado Springs, CO.

The Karkowska Sisters Duo is also playing an active role in music education. They have already performed and lectured for over one hundred thousand young listeners in the United States with great success.

The concert is generously sponsored by Alan and BJ Firestone and the Firestone Family Foundation and First Community Bank of Placitas.

Preceding the concert, a reception will be held for October exhibiting visual artists David W. Cramer, Linda Heath, Katherine Irish Henry, and Jean Nevin.

The concert will take place at 3:00 p.m. on October 4, 2009 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; at Ah! Capelli Salon & Color Studio in Enchanted Hills Plaza, Rio Rancho; or online at Prices are $18 for general admission and $15 for seniors and students.

The Placitas Artists Series would like to reconize Dick Hopkins and Lucy Noyes along with La Puerta Reality for their generous sponsorship of our September concert. Thank you.

c. Kate Reightly

"Best in Show" sculpture by Kate Reightly of Corrales

Corrales Historical Society 2009 Fine Arts Show

It’s that magical time of year, made all the more special with the anticipation of the 2009 Fine Arts Show, presented by the Corrales Historical Society’s Visual Arts Council. The Fine Arts Show is held annually during Balloon Fiesta. The show is juried by artists and features original in concept work by New Mexico artists. This is a wonderful event, set in the beauty of the Old San Ysidro Church.

Come meet the artists and get a jump on your holiday shopping with truly unique gift items. This year’s show includes forty-three artists who will be showcasing a wide array of art forms. Included are:

  • Oil paintings
  • Watercolors
  • Pastels
  • Acrylics
  • Cut paper
  • Mixed media
  • Fiber art
  • Pencil drawings
  • Linoleum block print
  • Photography
  • Stoneware pottery
  • Collages
  • Bronze, wood, and clay sculpture
  • Decorative ceramics and more

The Old San Ysidro Church is a work of art in and of itself. Listed on both the state and national register of historic places, the church is a classic example of New Mexico Hispanic village religious architecture from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Corrales Historical Society docents will be available with information and history about this unique building.

For artist information, call Bev Darrow at (505) 301-0042. For Corrales History Society information, contact Debbie Clemente at (505) 899-2772.

Cabassi and Larionova

Davide Cabassi and Tatiana Larionova to perform in Placitas

On Sunday, October 11, The Placitas Artists Series will present the piano duo Davide Cabassi and Tatiana Larionova. 2005 Cliburn Competition finalist Davide Cabassi performs with his wife—brilliant Russian pianist, Tatiana Larionova. They will play together on one concert grand piano. Calbassi and Larionova render absolute magic, whether playing on two pianos, or together on one.

Davide Cabassi made his orchestral debut at the age of thirteen with the RAI Symphony Orchestra in Milan. He has also collaborated with the Munich Philharmonic, the Neue Philharmonie Westfalen, and the Russian Chamber Philharmonic, as well as with several Italian orchestras working with such conductors as Gustav Kuhn, James Conlon, Asher Fisch, and Vladimir Delman, among others. In recital, he has been engaged by most of the prominent musical associations of his native country, including Serate Musicali and Societa dei Concerti in Milan and Festival Pianistico in Brescia and Bergamo.

Cabassi has played concerts in Salzburg’s Mozarteum and the Gasteig in Munich, Rachmaninoff Hall in Moscow, and at the 2006 Association of Performing Arts Managers Conference at Carnegie Hall, and has toured extensively worldwide. After graduating from Milan’s Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory, Cabassi spent several years as one of the few select students at the International Piano Foundation in Cadenabbia, Italy, where he studied with Karl Ulrich Schnabel, Dmitri Bashkirov, Leon Fleisher, Rosalyn Tureck, and William Grant Nabore, among others.

Cabassi has recorded extensively for television and radio broadcasts in Italy. In January 2006, his debut disc for Sony-BMG records, Dancing with the Orchestra, featuring works by Bartok, De Falla, Ravel, and Stravinsky, was released worldwide (the U.S. distributor is Allegro). He was featured prominently in the film documentary about the Twelfth Cliburn Competition, In the Heart of Music, which aired on PBS stations and was distributed throughout Europe via the Arte network.

Born in 1979 in Primorskij Krai, Tatiana Larionova began studying the piano at the age of five. In 1991, she entered the Central Music School in Moscow, where she studied under Professor Yuri Slesarev. After graduating in 1997 with highest rating, Tatiana attended the Moscow State Conservatory where she studied until 2004 under Professor Victor Merzhanov, taking—again with best votes—her doctorate. In 2005, she got a full scholarship from the International Center for Music, Park University, Missouri where she studied with Professor Stanislav Ioudenitch and attended master classes of D. Bashkirov and Fou Ts’ong. Tatiana Larionova is a prize-winner in several international piano competitions, including: “Usti nad Labem” Piano Competition (Czech Republic, 1994); “Stravinskij awards” International Piano Competition (U.S., 1995); International F. Liszt Piano Competition (Poland, 1999); third prize, S. Thalberg International Piano Competition (Italy, 2004); second prize, “Premio Seiler” International Piano Competition (Italy, 2004). Larionova participated in the International Piano Festivals, including “Bodensee Festival” (Germany) and the International European Piano Forum (Berlin, 2001). She has performed recitals and concerts in the most important halls in Europe (Russia, Byelorussia, Germany, Poland, France, Austria, Suisse, and Italy) and in the U.S. In 2001, Larionova performed Mozart Piano Concerto #23 in the Bolshoi Hall of the Moscow Conservatory with the orchestra of the conservatory conducted by A. Kaluzhnyi, with incredible acclaim from the public and critics.

This upcoming concert is a fundraiser performance to benefit the Placitas Artists Series’ outreach program, which provides musical programs to our schools and other community centers. It is not a part of our regular season series, and individual tickets for this concert are priced at $30.

The concert is generously sponsored by Claudia Moraga. It will take place at 3:00 p.m. on October 11, 2009 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; at Ah! Capelli Salon & Color Studio in Enchanted Hills Plaza, Rio Rancho; or online at Prices are $18 for general admission and $15 for seniors and students.

October 2009: El Rinconcito español

A nadie desprecies, por insignificante que te parezca.
Don’t look down on anyone, however insignificant s/he may seem to you.

Más vale bien quedada que mal casada.
It’s better to be well left than badly married.

De noche todos los gatos son negros.
At night all cats are black.

Submitted by, Placitas— Spanish instruction that focuses on oral communication skills.

Call for artists

—Town of Bernalillo

Mayor Patricia A. Chávez introduces the Bernalillo Arts and Crafts Holiday Stroll in conjunction with the Annual Christmas Nighttime Parade at Loretto Park (former Tourism bldg.) on Saturday, December 5, 2009. Interested artists are asked to contact Felicia Rodriquez at 771-7121 to reserve space and obtain fee information.





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