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Tom Baker

Photographer Tom Baker in his Placitas studio

c. Tom Baker

Topanga Canyon #1a, street photography style, by Tom Baker

Tom Baker—in black and white

—Barb Belknap

Photographer Tom Baker colors his world with black and white—his primary choice of palette. He likes what happens when limited to the two shades, to think in terms of shadow, light, and texture, to capture the detail in an isolated object, the stark lighting of an arch, the fullness of a broad landscape. With a bright smile and cool ease, he explained to me his passion: “Black and white don’t actually exist in nature. It’s total fantasy.”

Baker’s past photography training, steeped in West Coast tradition, could have been that of another person’s fantasy. In the 1970s, he studied with a few of the legendary California street photographers out of the Weston/Adams group, like Ansel Adams—photographer and environmentalist best known for his black-and-white photographs of the American West—and Morley Baer, who was dedicated to large format work resulting in images of exquisite detail.

“This was a great experience,” Baker said regarding his training. “To be around ‘the good stuff.’ They provided the foundation for a lot of artists. Just being around these people, you could learn where their art comes from.”

Like Morley Baer, Baker photographs the commonplace, to make the ordinary memorable. In his work, “La Purisima Mission—California,” he captures a room, a loom, a spinning wheel, and its raw materials, but the viewer sees more than that. The quiet stillness of the room with untidy remnants of wool and unfolded blankets speaks loudly of a story untold. In his architectural work, “Taos Pueblo,” weathered adobes are randomly stacked against the mud plaster of an adobe house. A boarded window, a door with painted flowers, and objects left behind tell of someone missing from the scene.

Like Ansel Adams, Baker photographs compelling landscapes. In his aesthetic work, “Navajo Lands,” grey bands of light form a mystical landscape; in the foreground, a significant fallen tree and a building adds the human element often seen in Baker’s work.

He says, “My camera goes with me wherever I go: fishing, hiking, in the car.” Happy to not lug around the heavy photographic tools of yesteryear—the large format cameras and lenses with swings and tilts to correct perspective and depth of field, Baker totes a tripod, digital camera, and polarizing filter. Beyond that, he says his computer provides complete color spectrum filtering capability.

The Placitas Artists Series September, 2010 exhibition features four artists, including Baker. In this show, photographers are permitted to hang their work without the glass overlay usually required by galleries. “This was the first opportunity I’ve had to hang my work this way,” said Baker. “I think hanging without the glazing makes the images richer; you get the full impact of the print.” He sprays the prints with a protective coating to ward off fingerprinting from curious viewers.

Regarding thematic focus in his work, he replied, “I’m interested in everything. My art comes from a lot of places. Focusing on one thing makes me feel like I’m taking away from something else.” Down the road, Baker would like to explore New Mexico, camera in tow, of course, and has a yen to snap portraits of local artists. He says, “I’ve been thinking about that for a while now.”

Though Baker said there was never much time for corporate work in his life, he has done his share as a software designer and builder of airline and financial software programs. Retired from computer-related services for American Express just two years ago, he credits this computer background to a further understanding of digital art and the black-and-white photographic process.

Baker does all of his own printing in his home studio, both color and black-and-white, and prints for other photographers and artists. “It’s something I would like to do more of here in New Mexico,” he said. 

Beyond photography and the computer desk, Baker has played electric guitar in several rock ‘n’ roll bands, performed music for television shows (like Shindig!), worked Hollywood sound stages, and hung out at the beach. New to Placitas in 2009, he said, “If I had my druthers, I’d love to find a band to play old-time surf music.”

One can easily relate Baker’s photography to his musical leaning. After all, rock ‘n’ roll is like the black-and-white of music. It’s minimalist, involving volume and beat, form and texture. “A friend once told me that the good thing about a rock ‘n’ roll song is that it has a good hook—just like a black-and-white photo—that draws you in.

“But,” Baker grinned, “even after all this black-and-white stuff, I’m still a sucker for a pretty flower picture.”

To contact Tom Baker or see some of his photographic images online, go to http://www.placitasarts.org/Visual_Arts/Baker_Tom/TomBaker.shtml.


Sol y Canto for your ears

On Sunday, October 10, 2010, the Placitas Artists Series will present Sol y Canto, featuring Argentine /Puerto Rican singer and bongo player Rosi Amador and New Mexican (Placitas) guitarist and composer Brian Amador. Rosi and Brian have been lucky enough to spend more than two decades composing, arranging, and performing music that moves people inside and out.  Their songs combine poetic lyrics, commitment to social change, and sabor, the “tastiness” of music that draws you into its story or makes you want to get up and dance. With Rosi’s crystalline voice and Brian’s lush Spanish guitar, they have established a reputation for quirky, original compositions addressing life, love, and social justice. Singing of a longing for peace or of taking care of our planet, telling the story of a solitary kiss or the sadness of losing a loved one, or celebrating the Mexican “Day of the Dead” are just some of the compositions that have put them in touch with people who share their concerns and take joy in celebrating Latin culture and what they offer—personal, idiosyncratic lyrics and rhythms that reveal a common, human language. 

Sol y Canto is known for making their music accessible to Spanish and non-Spanish speaking audiences of all ages. Their latest CD, Cada Día un Regalo (Each Day a Gift), combines original compositions with several hand-selected classics from Chile, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Cuba. Released by MusicAmador Productions, it represents a musical breakthrough for the group, featuring eight original compositions by Brian Amador and the tightest ensemble ever put together.

Brian Amador is the musical director, composer, arranger, acoustic guitar, and voice. His guitar style is as mixed as his heritage, combining flamenco, classical, Cuban son, Latin American styles, and jazz. Rosi Amador does lead vocals, bongo, percussion, and is the company director. Of Argentine and Puerto Rican heritage, Rosi was raised by performer parents, who passed their love of Latin American rhythms and musical styles on to her.

The concert is generously sponsored by Claudia Moraga and Comcast.

Preceding the concert, a reception will be held for October exhibiting visual artists Sylvia Ortiz Domney, Jerry Goffe, Dale Harris, and Judith Roderick.

The concert will take place at 3:00 p.m. on October 10 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 show or may be purchased in advance at La Bonne Vie Salon, Ah! Capelli Salon & Color Studio or online at www.placitasarts.org. Prices are $20 for general admission and $18 for seniors and students.


Time

Amy Schmierbach’s "Melt" — Made out of biodegradable soap. TIME was photographed by award winning, Santa Fe based photographer, Julien McRoberts who is renown for her stunning imagery of the Southwest.

Art created for TIME

Attempting to write a history of TIME is, of course, as daunting a challenge as the play on words may convey, bearing with it no knowledge of what exactly the future will bring. We can, however, determine what it is that TIME intends to manifest, and describe the desired effects of this state-driven art project, as envisioned under the directorship of art consultant Eileen Braziel.

TIME is an acronym, and a well-chosen one at that, that stands for “Temporary Installations Made for the Environment.” Funded by New Mexico One Percent for the Arts act, the Art in Public Places program oversees TIME and hopes to fund it through out its projected projects. TIME has been part of New Mexico’s AIPP program since 2005, and has presented art in Socorro, Silver City, Taos, Carlsbad, Las Cruces, the Pueblo of Pojoaque, and Los Ranchos thus far. This year, TIME’s theme is, aptly, “Green Technologies/Innovative Ideas or Materials.” In August of 2010, Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino in Pojoaque opened a related exhibition with special guest speaker Jennifer Hobson, Deputy Secretary of Tourism and Director of Ecotourism for the state. Artworks included dramatic and highly graphical wall drawings of mud by Rose B. Simpson; a tipi constructed and painted by Cavan Gonzales; an incredible land-art rendering by Chrissie Orr of all-natural materials, including molasses, that created a setting a performance for Rulan Tangen’s Dancing Earth troupe; Amy Schmierbach’s ethereal colored globes made of glass and soap that spread across the Resort’s grounds like budding succulents in an arid land. The possibilities for beauty in TIME are as rich as the land in which its art projects appear: mythical, stunning, and enduring.

TIME’s artists’ resulting works promise something outside the typical didacticism of traditional art. Their works may float, fly, bloom and die; they will certainly be part of the earth in which they are located, and it is assured that they will provoke interaction and generate experiential relationships with their public.

The exhibit continues until end of October, 2010.


seed pots

Casa Rosa offers unique seed pots for fall fundraiser

— Betsy Model, for Casa Rosa Food Bank

Their name — seed pots — has been known to raise more than a few eyebrows. For seasoned pottery collectors, the term "seed pot" makes perfect sense in terms of both the pottery size, style and original purpose. For the rest of us, maybe not so much.

The source of all food that doesn't walk or swim, plant seeds have been prized as not only a means of sustenance but as a trade or currency form for tens of thousands of years.

In honor of both what a simple seed means — sustenance, food independence and the continuation of a tradition that benefits not only the current generation but those that follow — the Placitas-based Casa Rosa Food Bank chose to offer hand-made, hand-painted seed pots as part of their 2nd Anniversary fall fundraising drive.

Designed to hold small seeds, the pots are typically sized around 2" in width and 1" to 2" in height. Their small opening allows for a few ounces of seed to be placed inside and, once the pot's opening has been closed off with a daub of mud, a stone or even a large kernel of corn, the seed is then kept secure, cool and dark until the next harvest season.

Created by artisans in Mata Ortiz —a village community located near the archeological ruins of Casas Grandes — each pot is entirely unique in size, final shape, color and design. The clays used to create the pots are found in natural sediment beds near Casas Grandes and most of the paints are created using dyes and minerals found in the same region and collected by the artists for the creation of the pots. Once the pot is formed and painted, the pots are fired using the traditional fuel sources of cow dung, piñon and cottonwood.

Popular with contemporary pottery collectors and often priced at $35, $45 and higher in galleries, Casa Rosa is offering seed pots in a wonderful assortment of designs and paint colors for $20 each or two for $35.

Besides having served a very practical purpose within a family or a tribe as it came time to both harvest seed in the fall and to plant again in the spring, seed pots were also used as currency with other tribes and with settlers and travelers. The diminutive pots were also sometimes created and gifted for the birth of a child so that the new addition to the community had both "wealth" coming into the world but also a contribution to the community's well-being with the next planting season.

Individually gift boxed and accompanied by information on their cultural significance, the seed pots make wonderfully unique and thoughtful ready-to-go thank you or holiday gifts for clients, family members and aficionados of southwest art.

The purchase of each pot provides Casa Rosa with enough profit to secure food for those in need within the community. The pots will be available for sale through a variety of Placitas venues in the months preceding the winter holidays.

For more information or to place large orders, please contact Betsy Model at bmodel@betsymodel.com.


c. Dale Harris

Artwork by Dale Harris

c. Sylvia Ortiz Domney

A portion of 2 Black Cats by Sylvia Ortiz Domney

Honorable art: A visual treat

On Sunday, October 10, 2010, the Placitas Artists Series will present the art of Sylvia Ortiz Domney, Jerry Goffe, Dale Harris, and Judith Roderick with a reception at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church. The works will be on display from the first Saturday of October through the first Friday of November.

Sylvia Ortiz Domney is a dancer turned artist. Primarily a self-taught artist, Ortiz Domney works in pastels, ceramic, mixed media, and digital art. She has been awarded prizes for her work in pastels, ceramic sculpture, and digital art. Her latest awards were “Best of Show” at the Hispanic Fine Art Exhibition of EXPO New Mexico in 2009, where she also won “First Place” in pastel painting and sculpture. Ortiz Domney is originally from Los Angeles and has worked for the design firm of Charles and Ray Eames. She also worked in the film industry in the “early days” of computer graphics. Ortiz Domney has made Albuquerque her home for over 20 years.

Photography has been Jerry Goffe’s professional career and personal passion for over 35 years. Goffe has been an expert in the technically demanding specialization of legal evidence documentation. Now, his passion for nature and wildlife is expressed through photography. He is a volunteer, guide, photography instructor, and contributor to the newsletter at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. His images reveal a wide variety of birds, animals, and scenic grandeur under the clear New Mexico skies, as well as throughout North America. He takes great joy in sharing the beauty and splendor of wildlife and nature through his photographs and workshops.

Dale Harris has made New Mexico her home since 1993, after Hurricane Andrew blew her and her husband Scott Sharot out of south Florida. They settled in the Mountainair area where they opened the popular Hummingbird Café and were founding members of Cibola Arts Gallery and the Manzano Mountain Arts Council before moving to Old Town. Her other art interests include pottery and book making, and she is the current president of the LIBROS Book Arts Guild. In 2009, she began working with other artists at Geraldine Brussel’s One Crow Studio in Bernalillo to explore combining Japanese woodcut prints and poetry, a project that will culminate in a series of handmade books in early 2011.

Judith Roderick attended Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as a painting and design major and graduated from University of Michigan in design. She moved to Alamogordo, New Mexico, in the mid ‘60s with her spouse, where she oil painted until pregnancy and then worked as a batik artist while raising children and moving around the country. Returning to New Mexico in the mid ‘70s, the Wearable Art Movement was just beginning, so she started creating clothing-as-art, first in batik and later in silk painting. She was an award-winning fiber artist who exhibited far and wide, in many local and national shows, fairs, and galleries. She owned Village Wools for a 10-year period and taught a multitude of people to silk paint from there, from her studios, and from Ghost Ranch in northern New Mexico. Moving to Placitas in 1998, she tapered out of the art scene, closed her studio in town in 2002, and has semi-retired into a slower, more meditative life.

A reception for the artists will be held at 2:00 p.m. on October 10, 2010, prior to a concert by Sol y Canto. Tickets for the concert will be available at the door one hour before the show 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, Rio Rancho, or online at www.placitasarts.org. Prices are $20 for general admission and $18 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. Las Placitas Presbyterian Church is located six miles east of I-25 on NM 165 (Exit 242). The facility is completely accessible.

For more information, call (505) 867-8080, or visit www.placitasarts.org.

 

     

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