Sandoval Signpost
An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988

Joe Sando

Joe Sando

Jemez author Joe Sando remembered fondly

—New Mexico Book News

It is with great sadness that we share the news of the passing of Joe Sando, one of New Mexico’s giants in the field of history. Joe received the Friends of New Mexico Authors Award in the 2009 New Mexico Book Awards.

Joe Sando was a member of the Jemez Pueblo and became the first Pueblo member to chronicle Pueblo life as a historian and writer. His publisher and friend, Marcia Keegan of Clear Light Publishers, said the 88 year-old died Tuesday of natural causes at an assisted living center in Albuquerque.

Born in 1923, Sando grew up on the Jemez Pueblo before joining the U.S. Navy during World War II. After studying at Eastern New Mexico University, and Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, he taught Pueblo Indian history.

He later served as the director of the Institute of Pueblo Study and Research at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque.

Among his books are “Pueblo Nations: Eight Centuries of Pueblo Indian History” and “Nee Hemish: A History of Jemez Pueblo.”

Kaplan Weiss Piano Duo featured in Placitas

On Sunday, October 16, at 3:00 p.m. the Placitas Artists Series will present the second concert of its Silver Anniversary Season featuring the Kaplan and Weiss Duo composed of Mark Kaplan, violinist and Yael Weiss, pianist, at the Las Placitas Presbyterian Church. The program could include: Franz Schubert’s “Sonata in A Major for Piano and Violin D 574,” Maurice Ravel’s “Sonata for Violin and Piano in G Major,” Ludwig von Beethoven’s “Piano Sonata in G Minor, Op. 49, No. 1: and Beethoven’s “Sonata for Piano and Violin in A. Major, Op. 47 ‘Kreutzer’.”

Mark Kaplan has established himself as one of the leading violinists of his generation. He has performed with nearly every major American orchestra and collaborated with many of the world’s foremost conductors. Since 2005, he has served as Professor of Violin at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music. He is a graduate of Juilliard School, and the recipient of the Fritz Kreisler Memorial Scholarship. He plays a violin made by Antonio Stradivari in 1685 known as the Marquis.

Yael Weiss is hailed by many of today’s greatest musicians and critics for visionary interpretations of surpassing depth, immediacy, and communicative power. She has been honored with distinguished prizes from the 2002 Naumburg International Piano Competition and the Kosciusko Foundation Chopin Piano Competition and has received the Presser Award from the America-Israel Cultural Foundation.  

The concert is sponsored by Susie and Jack Heide.

Preceding the concert, a reception will be held at 2:00 p.m. for October’s exhibiting visual artists Lisa Chernoff, Ming Franz, Jo Schuman, and Natalie Searl.  

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 and Color Studio in Enchanted Hills Plaza, Rio Rancho or on-line at Prices are $20 in advance. At the door, prices are general admission $20 or $15 for 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). For information call 867-8080 or visit  

Day of the Dead altar  

From October 15 through November 2, there will be a Day of the Dead Altar in the foyer at the Gathering of Artists, located in a beautiful historic adobe home right next to Old San Isidro Church, 966 Old Church Road in Corrales. All are invited to honor their loved ones by placing mementos there. Day of the Dead is November 2, and the public is welcome to bring food, eat, and celebrate. In the evening of November 1, after dark, the Gathering Artists will have a special ceremony. Again, all are welcome to participate by bringing food and drinks that their loved ones enjoyed, and share the moment in a reverent way. On October 15, there will be an art opening reception, featuring paintings by Jade Leyva and photography by Jim Holbrook. The show runs through November 2.

Signpost featured artist: Michael Prokos

Michael Prokos in his Placitas studio

Wood-fired kiln in Tres Piedras, New Mexico

Orange Bottle, wood-fired kiln ceramic vessel
Tea Bowl, wood-fired kiln ceramic vessel

Playing with wood fire: The timeless ceramics of Michael Prokos

—Ola Robbins

For centuries, artists have valued the beauty that exists in nature. Following the Renaissance, a work of art was judged largely on the extent to which it represented nature faithfully. But there is a difference between using nature as a guide, even reproducing its grandeur in two or three-dimensional form, and harnessing nature’s most powerful elements to create art—as is the case in wood-fired ceramics.  

Placitas artist Michael Prokos was among the first artists to experiment in wood firing in our state, and the organic and sometimes rough appearance of his works bare the very process by which they were made. For 1,000 years, the Japanese have appreciated the natural, sometimes elemental, beauty that wood-firing enables. Such an aesthetic took centuries to catch on in America but is enjoying a Renaissance in New Mexico, where there are currently at least ten wood-fire kilns, all of which have emerged in the last twelve years.  

Prokos helped build New Mexico’s first wood-fire kiln—modeled after a Japanese Anagama kiln—in Madrid in 1999, when there were only about a dozen wood-fire kilns in the country.  

Wood-firing—the oldest firing method—necessitates community, as the process can take up to ten days, during which time, the kiln must be stoked every few minutes. As one person can’t possibly tend to a kiln every few minutes, day in and day out, a group of artists must band together. The finished products are the creations of individual artists, but their existence is predicated on a partnership between various artists working toward a common goal.  

During a several-day firing, the kiln will slowly reach the desired temperature of about 2,350 degrees. While this temperature could be achieved in about a day, a slow-rising temperature ensures that the wood ash thoroughly coats the ware. To explain wood-firing, Prokos has developed a helpful analogy: “I think of it as a river, the pots are stones, the fire and the ash are the water flowing through.”  

Glazing has become synonymous with ceramics, but the glazing that occurs during a wood firing entails much more than painting a clay piece and placing it in a kiln. The ash that moves through the kiln as you stoke the front is called “fly ash,” and it bonds to the silica in the clay to create a natural, oftentimes textural, glaze. Prokos stacks the kiln according to the firing effects he wishes to achieve; sometimes he positions his pieces so that one protects another from the ash, or strategically places rice stalks and sea shells on a clay body for a sought-after effect. Small, high alumina clay pieces that are resistant to the wood ash support each clay piece to ensure that every object within the kiln doesn’t fuse.  

Although Prokos enjoys seeing the “happy accidents” that take place during the course of a firing, he has a good idea of what a piece is going to look like before examining the final product. Over the years, Prokos has done about thirty wood firings and has become familiar with the interactions between particular types of wood and types of clay bodies, the amount of reduction and oxidation in the kiln, and the chemistry of both the clay bodies and the wood ash. Even with all this knowledge, though, Prokos maintains that you “have to release control. Let the kiln do its work.”

Sculptural and often utilitarian, Prokos’s work complicates and blurs all traditional distinctions between fine art and crafts. His tea bowls, for example, are functional objects inspired by those traditionally used in tea ceremonies. In Japan, such bowls are highly revered art forms. If one views these tea bowls in light of their context, their spiritual function can not be separated from their aesthetic, and they become objects with visual, historical, and practical value—objects that defy being branded as either craft or fine art.  

The tea bowls offer an obvious connection to the Zen tradition, but much of Prokos’s work is in fact rooted in a sort of Zen mentality. Prokos says, “Part of the aesthetic in wood firing is not having full control over the results, the Zen idea of letting things be how they are. Set up some things and hope that you get what you’re looking for. Release a bit of your desire.”  

There is a powerful beauty conveyed through Prokos’s style and medium, as if the moments endured during the many days spent inside the fiery, ash-filled kiln—the ash bonding itself to the clay, spreading itself slowly but surely along the curves of the clay body—are worn permanently by the finished piece. The piece itself and the centuries-old process it underwent are indelibly connected. Some pieces emerge from the kiln looking quite polished, even controlled. But others, Prokos explains, “actually can have a certain type of abstract beauty that’s hard for me to describe.” Indeed, Prokos’s own aesthetic instincts and intentions, coupled with the vital forces at play in a wood firing, endow his works with a coarse, almost primordial quality.  

Michael works full-time as a ceramist and is a thirteen-year resident of Placitas. His work was recently published in the book 500 Raku: Bold Explorations of a Dynamic Ceramics Technique. It is carried in national and international collections and can be viewed at the Weyrich Gallery ( and the Chicago Art Source ( You can also visit

c. Adriana Scassellati

Adriana Scassellati to exhibit her artwork

Adriana Scassellati retired in Placitas with her husband in 1997. Her introduction to pastels came when Scassellati joined Deborah Secor’s class and then continued her work in pastels as a student of art professor, Sue Buck. She has also completed workshops with Doug Dawson, Frank Frederico, and Susan Ogilvie. Her love of the beautiful sunsets and landscapes in the Southwest are her inspiration.  

Scasselli said, “As an avid hiker, I love seeing the natural, vibrant colors in the Land of Enchantment that have enabled me to express myself in my paintings. This has opened up a whole new avenue for me, and an appreciation of the arts that I had not known before.”

Scassellati is well known in this area, having exhibited in the Placitas Artist Series, and the New Mexico State Fair. She has also opened her studio and shown her work for the past six years and will be showing again in the 2012 Placitas Studio Tour, Mothers Day Weekend.

Join Adriana at her artist’s reception, Saturday, October 8 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the Placitas Community Library.

c. Laura Robbins

Dragonfly mosaic mural in BioPark’s BUGarium, by Laura Robbins

Robbins installs Dragonfly Mosaic Mural at BioPark

Artist Laura Robbins of Placitas installed her imaginative Dragonfly Mosaic Mural at the Botanic Garden in August. This work is a highlight for the new Dragonfly Pond that opened on September 2 and is designed to attract and nurture these insects. It represents the first dragonfly sanctuary in the United States.

The installation will help raise funds for the Bio Park’s BUGarium, an exhibit that will immerse visitors into the world of insects and arachnids. Robbins seven-foot by 10-foot mural features dragonflies, ladybugs, grasshoppers, spiders, flowers and more from a dragonfly’s view. The mosaic is situated in a quiet, shaded area with banco seating perfect for observing nature.  

Robbins said, “The panel highlights an experience of the world from a dragonfly perspective.” The design includes engravings of donors’ names on fused green glass ribbons that will be placed next to mosaic flowers, leaves and cactus pads. To learn more about donating, call the New Mexico Bio Park Society at 764-6291.

The Bio Park is an accessible facility and a division of the Cultural Services Department of the City of Albuquerque. For further information, visit or call 768-2000.

Old Church Fine Arts Show returns

The 23rd Old Church Fine Arts Show, presented by the Corrales Historical Society’s Visual Arts Council, begins. Set in the beauty of the Old San Ysidro Church, located at 966 Old Church Road, across from Casa San Ysidro, the show opens with a reception on September 30 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. and continues daily, October 1 through 8, from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and October 11, from 11 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. This year’s show features 42 juried artists who will showcase a wide array of art forms.

Jurors are Ray Shal, Bill Tondreau and Karen Urbielewicz. 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 off New Mexico Hispanic village religious architecture from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Artists featured in Placitas Artists Series show

On October 16, the Placitas Artists Series, celebrating its Silver Anniversary Season, will present the art of Lisa Chernoff, Ming Franz, Jo Schuman and Natalie Searl at a reception at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church. Their work will be on display from October 1 through October 29.

Lisa Chernoff is a native New Mexico, living in Placitas. Lisa’s latest work explores the three dimensional and textural aspect of her medium of fusing found, scrap glass with clay firings. The brilliant color within each piece is called dichroci glass, which Chernoff says is exciting to work with because it presents such versatility in design.

Ming Franz specializes in watercolor and slashed ink painting, which combines watercolor techniques with Chinese brush.  

Jo Schuman finds New Mexico as the source of her inspiration. She is a Signature Member of the New Mexico Watercolor society and an Associate member off the Society of Layerists in Multi-Media.

Natalie Searl’s passion for photography began when her parents, both avid photographers, gave her a Brownie box camera in the 1940s.  

A reception for the artists will be held at 2:00 p.m. on October 16 prior to a concert by Mark Kaplan on violin and Yael Weiss on piano. Tickets will be available at the door one hour before the concert or may be purchase in advance at La Bonne Vie Salon and Day Spa in Homestead Village Shopping Center in Placitas, Ah! Capelli Salon and Color Studio in Enchanted Hills Plaza, Rio Rancho or on-line at Prices are $20 in advance. At the door, general admission is $20 but $15 for students.

Las Placitas Presbyterian Church is located six miles east of I-25 on NM 16 (exit 242.) For information visit


Poet Howard McCord

Duende Poetry Series of Placitas ends season

—Signpost Staff  

The final 2011 reading, sponsored by the Duende Poetry Series of Placitas, will be held on Sunday, October 30 at 3:00 p.m. at the Anasazi Fields Winery in Placitas. This reading will feature Howard McCord, one of the nation’s most noted poets, who will read along with the three Duende Series directors: Larry Goodell, Jim Fish, and Gary L. Brower.  

Howard McCord is no stranger to New Mexico, having hiked the surrounding mountains and deserts of this state when he was growing up in El Paso. He graduated from the University of Texas, received an MA degree from the University of Utah and began writing poetry in the 1950s. He is also an essayist and novelist. From 1971 to 2000, when he became Professor Emeritus, he taught at Bowling Green State University (Bowling Green, Ohio) and directed the Creative Writing program there for many years. Among his students are Carolyn Forche and Santa Fe poet Donald Levering, now both established poets. He has also taught at Washington State University, as a visiting professor at Dine College in Tsaile Lake, California State University at Northridge, and the University of Alaska, Juneau. He was the recipient of two Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Fulbright Award to India, a D.H. Lawrence Fellowship from the University of New Mexico, Golden Nugget Award from the University of Texas at El Paso, a National Woodrow Wilson Fellowship and two awards from the Ohio Arts Council. McCord has published some 54 books and chapbooks of mostly poetry, but also including a prize-winning novel, The Man who Walked to the Moon (1997, Nancy Dasher Award) and a renowned books of essays, Walking to Extremes (2008), which chronicles, among the four essays, his 90-mile walk across the Jornada del Muerto desert in New Mexico (he has been an outdoorsman, hiker and rock climber for more than sixty years). McCord’s collected poetic works, simply called The Poems was issued in 2002 (439 pages), and another book of poems in 2007, Swamp Songs and Tales. His poems have also appeared in innumerable journals and magazines.

The Duende Poetry Series of Placitas, which will be in its eighth year in 2012, sponsors four readings a year (March, June, September, and one floating date). The next reading will be in March, 2012.

For all Duende readings, wine, free snacks, and nonalcoholic drinks are available to the audience. The event is free, though we encourage donations for the poets. For more information about the event, contact Jim Fish at the winery at or (505) 867-3062.

To reach the winery, turn onto Camino de los Pueblitos from Highway 165 in the old village of Placitas, across from the Presbyterian Church. Drive past two stop signs and then turn left into the winery parking lot. From outside Placitas, take I-25 to Exit 242, drive six miles to Placitas and follow Camino de los Pueblitos through two stop signs to the winery.





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