Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988


Joan Hellquist

Joan Hellquist in her Placitas art studio Photo credit: Oli Robbins

c. Joan Hellquist

Fisher Towers, painting, by Joan Hellquist

To the beat of her own drum: the life and art of Joan Hellquist

—Oli Robbins

Many painters excel at depicting what surrounds them—familiar figures and landscapes become stock subjects. But it’s wise to remember the adage, “paint what you know and not what you see.” The subject’s significance to the artist is often more important than the artist’s ability to render nature mimetically. Placitas painter Joan Hellquist has been creating art for as long as she can remember and, in addition to her excellence at realism, it is the intimate relationship she holds with her subject matter that makes her work enchanting.

When Hellquist was as young as four, she began drawing. “My first true recollection was driving in my grandfather’s car. He had the most distinctive wrinkles on the back of his neck, and I can remember drawing the back of his head.” From Summit, NJ, Hellquist studied art through grade school and high school. Says Hellquist, “I would stay home and paint when others went out on weekends.” In college, majoring in art at the University of New Hampshire, she was introduced to pastels—rarely taught at the University—by her college professor, a father figure to Hellquist who landed her her first commission.

Several years after college, Hellquest went back to school for respiratory therapy. She then found herself in Durham, NC, working as a respiratory therapist at Duke—from where she later received a physician’s assistant degree. After working in NC for six years, she moved to NM. Hellquist had been visiting and admiring NM for many years—she has a cousin who lived in Nambe. Says Hellquist, “Every time I was here, I loved it more and more.” At Hellquist’s request, a realtor showed her land in Placitas, which she was drawn to after inspecting a map of Albuquerque’s surrounding areas. Like most artists who transplant themselves in NM, Hellquist was invigorated by the landscape. She recalls feeling so excited by, and at peace in, Placitas. She wondered if she would ever tire of it. She has since realized: “This is where I’m going to be for the rest of my life.”

Her job at Lovelace demanded that she work 12-hour shifts, but only three days per week. With all the extra time on her hands, she explored her new state. “I started doing backpacking and river trips, and went to places in nature you couldn’t get to easily.” Envisioning many of these remote areas, Hellquist muses, “The majesty of it—it’s like going into a cathedral, and yet, it’s nature.” Such trips inspired Hellquist to return to painting, but she didn’t want to produce nondescript landscape scenes. First and foremost, her paintings are of subjects that “mean something to me.” They are often based on photographs she’s taken during her travels, and allow her to re-experience her initial reaction to a location. Says Hellquist: “I can just feel the place—whether it was dusty and dry or moist...I could smell it, like I was there.”

Hellquist is now well known for her animal portraits on drums. She fell into this niche after retiring from health care in 2000. Says Hellquist: “There were too many pastel landscape artists in the area. I wanted to do something that set me apart.” Using a drum as a painting surface felt right to Hellquist, who has been a drummer since childhood. Further augmenting her interest in painting on drums is her connection to Native American traditions. “My mother had always said that there was an Indian woman in our history, which I thought was really cool.” In 1999, Hellquist was adopted by a Cherokee family in Albuquerque, and her identification with Native American culture began to intensify. She has even completed a vision quest, for which she fasted for 85 hours. Says Hellquist, “By the fourth day, with nothing to eat, you get really weirded out. I could meditate at the drop of a hat, and I wanted to figure out who my animals were.” On the last day of her quest, while lying under a tree, escaping the May heat, her spirit animals made themselves known. She experienced a vision of a female bald eagle, who told her that the wolf is her teacher, the raven her entertainer, and the bear her protector and guide.

Those four animals feature prominently in Hellquist’s oeuvre, and when she paints them on Indian-made drums, it is because the drum itself somehow conveys qualities of the animal. The drums and the animals are indelibly connected. Says Hellquist, “I choose a drum specifically for a certain animal, depending on the design of the drum... when I paint a certain animal, I get into what that animal represents and feel it is my job to ‘bring it out of the drum.’” She intends for viewers to sense the animal’s spirit upon seeing and playing the drum.

Hellquist’s own photographs inform her paintings, but can also be regarded as works of art in their own right. In April, they will be displayed alongside her paintings at the Placitas Community Library. Hellquist also shows her work at the Placitas Holiday Sale and at the Gathering of Nations. You can view and purchase Hellquist’s drums, and contact the artist by visiting

c. Tom Kennedy

Las Huertas Window, photograph, by Tom Kennedy

“Picture Placitas” picks a winner

The winning picture of the Picture Placitas 2013 ‘favorite image contest’ is entitled “Las Huertas Window,” by Tom Kennedy. This glorious photograph adorns the cover of the first Placitas Community Library calendar. This 16-month calendar—September 2013 through December 2014 includes photos, poems, collages, pastels, and paintings that create a kaleidoscope of mountains, sunsets, wildlife, and history inspired by the Placitas environment. The calendars are available now at the Placitas Community Library for $12 dollars. All proceeds benefit the Library.

New Mexico Literary Association announces their Fifth Annual Gratitude Awards Reading

New Mexico Literary Association (NMLA) is pleased to announce its Fifth Annual Gratitude Awards Reading for 2013 featuring awardees Larry Goodell (individual) and Mitch Rayes of The Projects (organization). The reading will be held on October 10, at 6:00 p.m., at Collected Works Bookstore (202 Galisteo Street, Santa Fe).

The Gratitude Awards were initiated to honor people who have advanced the art of poetry in New Mexico, either as poets, organizers, or activists. The Gratitude Awards offer a cash award of five hundred dollars, along with a hand-crafted plaque. Recipients are selected according to merit by the NMLA board of directors. This award has no application process: its out-of-the-blue intent is to celebrate poets (and supporting organizations) who give generously to their communities, often without monetary compensation, at the grassiest of grass roots level. “Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow—just as poetry strives to,” says Joan Logghe, NMLA President and former Poet Laureate of Santa Fe.

The award recipients will read from their work followed by a reading of a linked poem, “Connected Works,” written by Joan Logghe, Michelle Holland, Anne Valley-Fox, JB Bryan, Don McIver, Elizabeth Raby, Edie Tsong, and Shebana Coelho.

The event is free and everyone is welcome. Donations towards the sixth annual Gratitude Award will be gratefully accepted. For more information about the awardees or NMLA, contact Joan Logghe at or 753-3174.

c. Linda Heath

Ladder To The Cosmos, painting, by Linda Heath

Linda Heath named PCL artist

Linda L. Heath was trained as a mathematician (BA) and sociologist (MA), specializing in computerized forecasting. She spent 25 years in the information technology industry, working as a forecaster, programmer/analyst, and project manager. As a hobby, she returned again and again to oil painting and now, as an early retiree, she is focusing her passion on spending the rest of her life immersed in the world of art. Heath’s classical art training was obtained at the San Francisco Academy of Art. She continues to refine her skills in workshops with contemporary masters and displays her work in various local and national juried art shows as well as select galleries.

Having grown up in New Mexico, she retains a fascination of the blending of ancient cultures here. The future has always beckoned brightly to her through images from NASA’s space telescopes. Now, with the next chapter of private space exploration developing rapidly, Heath has been inspired to create a new type of art called “Fusionism” or “Fusionist Art.” Fusionism is a new art movement that blurs the lines between different cultures, fuses old and new painting media, and mixes human versus robotic-generated work. It is a perfect blend of her technical skills with ancient techniques and ideas. Her first series, Ancient Spirits I, uses NASA’s Hubble digital photographs on canvas fused with oil and acrylic paints to reflect her timeless perspective.

Her public reception is on October 18, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m., at the Placitas Community Library.

Call for artists: Placitas Artist Series competition

The Placitas Artists Series (PAS) is sponsoring a competition for a new visual arts image each year, beginning with the 2014-15 season. The winning image will be used as the website banner, as well as on the ticket brochure and the program book.

PAS has been delighting concertgoers with stunning visual arts exhibits during its 26-year history. It is now expanding beyond the juried visual art exhibits and is adding an annual competition for NM artists only. The following criteria apply:

  • The artist must be a New Mexico resident.
  • The artwork must evoke Placitas in some relatable way.
  • Artwork must include a statement about how it evokes Placitas and the inspiration or process that led to its creation.
  • The artwork and statement must be submitted digitally by October 31, 2013.

For more information on requirements and submission details go to and look on the left sidebar for the “Call for Artists” link.

Pianist Jon Nakamatsu

Placitas Artist Series presents Nakamatsu

On Sunday, October 6, the Placitas Artists Series will present Jon Nakamatsu on the piano.

Nakamatsu won the 1997 Van Cliburn Gold Medal triumph. He has been soloist with many leading orchestras worldwide. In February of 2010, he was the featured soloist for the highly acclaimed American tour of the Berlin-based Philharmonie der Nationen. The program will include: Schubert- Two Impromptus from Op 90; Chopin-Sonata #3 in B minor, Op. 58, and Schumann’s Carnaval, Op. 9.

The concert will take place at 3:00 p.m. on October 6 at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church. Tickets for the concert will be available at the door, one hour before the concert, or may be purchased in advance ($20/$15). For further details see: or call 867-8080. The concert is generously sponsored by Vicki Gottlieb and by Shirley and Bob Ericson

Preceding the concert, at the church, at 2:00 p.m., a reception will be held for October exhibiting visual artists Debby Brinkerhoff, Katherine Irish Henry, and Preston Photography.

Their works will be on display from September 28 until November 1.

Debby Brinkerhoff enjoys the ability of watercolors to bring bright transparent color to the paper. Katherine Irish Henry is a signature member of the Pastel Society of New Mexico. Preston Photography is the combined work of Roger Preston and Roxanne Bebee Blatz who provide beautiful, interesting photographs in both commercial and artistic venues. These artists works may also be previewed by visiting

Las Placitas Presbyterian Church is located six miles east of I-25 on NM 165 (Exit 242.) For more information call 867-8080 or visit

Old San Ysidro Church

Corrales Historical Society’s Old Church Fine Arts Show coming up

Corrales Historical Society’s Visual Arts Council is pleased to present its Twenty-fifth Old Church Fine Arts Show beginning October 4 with an opening reception from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. This year’s show features 39 juried artists who will showcase a wide array of art forms including pastel, acrylic, wood sculpture, mosaic, photography, oil, paper, digital painting, colored pencil, mixed watercolor, pigment print, and hand-built clay. Jurors for the show are David Moss, oil (2012 People’s Choice Winner); Tom Spross, photography, and Roger Evans, sculpture.

The Old Church Fine Arts Show is held at the Old San Ysidro Church located at 966 Old Church Road across from Casa San Ysidro. The show is open on October 5 through October 12 from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily. On October 13, the show is open 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. All works are available for sale. There is no admission charge.

Local authors Anne Hays Egan and J.P. Hudson hold book signings in October

—Lara Harrison

Under Charlie’s Covers Fine Used Bookstore will host book signings by two local authors in October. On October 5, from 11:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m., Placitas author Anne Hays Egan will be selling and signing her just-released memoir, Moving Mama: Taking Care of Mother During Her Final Years with Alzheimer’s. Moving Mama is a practical resource for people caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. The book tells about Egan’s family’s experiences caring for their mother as she struggled with dementia. Each chapter includes stories focused on a theme, and ends with tips, tools, and resources to help you deal with similar issues. It is written with a light touch and a wry sense of humor.

On October 14, Rio Rancho author J. P. Hudson will selling and signing his latest mystery, Help Find Me from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. Hudson is the author of four additional mysteries: A Senior’s Moment: a Balloon Murder in New Mexico; The Balloon Eye: Murder on the High Desert; Kidnapper’s Moon; and Warm-Up Kills: My Name Is Max. He will be selling and signing all of his books for discounted prices. Visit for more information.

Under Charlie’s Covers is located at 120 E. Highway 550, next to Walgreens, in Bernalillo.

Top of Page

Ad Rates  Back Issues  Contact Us  Front Page  Up Front  Animal News   Around Town  Sandoval Arts   Business Classifieds  Calendar   Community Bits  Community Center  Eco-Beat  Featured Artist  Gauntlet Health  Community Links  Night Sky  My Wife and Times  Public Safety  Real  People  Stereogram  Time Off  Youth