This painting of a tree in Corrales won second place at the New Mexico Watercolor Society's Fall 2008 exhibition.
Artist Johnny Mullins at home in Corrales. Southwest landscapes are Mullins' favorite subjects.
Wine Festival poster winner brings lifetime of art to bear
—Keiko Ohnuma, Signpost
Corrales artist Johnny Mullins was surprised indeed to win the poster contest for the New Mexico Wine Festival at Bernalillo on his first try. Not because he harbors uncertainty about his talents—he worked as a commercial artist for twenty-five years, and regularly wins awards at watercolor shows.
As a six-year member of a critique group that includes some of the state’s top watercolorists, Mullins knows just how good he is, or isn’t. But “good” doesn’t determine who wins awards, he notes wryly. Fashions in art come and go; sponsors have their agendas—which he knows all too well from his career.
But it’s the public that chooses the winner in the wine festival poster contest, based on four finalists this year whose entries were displayed in Bernalillo restaurants in May and June. Mullins’ “Fruit on the Vine,” a nostalgic painting of a local girl gathering grapes, with an adobe house and the Sandia mountains in the background, struck many as a clever local evocation of prewar Spain or Italy.
“Conglomeration” is what Mullins calls it, this technique of putting different things together in his head. Now that he paints only to please himself, his subjects and styles vary so widely as to seem not the work of a single man. A sharply realistic motorcycle; some fuzzy kittens on a lace tablecloth; an impossibly detailed, graphic meditation of an eagle in a tree (another award winner); a Southwest landscape—all are Mullins‘.
Landscapes are his favorite, he says, but they are neither painted on location nor taken from photographs. Rather, he’ll reference one or two things from photographs and put the rest together from imagination. After a lifetime of painting, he says, what he paints matters far less to him than how.
“I’ve gotten a lot more serious about painting itself,” he says—meaning the art and craft of it. “Painting good” is how he describes it, being a down-to-earth, soft-spoken man who has lived in Albuquerque for most of his sixty-five years. “I think if you paint right, anything can be good subject matter. Over the years, I’ve gotten better at approaching things that way.”
Now that he is more or less retired, Mullins still draws every day, as he has done most of his life. He is one of those guys who just draws damn good—always has been. “Like most artists, I was a terrible student, so art was an escape,” he quips of his early training. After serving in the Vietnam war with the Navy, he went to Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, which offered a degree in commercial art—though he ended up studying fine art instead.
After graduation, Mullins needed to make a living, and worked successively for firms in design, advertising, and illustration. He and his wife, an engineer turned schoolteacher, raised three children, who range in age from eighteen to forty.
When his youngest son was a baby, Mullins’ wife got a job in Phoenix, and they left for nine years. That was when he quit commercial art and decided to be a “stay-at-home dad.” They moved back to New Mexico when she retired in 2001, and settled in Corrales, not far from where Mullins grew up in the North Valley.
So for the last fifteen years or more, Mullins has painted what he wants—though he admits that the habits of commercial art have not left him. That probably explains how he can create a large, two-foot-by-three-foot rural landscape, detailed from the rust on the tractor to the billowing clouds in the sky, in about five hours, almost entirely from imagination. Deft use of proportion wheels and the ability to quickly scale up and down all save him time.
Since 2001, Mullins has also set aside oil painting, acrylics, and ink to work almost exclusively in watercolor. “After you do this all your life, you want a challenge,” he explains. “Watercolor is unforgiving. It requires forethought. I like it because it makes use of all the rules of painting.”
A member of the New Mexico Watercolor Society, he meets with a group of seventeen experienced painters every month for a formal critique session—a sure sign that an artist is serious about improving. “You leave beat-up sometimes; sometimes you do well,” he says of the feedback. Criticism stays with him, he says, and often gets applied to future paintings. “It’s a great experience—a great group of people, all serious.”
Mullins paints now intermittently: daily for a couple of weeks, then not at all for a couple more. In between, he nurtures another passion that calls for just as much detail and focus: restoring vintage cars. He’s been doing it since age sixteen, just like drawing. On the walls of his garage, the two talents meet in precise pencil drawings of fantasy vehicles, which he’ll then set about to create. Tools and parts are laid out as neatly in his workshop as the brushes and papers in the sunny room where he paints.
Three years ago, disaster struck this peaceful, ordered world when a storage shed caught fire, and leaped to destroy Mullins’ studio, office, and workshop. He lost $40,000 worth of tools and thirty-six paintings, not to mention irreplaceable family photos and personal items. What he learned from that, he says, is to document every piece of artwork he makes and every tool he owns.
“Getting going after that was hard,” he notes with typical understatement. Even now, the paucity of his inventory of paintings leaves him visibly glum—not enough to put up a decent size show or fill a booth at a fair, he says.
Viewers will probably not be disappointed, however, with his booth at the New Mexico Wine Festival. Posters of his painting will be on sale for $10, or $20 signed. The wine festival takes place over Labor Day weekend, September 5 through 7, from noon to 7:00 p.m.
“Connections,” a painting by Lynda Burch.
Ray Shaw spent a career as a high school music teacher while maintaining a creative interest in working with wood. This mask is made of natural aspen tree trunk.
Local artwork on display
On Sunday, September 20, The Placitas Artists Series will present the art of Lynda Burch, Patricia Gould, Leslie Jakobovits, and Ray Shaw with a reception at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church. The works will be on display from the first Saturday of the month of September through the first Friday of the following month.
Lynda Burch, a resident of Albuquerque since 1981, has been painting for the last twelve years and has been juried into over eighty shows during that period. A signature member of International Society of Acrylic Painters, the Society of Layerists in Multi Media, and the New Mexico Watercolor Society, she has studied across the United States and in Italy. Burch feels that she leans toward experimental, creative, edgy work—full of color, collage, textures, and fresh subjects, all in water media. By pouring paint through filters, adding collage papers, more paint, subtracting paint, and building up layers, she lets the paper talk. Burch is represented by Amapola Fine Art Gallery and Yucca Art Gallery, both in Albuquerque and by the Mineral and Fossil Gallery in both Taos and Santa Fe.
Patricia Gould has been making landscape art quilts, drawing inspiration from trips to China, East Africa, Russia, Antarctica, and extensive travel throughout North America and Europe. She is drawn to trees, rocks, and all forms of water; she portrays these subjects as if they were asking her to reveal their messages to the world. Gould also has an affinity for architecture and has, for many years, been photographing architectural details such as doors, windows, and interesting roof treatments.
Leslie Jakobovits paints plein-aire with oil on canvas. He says, “The source of my inspiration comes from nature, people, and the history of art. These are aspects of the transcendental force which permeates the universe. I am a ‘plein-aire‘ painter; my portraits are created from life as well. When my work is successful, I have joined with the rhythm of that which is before me.”
Ray Shaw creates masks came from a fascination with Native American figures as well as rock art throughout New Mexico. The masks are made of natural aspen tree trunks and are stylized to depict Native American culture. The use of natural materials, such as antlers and horse hair, complete the pieces. They are richly colored and finely detailed, evoking whimsy and awe. Each piece has its own distinct personality and character. Recently, Shaw became interested in clay and began utilizing ceramics to create new stylized subjects like horses.
A reception for the artists will be held at 2:00 p.m. on September 20, prior to a concert by Willy Sucre and Friends. 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 PlacitasArts.org. Prices are $18 for general admission and $15 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. The facility is completely accessible. 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 PlacitasArts.org.
Duende Poetry Series presents Joanne Kyger and Donald Guravich
Since receiving a grant from the Wytter Bynner Foundation in Santa Fe, the Duende Poetry Series has been able to bring a number of nationally-acclaimed writers to Placitas. On Sunday, September 13 at 3:00 p.m., they will present California poets Joanne Kyger and Donald Guravich at the Anasazi Fields Winery in the Village of Placitas.
Two years ago, Ms. Kyger was featured as part of the Jack Kerouac celebration at the Palace of Governors and is well-known for her association in the Beat days of the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance of the 50s. In 1960, she married Gary Snyder and moved with him to Kyoto, Japan. She also traveled to India with Snyder (joining up with Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky), events that are chronicled in her Japan and India Journals. After four years, she returned to the Bay Area in 1964 and settled in Marin County on the coast north of San Francisco.
Ms. Kyger’s poetic work stems from a constant use of little notebooks and journals as part of her observational Buddhist practice. Attention to detail, geography, obscure historical information, ecclesiastical lore, Native American myths, bird watching, daily life, and interactions with people are served up with a slightly gossipy sense of humor. Some critics have termed this “resilient consciousness” and she has influenced numerous people through her classes at the New College of California in San Francisco and Naropa University in Boulder.
Seemingly at the nexus of many poetic movements, she became friends with the late Robert Creeley, former Placitas resident, when he lived in her coastal hometown of Bolinas. She is the author of over twenty-some books including her newest chapbook Lo & Behold from Placitas’s own Voices from the American Land, as well as Again: Poems 1989-2000 from renowned Southwest publisher La Alameda Press. About Now: Collected Poems was recently published by the National Poetry Foundation (and winner of the 2008 PEN Oakland–Josephine Miles Award in poetry.) She is also a Foundation for Contemporary Arts 2005 and 2006 Grant Recipient, a Marin Arts Council grant recipient, and was awarded the Small Press Traffic Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007.
Originally from New Brunswick, Canada, Donald Guravich is both an illustrator and writer. Gracing many small press poetry books, his drawings display both graphic elegance and sly wit, while his prose poems convey a droll slant in the tradition of Charles Baudelaire and Max Jacob. He edited and published a little series of magazine/chapbooks entitled No Difference Here, begun in 1980. Both he and Ms. Kyger worked with Stefan Hyner editing Buzzard’s Journal out of Heidelberg, Germany. His own books include Triggers, Blue Chips, and A Brief History of Flying—“landscapes of beauty and melancholia, all summed up by John Keats with a chainsaw in the rain.” Mr. Guralvich is also known as a master arborist, plus a civic activist regarding wetlands preservation and open space. He also has taught at Naropa University.
The Duende Reading Series is in its fifth year and every event has been well-attended by both locals and visitors from Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and even out of state. The Anasazi Fields Winery has been its venue all these years and it has now acquired the reputation as one of the best places in the state to experience poetry. Admission is free, although there is a donation jar. Snacks are provided and books by the authors are available for purchase. Of course, there is wine. For more information, call 867-3062 or 897-0285.
They built their nest in a tall pine tree
The chick arrived happy as can be,
Mama bird and papa bird could not agree
So mama bird built a nest separately
The little chick flew to and from
Still content from dawn to dawn
Both nests became its home
Until the mama bird decided to roam
Why, little chick asked, why should this be
Why there’s a bigger, better nest you see
Little chick said it doesn’t matter to me
Love isn’t the nest, it’s not the tree
Forced to leave its home sweet home
Little chick’s heart was pierced by stone
The wound remained as life went on
And silently lived within its bone.
So came the day the chick flew free
And guided by its heart, you’ll see
Flew home to where its first nest be
Never to return to the bigger tree.
“Expectant”- photograph by David Cramer
The premiere exhibition: Perspectives —Sharing an open vision
A group of four professional photographers from Placitas have come together to display their artistic photography at the Fisher Gallery in Albuquerque.
Perspectives embraces excellence, originality, and innovation in photo-based art. The founding members of the group are David Cramer, Fernando Delgado, Joan Fenicle, and Barry McCormick.
David Cramer is an award-winning nature and scenic photographer with an emphasis on missions, wild horses, and other unique subjects that reflect the rich history of this part of the world. David also leads photography workshops for all skill levels.
Fernando Delgado came to New Mexico via Cuba and a successful twenty-five-year career as a creative director for the advertising industry in New York. His work has been exhibited around the country and showcased in several publications.
Joan Fenicle came to New Mexico from the Colorado Rockies. She has interpreted the scenery and culture of the Southwest in paintings and photographs for years. She is photo editor for albuquerqueARTS magazine and coordinator of the Artscrawl gallery events in Albuquerque.
Barry McCormick was a commercial photographer for more than thirty years in the New York metro area. Since moving to Placitas, he has concentrated on fine art figurative work. He has exhibited in a number of New Mexico group shows and his work is collected internationally.
The exhibition opens on Friday, September 4 from 4:00 to 8:30 p.m. A gallery talk and slideshow presentation on wild horses will be given by David Cramer at 6:00 p.m.
The Fisher Gallery is located at 1620 Central Avenue SE in Albuquerque. For more information, contact Julia Lewis at (505) 247-1529.
Gallery announces Worldwide Photo Walk winner
The Albuquerque Photographers Gallery has announced Ray Laskowitz, an Albuquerque photographer, as the winner of the Second Annual Worldwide Photo Walk held in Old Town on July 18. Ray’s image “Our Lady of Guadalupe” was taken within the Chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Patio Escondido and will be entered into the worldwide Photo Walk competition.
Laskowitz is an award-winning photojournalist, commercial photographer, and picture editor who has worked for many years throughout the United States and Asia. His award-winning image of “Our Lady” will be on exhibit and available for purchase at the Albuquerque Photographers Gallery in Old Town from September 1 through September 30.
Gallery members Linda Laitner, Charlotte Gardner, Val Isenhower, and Patrick O’Brien escorted over twenty local photographers on the annual Worldwide Photo Walk.
The Albuquerque Photographers Gallery is a co-op of ten local photographers who capture fine art images of New Mexico and the American Southwest. The gallery is located in Poco a Poco Patio, 312-C San Felipe Street NW and is open every day except Tuesday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.