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Laura Robbins

Laura Robbins in her Placitas Foothills Studio

c. Laura Robbins

Gray Water Kitchen, mixed media, by Laura Robbins. Photo credit: Barry McCormick

c. Laura Robbins

Water Meter Mandala, ceramic and glass, by Laura Robbins. Photo credit: Barry McCormick

The inside-outside of Laura Robbins

—Barb Belknap

Life for Placitas mosaic artist Laura Robbins is a trip—of artistic exploration. In this journey, she asks the question: What is home?—Is it your house? Your community? The Earth? She helps formulate answers by offering viewers of her work a closer look at the natural world.

For Laura, “home” is an important and integral theme in her artwork and, regarding that, she calls the notion “inside-outside.” Her series, “Turtle Beings,” exemplifies this mix of flora and fauna by showing fused-glass trees growing inside rectangular ceramic houses that are the bodies of turtles. Each turtle’s head and tail, made from richly textured slabs of glazed clay, extend from opposite ends of the house. They are enjoyably wild to just look at, but have a deeper meaning for Robbins who, through this work, offers us a look at humanity’s connectivity to the planet.

“Spiritual iconic fantasy is one of the three lines of approach I use in my artwork,” Robbins said. “The turtle beings and other playful fantasies I create let me explore the idea of ‘earth-heart-home’ and appreciation of where we live and how we are all a part of an ancient history.”

All this thought of home leads artist Robbins to add another element to her work: the Earth’s environmental health. As an advocate for the protection of the Placitas wild horses and member of Pathways—Wildlife Corridors of New Mexico (http://pathwayswc.wordpress.com/), Robbins calls some of her more deliberate subject matter: “environmental activism.” Together with her artist-friend Cirrelda Snider-Bryan, they orchestrated an extensive community cooperative seventy-foot-long glass-and-ceramic mosaic mural project in Placitas near I-25 to raise awareness of the migratory needs of New Mexico’s indigenous animals. Along a similar line, her four-foot-square artwork “Placitas Water Meter Mandala”—a circular water meter lid surrounded by a Southwestern mosaic landscape—speaks of conscientious use of water in the desert.

“The main thing with my artwork, at this point in my life, is to do what I want to do,” said Robbins. “I’m not a planner; it just happens. It is sometimes meditative, sometimes playful, but always comes from my heart. It’s lovely to do that.”

Robbins delights in working with clay for its non-technical nature and feels that when you lose your sense of play, you’ve lost it all. In her glass work, she does everything from scoring it to fusing it to smashing it with a hammer.

Laura Robbins’ late father Kermit Wurman also plays an important role in Laura’s creations and adds the third focus that she considers in her work: spontaneous design. “My dad was a wonderful builder and loved design, like Frank Lloyd Wright’s and in Asian artwork. So, I made a mosaic ‘Tool Series’ to honor him that incorporated spontaneous design elements with metal tool objects like drill bits and saw blades.”

This solid sense of design was apparent in Laura’s latest one-woman show called “Pieces,” which hung at the Matrix Gallery at 3812 Central Avenue SE in Albuquerque from August 6 to 28, 2010.

In the “Pieces” exhibition, Robbins’ quintessential mixed-media work titled “Gray Water Kitchen”—an incredible eight-foot-tall free-standing mosaic kitchen sink area with a tree growing from the gray water flow at its base—stole the show. “I am most proud of this piece,” she said. “It includes all three places I go: spiritual iconic fantasy, artistic activism, and design. It took two-and-a-half years to make, but between slumping and fusing and construction, I learned so much doing it.”

Before life as a full-time artist, Robbins founded and designed Bosque Prep School’s art program that considers art class of equal academic importance to traditional academic classes and taught there for eight years. Prior to that, she taught class in public school for about ten years. She received her BFA from Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh and earned her Master’s degree in New York.

In 2007, she received a top award in the New Mexico Women in the Arts Originals show at the Millicent Rogers Museum. Locally, Robbins’ intricate mosaics intrigue visitors of the Range Cafés, Amy Biehl High School, and Acción. She is the first artist invited to exhibit at the new Placitas Community Library.

In the time ahead, Laura hopes to become more sculptural in her work and proficient at techniques, such as torch work, iron work, open foam, and fusing. After a recent tour of Italy—the mosaic mecca of the world—with her daughter Oli, she is even more inspired to work bigger and collaborate with other artists.

She has now joined the New Mexico Glass Alliance and is thankful to the many people she has met throughout her art career.

“I owe a lot to people all along the way and to those who enabled me to do commission work at the beginning,” she said. “I think that people aren’t alone in the world and that we have to support each other. Artists do their own expressions and it supports and links to others at many different levels.

“You know the bumper sticker that reads: ‘Art Saves Lives’?” she smiled. “I think it’s true.”

Laura Robbins’ work can be viewed online at: http://laurarobbinsmosaics.com or at her Placitas studio by appointment: laura@laurarobbinsmosaics.com.


Suzanne Lummis

—Poet Suzanne Lummis

Margaret Randall

—Poet Margaret Randall

Duende Poetry Series: Local ear candy

Albuquerque poet Margaret Randall and southern California poet Suzanne Lummis, two well known writers, will share the stage at the next Duende Poetry Series on Sunday, September 12 at 3p.m. at the Anasazi Fields Winery in Placitas—the last reading of the series for this year. 

Lummis, founder-director of the Los Angeles Poetry Festival, studied with the well known poet Philip Levine at California State University at Fresno. She is a founding member of the humorously-inclined performance troupe Nearly Fatal Women and literary director of the Arroyo Arts Collective, as well as editor of the online literary magazine Speechless. Her class, “The Poem Noir: Poetry goes to the movies,” at UCLA Extension University has become famous over the years. Lummis’ books of poetry include: Falling Short of Heaven, Idiosyncrasies, Spreading the Word, In Danger, and Open 24 Hours. Her poetry has also appeared in numerous literary magazines such as the Antioch Review, Hudson Review, Ploughshares, Alehouse, Pool, and New Ohio Review. Last year, she was one of 45 writers chosen to represent Los Angeles at the huge Guadalajara Book Fair in Mexico, which celebrated LA as its “guest of honor.”

Margaret Randall, author of more than 100 books, will read from her newest work, My Town: A Memoir of Albuquerque, New Mexico, in Poems, Prose, and Photographs (Wings Press, San Antonio). Author John Nichols wrote the introduction to the book, which is about growing up in the Duke City in the 1940s and 50s against the backdrop of Cold War politics, the Bomb, the area’s race relations, and the power of the desert. This will be the first venue at which Randall will read from this new book. Other recent titles from Randall include To Change the World: My Years in Cuba (a memoir) and With Their Backs to the Sea (poems). Two forthcoming titles are First Laugh (essays) from the University of Nebraska Press and Ruins (poems and photos) from UNM Press.

For all Duende poetry readings, wine, free snacks and non-alcoholic 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 (505) 867-3062 or online at anasazifieldswinery@att.net. The next Duende Poetry Series reading will be in January, 2011.

The series presents four readings per year in January, March, June, and September. The September 12 reading is supported by the Witter Bynner Poetry Foundation of Santa Fe.

To reach the winery, turn onto Camino de los Pueblitos from Highway 165 in the old village of Placitas, across from the Presbyterian Church, follow the road through 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 the old village and Camino de los Pueblitos, and continue on to the winery.


c. Rudi Klimpert


For your entertainment: Willy Sucre and Friends

On Sunday, September 19, 2010, the Placitas Artists Series will present Willy Sucre and Friends. Violist Willy Sucre will be joined by violinists Roberta Arruda and Carol Swift-Matton, with Joan Zucker on cello. The program should include String Quartet No. 2,“Intimate Pages” by Leoš Janáček and String Quartet in C Sharp Minor, Op.131 by Ludwig van Beethoven.

Roberta Arruda was born in Joao Pessoa, Brazil, and began playing the violin during a sojourn in the U.S. when she was ten. In New Mexico, she has been a regular at Church of Beethoven, performing chamber music and solos, and can be heard in many ensembles in the state, such as Santa Fe Pro Musica and the Santa Fe Symphony. In 2008, she won an audition and held a one-year position with the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra (NMSO). She has soloed with the UNM Symphony Orchestra as a concerto competition winner and with the Albuquerque Philharmonic.

Carol Swift-Matton is a native of Toledo, Ohio.  She has been a member of the NMSO since 1989 and holds the position of assistant principal second violin. She is also a member of the Santa Fe Symphony and often performs at the Church of Beethoven. Previously, she served as principal second violin of the Chamber Orchestra of Albuquerque.

Joan Zucker is principal cello of the NMSO. New Mexicans first heard Zucker in the mid-seventies, as jazz cellist with the Johnny Gilbert Quartet and as principal cello of the Orchestra of Santa Fe. Since then, she has performed in many of New Mexico’s finest ensembles, from the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival and Opera, to Twentieth Century Unlimited. She has performed with numerous chamber groups, orchestras, and festivals in the U.S. and in Venezuela, her home for four years. Zucker has taught extensively in cello, recorder, voice, orchestra, chamber music, theory, composition, and improvisation, both privately and at various institutions, including UC Santa Cruz, Ithaca College, and UNM. A native New Yorker, she holds music degrees from Bennington and Ithaca Colleges. She is married to NMSO’s assistant concertmaster, Joseph Zoeckler, whom she met in Venezuela. In addition to performing together, they have backpacked in areas as diverse as the Andes and the Himalayas. Their son Leo was born in 1992. Zucker plays on a Benjamin Banks cello made in Salisbury, England, in 1788.

The concert is generously sponsored by Joan Jander and Simon Shima and La Puerta Real Estate Services, LLC.

Preceding the concert, a reception will be held for September exhibiting visual artists Tom Baker, Mary E. Carter, Cate Clark, and Patricia Gould.

The concert will take place at 3:00 p.m. on September 19 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 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, and free child care is provided for families with children under six. 

For more information, call (505) 867-8080.


c. Tom Baker

"Taos Pueblo," by photographer Tom Baker

Placitas Artists Series presents the work of Baker, Carter, Clark and Gould

On Sunday, September 19, 2010, the Placitas Artists Series will present the art of Tom Baker, Mary E. Carter, Cate Clark, and Patricia Gould with a reception at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church. The works will be on display from the first Saturday of September through the first Friday of October.

Tom Baker has been a photographer since the late 1950s. Essentially “self taught,” he is heavily influenced by the black and white landscape photographers of the West Coast, many of whose workshops he attended in the1960s and 1970s. Baker was involved in the arts community, exhibiting in galleries and shows on the California central coast until his move to Placitas in 2009. He has worked as a professional photographer from time to time over the years and continues to do digital printing for other artists and photographers. Now retired, he devotes his time to photography, and having been a professional musician in the 1960s, continues with his various music interests.

Mary E. Carter received a B.A. in art, with an emphasis on studio techniques and classical training in figure drawing, oil and watercolor painting, serigraphy, sculpture, and art history. Since 1980, she has shown in group shows juried by Thomas Messer, Alice Neel, the Los Angeles Society of Illustrators, Communication Arts Magazine, and others. She has illustrated books, magazine articles, and advertising. Her work resides in such diverse public venues as the Owensboro Museum of Art in Kentucky, the U.S. Pentagon, and the Placitas Elementary School, as well as in private collections. Her recent series of bird paintings, exhibited here in Placitas for the first time, is inspired by the lyrics of the Beatles’ song, “Blackbird.”

Cate Clark has been a ceramic artist for more than a decade after studying at the well-known Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, Montana. Two years ago, she got involved with the Placitas Wildlife Mural, a collaborative mosaic project on permanent display at the Placitas Recycling Center. Clark became immediately and completely hooked on the medium. It takes hundreds of hours of cutting glass, modeling and glazing clay, and arranging the pieces into harmonious compositions to produce her impressive body of work, representing local plant and animal life, religious icons, mandalas, and abstract design. Metaphorically, mosaic does make sense for Clark, who gravitates toward techniques for integrating real-world interactions with the mysterious wellsprings of the internal.

Patricia Gould grew up in a small village on eastern Long Island and never wanted to be anything other than an artist. She earned a B.A. in art history while also taking every studio class offered. Still a passionate photographer, the more tactile media are what make her tick. Gould exhibited her fiber art at the 2009 Florence Biennale, won a Niche Award in 2008, and was chosen as an Artist-in-Residence in Hungary in 2005. Her quilt Christo’s Umbrellas, October 1991 was installed in the U.S. embassy in Estonia from 2002–2004. The state of New Mexico recently purchased Earthly Stories, Ancient Owachomo, and Four Strong Winds as part of the Art in Public Places program.

A reception for the artists will be held at 2:00 p.m. on September 19, prior to a concert by Willy Sucre and Friends. 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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