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Featured artist: Molly Mendenhall

Intricately beaded wearable art, by Molly Mendenhall
Photo credit: —Oli Robbins

The jewels of a farmer

—Oli Robbins

Molly Mendenhall isn’t your typical 24-year old. Rather than slaving away at an entry-level job and staying up until the wee hours of the morning with partying twenty-somethings, she’s talking shop with farmers—some of them well into their seventies—and waking up at the crack of dawn to go out and weed her garden. Molly is working harder than she ever has, building a life for herself that she never envisioned having. In addition to being a skilled beader and jewelry designer, Molly is a full-time farmer in Los Lunas. Her weekends are chock full of farmers markets and art fairs, where she sells her edible and wearable creations.

Molly always assumed that she would follow a traditional education and career trajectory. “Because I had gone to a prep school,” she explains, “I had this idea in my mind that what you do is graduate, go to college, and get a job.” But in the year following her graduation from high school, a series of events unfolded that set her life on a different, and less certain, path. Molly enrolled at UNM, where she was pressured to declare a major straightaway. Her love of animals and interest in primatology led her to choose anthropology. While her courses were interesting, she simply wasn’t inspired. “I liked what I was studying, but it wasn’t what I really wanted to do,” Molly remembers. Fueling her sense of ennui was her job as a barista at a local coffee shop. She knew she was more attracted to an off-the-mainstream way of life, but was cautious to venture away from the well-trodden course she was on. Says Molly, “I had an inkling, but I was terrified.” One day, on a whim, she set up an Etsy page to display and sell her jewelry. At the time, Etsy—now the leading online marketplace for hand-crafted and vintage goods—was small and just beginning to develop a global following. Molly’s first week on Etsy was so successful that she, in good faith and with a daring spirit, quit both school and her job.

Molly began exercising her love for art at an early age. She took classes in painting and busied herself with whatever craft projects she could get her hands on. But she never thought that she could make a living as an artist. As a kid, Molly dreamed of becoming a vet or a marine biologist. But an artist and farmer? Says Molly, “neither of those were in the plan! All of it was an accident.”

During her senior year at Sandia Prep, Molly attended Winter Count, a week-long camp in Arizona, which Molly credits for opening up her mind to a new way of life. Winter Count exposes its campers to various skills—from tanning a deer hide to weaving baskets to beading. The experience was pivotal for Molly, who began to seriously consider sustainable living and the idea that you could make or grow nearly everything you need for yourself. “It was important for my psyche,” Molly recalls. Several of Molly’s favorite beading stitches were learned at Winter Count.

Etsy provided the platform Molly needed to promote her jewelry, and her revenue from the website supported her entirely for a couple of months. She began supplementing her income by selling her work at the Albuquerque flea market, and eventually by participating in art shows in Corrales. Molly satisfied her artistic drive through jewelry-making, but she hadn’t yet found gardening which, coupled with beading, would prove to make her happy. “With the farming, it’s all come full circle,” says Molly. “I always knew I wanted to work with animals, but I didn’t know it would be through farming.”

Molly’s segue into farming was fortuitous. Personal circumstances forced her to move out of Albuquerque to Bosque Farms. Her new property was on an acre and close to the river, so she decided to start a big garden with tons of vegetables. Says Molly, “I started getting into gardening because with jewelry-making, I was sitting behind a desk hunched over all day. The gardening is a great juxtaposition to the jewelry because I can go outside, stretch, get some sunlight.” Her jewelry is beginning to reflect and incorporate her gardening; several recent pieces contain ornamental corn, which she grew last year. When Molly began gardening, she was also showing her jewelry at the Corrales Bosque Gallery. One day, during a winter gallery meeting, she announced to her fellow gallery members that she would be offering a CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) box in the spring. “I prayed that it would all turn out okay, and it did!”

In the next couple of years, Molly hopes to expand her garden and farm by introducing tilapia and engaging in aquaponics. “You take the waste from the fish and run it through your plants. It’s a system that completely takes care of itself. You grow feed for the fish, the plants clean out the water, and return the water back to the fish clean.” Molly’s goal is “to bring the farms together… If you have the garden and the animals and everything right there, it’s a system that will continue itself.” In addition to chickens, she also has ducks and bunnies—the manure of which makes great compost and encourages the red worms to make castings.

Molly largely feeds herself with the food she grows. This summer, she cooked two big batches of tomato soup, which will provide her with one meal per day of the winter.

Making Molly even more of a rockstar—with loads of gumption and pluck—is the fact that she slaughters her own chickens. Says Molly, who was a vegetarian for three years, “I couldn’t eat meat until I knew I could do it all the way.” The killing isn’t easy for Molly, who mentally prepares herself for days beforehand. Says Molly, “I often get approached as though I’m a barbarian for killing my own chickens, but how is that more barbaric than not knowing where your meat comes from?”

Visit Molly and her jewelry at the Rio Grande Arts and Crafts Fair, from November 29 to December 1, at Expo NM. Her work is also on view on her Etsy site: etsy.com/shop/AniccaJewelry, and at the Worrell Gallery in Santa Fe, and the Corrales Bosque Gallery in Corrales. To purchase her produce, take a ride out to the Belen farmers market every Friday from 4:30 to 7:00 p.m., or the Los Lunas market on Tuesdays from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. To learn more about Molly’s jewelry, her farm, and upcoming Community Supported Agriculture boxes, contact her at aniccajewelrydesign@gmail.com.


Books on the Bosque

—Lin Robinson, Placitas Community Library

“Books on the Bosque, A Magical Night,” promises to be magical indeed. This gala evening, in support of the Placitas Community Library, will feature a champagne welcome, dinner with wine, and exciting silent and live auctions. Original artwork, trips, golf packages, health and beauty services, a murder mystery dinner party, Presidential Box UNM basketball tickets, men’s and women’s jewelry, and more will be up for bid.

Award-winning Placitas gourd artist Susan Jordan Beebe is among the many artists whose work will be available at the event. Her donated work, “Peace and Plenty,” from her Corn Maiden series, was a first place winner at the 2012 Weems Artfest. Embellished with wood and horse hair, and etched with intricate designs, the piece honors the Native American legend of the Corn Maiden, who represents abundance and good fortune.

Another exceptional piece has been donated by Glen Petersen, also of Placitas. The work is a museum-quality, half-scale replica of a 1880s Kiowa infant cradleboard. A cradleboard illustrated the status of the family and the child’s future place in the tribe. These treasured heirlooms are now highly collectible, with originals valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Petersen’s work is a beautiful and accurate rendering in miniature.

Placitas Community Library is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. Local volunteers brought the library to life, and volunteers remain its primary support. Its new building was made possible by a combination of monies from state, county, grants, and private sources. And while government funding allows for certain purchases, the day-to-day operational expenses of the nonprofit library must be met with private donations. The funds raised at Books on the Bosque will go towards these expenses.

Books on the Bosque will take place on September 21, at the Sandia Resort and Casino. Tickets are $80 dollars each. To purchase, call 404-8335. If you are interested in supporting future library programs and services, contact Library Director Marian Frear at 867-3355. Donations are accepted with a credit card over the phone or in person at the library, or by mailing a check to Placitas Community Library, P. O. Box 445, Placitas, New Mexico 87043. Donations are tax deductible.


From, To: the Ordinary, Transformed

Artists Gail Gering, Wayne Mikosz, and Riha Rothberg will show an exhibition of everyday elements in altered states throughout the month of September. An opening reception will be held at the site of the show, 5G North Gallery (at the Factory on 5th, 1719 5th Street NW) on September 6, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. And a second reception will be held on September 20, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.

Gail Gering transforms salvaged copper and brass by etching and adding patinas then manipulating metal over wood substrate to create pieces inspired by the colors of the New Mexico land and sky. To see her work, go to www.gailgering.com.

Wayne Mikosz and Riha Rothberg time collaborators, are also working with reclaimed or everyday elements, combined and altered, to shift habitual perceptions. They will present collaborative and individual work. To see their work, go to www.convergencestudios-nm.com.


PAS hosts art competition

The PAS is expanding the nine seasonal juried visual art exhibits to include an annual competition for a new visual arts image each year, inaugurating it with the 2014-15 season. The criteria is that the artist must be a New Mexico resident, the artwork must evoke Placitas in some relatable way, the artwork must include a statement about how it evokes Placitas, and the inspiration or process which led to its creation and the artwork must be submitted digitally. For more information, go to placitasartistsseries.org and look on the left sidebar for the call for artists link. Deadline for submission of artwork image and statement is September 30, 2013.


Jemez Library auctions SW art collection

The Friends of the Jemez Springs Public Library received a donation of a significant collection of paintings, sculptures, and pottery from a local collector. The Friends will hold an on-line auction of selected works by regional artists including Leo Neufeld, Sue Stevens, and George A. Hart. All proceeds from the sale will support the Jemez Springs Public Library programs and services.

An opening reception for the collection will be held on September 29, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m, at Jemez Springs Public Library. Many of the artists whose work is represented in the collection will attend.

The on-line auction opens September 1, and bids will be accepted through September 30. Visit www.jemezsprings.org/library to view the collection online and to link to the auction site. Works for sale will be displayed at the Jemez Springs Public Library from September 17 through September 29.

The library is located at 17 Jemez Plaza just off Highway 4. Jemez Springs is an hour drive from the Albuquerque area. Jemez Springs is a small village (population around four hundred) in the Jemez Mountains of northwest New Mexico. The library serves the village as well as the surrounding communities of San Ysidro, Ponderosa, Canon, La Cueva, Seven Springs, and Thompson Ridge.

For more information, call Jemez Springs Public Library at (575) 829-9155, or go to www.jemezsprings.org/library.


Damien Flores

Jessica Helen-Lopez

Third Duende Poetry Series reading of 2013

The Duende Poetry Series of Placitas, now in its ninth year, sponsors four readings a year and the third reading of 2013 will be held on September 15 at the Anasazi Fields Winery in Placitas, at 3:00 p.m. The featured poets will be noted Albuquerque poets Damien Flores and Jessica Helen Lopez.

Damien Flores was a member of the 2004, 2006, and 2008 Albuquerque slam poetry teams and also of the 2006 and 2008 national champion UNM slam teams. He was also the champion of the Albuquerque City Slams (2008). Flores has published two books: A Novena of Mud (poems) from Destructible Heart Press, and El Cuento de Juana Henrieta from Culture Lab Press. He was named “Poet of the Year” in 2007 and 2008 by the New Mexico Hispano Entertainer’s Association and also won the UNM Todd Award for creative non-fiction in 2008. He also hosts the weekly Spoken Word Hour on KUNM-FM. He has also published his poems in Duke City Fix; Malpais Review; De Veras: Voices from the NHCC; Earthships Anthology;2006 National Poetry Slam Anthology; A Bigger Boat Anthology; the Underground Guide to Albuquerque; The Daily Lobo.

Jessica Helen Lopez is a four-time member of the Albuquerque City Slam Team and also was a member of the 2008 championship UNM lobo slam team. She has been the “Poet-in-Residence” at several New Mexico High Schools and continues her work in the classroom. Her poems have been published in the Bigger Boat Anthology; Chicago Open Mic America Vol I; Feminism Now; Poetry Diversity; The Pedastal; Adobe Walls, Malpais Review; Blind Oracle. She was the co-Editor of the Earthships Anthology. She is also the author of a book of poetry, Always messing with them boys from West End Press.

For all Duende Poetry Series readings, wine, free snacks, and non-alcoholic drinks are available to the audience. The event is free, although donations are encouraged for the poets in the donation jar as you enter.

For more information, contact Jim Fish at the winery at fish@anasazifieldswinery.com, or 867-3062. To reach the winery, take I-25 to Placitas Exit 242, drive six miles to the village of Placitas, and turn onto Camino de los Pueblitos. Drive past two stop signs to the winery parking lot.


Placitas Artists Series presents

On September 22, at 2:00 p.m., the Placitas Artists Series will present a reception for a new visual arts show by artists Renee Brainard Gentz, Sarah Hartshorne, Karl and Mary Hofmann, and Kathamann. And at 3:00 p.m., PAS will present Willy Sucre and Friends. Both will be held at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church. The art show will be on display from September 1 through September 27.

Renee Brainard Gentz dyes and paints all her fabric and then transforms it into vibrant fiber constructions and collages. Sarah Hartshorne came to painting after pursuing four earlier careers as a classical cellist and teacher. Karl and Mary Hofmann’s influences include Meissen porcelain and folk pottery of Germany and wedging and throwing techniques learned in Japan. Kathamann has been active in New Mexico’s art community for over thirty years, exhibiting in juried, group, and one-person shows.

For further artist information, go to placitasartistsseries.org/.september.html.

Violinist Willy Sucre will be joined by violinists L.P. How and Ruxandra Simionescu-Marquardt as well as cellist James Holland. The program should include: Haydn’s String Quartet Op. 64, No. 5; Schubert’s Quartet-Satz in C minor and String Quartet in G minor Op 27 by Edvard Grieg.

The concert is generously sponsored by Drs. John and Dianna Shomaker.

Tickets for the concert are available at the door one hour before the concert or may be purchased in advance at the Merc in Homestead Village Shopping Center in Placitas, Under Charlie’s Covers Fine Used Book Store in Bernalillo, Ah!Capelli Salon and Color Studio in Enchanted Hills Plaza, Rio Rancho or on line at www.PlacitasArtistSeries.org. (exit 242) or by calling 867-8080.


Home on the range

— Susan Murphy

BJB Productions, in collaboration with La Junta Galleria, will be hosting the dynamic multi-media event “Home on the Range” by prominent California photographer Bobbi Bennett on September 20, from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. The event will be held at the historic La Junta Galleria located at 413 South Camino Del Pueblo, Bernalillo. Bennett’s work, featured in several major museums, includes stylized photographic landscapes of the Southwest produced in an abstract, ethereal nature. The exhibition also includes campy, mixed-media pieces depicting cowboy and cowgirl culture, as well as ceramic bulls and horses, evocative of cowboy life in the Southwest. Bennett, now living in Santa Fe, will also perform her original Country Western songs with her band, Bobbi Jo and the Outlaws. Like her art, her music is sultry, campy, and fun. The show will run until October 20.

 
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