Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988

Signpost featured artist: Elzbieta Kaleta

Paper artwork, by Elzbieta Kaleta

To cut and create: the mixed-media art of Elzbieta Kaleta

—Oli Robbins

We’re all exposed to certain cultural traditions from early childhood, but few inspire such beautiful results as the Polish folk craft of paper cutting. Mixed media artist Elzbieta Kaleta was fortunate to have grown up in contact with the colorful and whimsical paper art of her native Poland. Originally from Krakow, Kaleta relished her family trips that took her to the country and away from the bustling city. Escaping to a family farm meant being in a village teeming with paper art, a pastime that brought with it relaxation and creative release.

Kaleta has forever practiced art-making, even while achieving a doctorate in biology. While in graduate school, she worked as an illustrator for scientific books. A post-doctoral position brought her and her husband to Harvard Medical in 1981 and to Albuquerque a few years later. Kaleta has produced research on early embryo development, genetics, and melanoma—a hot topic in New Mexico due to our intense sun. Kaleta eventually took pause from teaching and researching biology when her son’s health required her to stay home. This period prompted her to resume her devotion to art, the therapeutic properties of which she deeply appreciated.

Rooted in her heritage, Kaleta’s art draws upon the Polish folk art tradition of layering several paper cutouts of different colors atop one another. The works are mixed media, incorporating a variety of papers as well as fabrics, small objects, embroidery, and photography—an art form long practiced by the artist. She explains that once a part of her mixed media works, her photographs don’t read as strict documentation, but rather as artfully-constructed backgrounds. Says Kaleta, “my process is very often spontaneous. I see the complete design in my head, and I follow this. So I just start working on the main cutout, then I work on the background, which may be simple or a complicated collage.”

The designs themselves originate from Kaleta’s feelings, imagination, life experiences and relationships. “It’s all connected to my heart and my beliefs,” says Kaleta. “It’s always embedded in me.” New Mexico itself has been creatively stimulating for Kaleta, who finds inspiration in the colors, culture, landscapes, and abundant art. She usually cuts her images freehand with scissors or a knife, sometimes completing a preparatory drawing beforehand for more complex designs. When the image demands a specific background, Kaleta alters her photographs in Photoshop, experimenting with lighting and filters to make a complementary background—which is always remarkably different from the original photograph. Says Kaleta, “My lifelong passion for photography resulted in a big collection of images, often focused on the beauty of nature forms, objects touched by time, repetitive patterns, and striking typography caught in the image.” For Kaleta, the process itself is paramount to the ensuing image. She explains, “I work in silence, never even listen to music. I don’t need it because my head is full of thoughts and ideas.”

Kaleta feels fortunate that her parents believed in and encouraged her artistic predilection. Her father practiced art and design, favoring painting in watercolors. As a child, Kaleta constantly created cutouts, and remembers at one point cutting out huge snowflakes from newspaper and gluing them to the windows. She considered going to art school in Poland, but it was difficult at that time due to the country’s educational system and political climate. Fortunately, Kaleta developed a keen interest in biology and was able to continue making art while studying it. When she had her own children, she nurtured their creativity by building a home environment full of craft supplies and devoid of television. “My kids had to invent and create and play.” Kaleta also hoped to foster creativity in the Albuquerque schools, where she’s taught many programs over the years. She promotes artistic individuality, discouraging students to try to make a uniform artwork in a standardized, rote fashion.

Kaleta’s images serve to remind viewers of “the importance of love, peace, kindness, compassion, and friendship.” She will also touch upon environmental issues, and feels particularly passionate about lessening pollution since contracting bad asthma in the then heavily polluted Krakow. She’s gained international recognition for her mixed media works, which have been featured in such far off locales as China and Tokyo.

You can contact the artist via phone or email (266-9225 or Her work is on display at Albuquerque’s Tortuga Gallery, Amapola Gallery in Old Town, Corrales Bosque Gallery, Conley Studio Pottery, and Friends in Madrid.

Glen Sorestad
Photo credit: —Shelley Banks

Larry Goodell

The Duende Poetry Series continues

The Duende Poetry Series will present Canadian Poet Glen Sorestad and Placitas Poet Larry Goodell on September 27, at 3:00 p.m. This free event is hosted by Anasazi Fields Winery in Placitas.

Glen Sorestad is a nationally recognized poet who has published twenty books of poetry. It is rare we get to meet and hear one of Canada’s top poets. Glen will be reading from his new book Hazards of Eden: Poems from the Southwest, which comprises poems that come directly from his Southwest travels, mainly in New Mexico and Texas.

Larry Goodell, a resident of Placitas since 1963, founded Duende Press and published many poets and writers while teaching part-time and working in the Living Batch Bookstore. He has been an organizer of poetry events there and elsewhere most of his life, and a friend to many poets and artists and residents of Placitas. He will be performing poems picked from an energetic life of satirical, funny, and serious work, including new poems from his three books coming out soon from Beatlick Press: Broken Garden and The Unsaid Sings, Digital Remains, and Pieces of Heart. This is one of several reading performances Larry will be presenting in his eightieth year.

For all Duende Poetry Series readings, wine, free snacks, and non-alcoholic drinks are available. Donations are encouraged. Contact Jim Fish at the winery at 867-3062 or email for more information. To reach the winery, take I-25 to Placitas Exit 242, drive six miles to the old village of Placitas, then turn onto Camino de los Pueblitos, opposite the Presbyterian Church. After two stop signs, turn left into the winery parking lot.


New Mexico’s 11th annual celebration of world music and culture will take place on September 25 and 26 at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque. This year’s festival will, once again, feature 17 acts from five continents, on three stages, over two nights (ten performance each evening), plus Saturday’s free daytime Global Fiesta from 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., featuring the Global Village of Craft, Culture, and Cuisine, with international arts and cuisine (open throughout all festival parts) and much more. The full schedule can be seen at

Willy Sucre

Placitas Artists Series opens its season

The Placitas Artists Series opens its 29th season on September 27, with a pair of string quartets by two masters of the form. The 3:00 p.m. concert features Willy Sucre and Friends performing Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 11 Op. 95 in F minor (the Serioso) and Bartók’s String Quartet No. 1 in A minor. Violist Willy Sucre will be joined by violinists Krzysztof Zimowski and Julanie Lee, and cellist Joan Zucker.

The concert is generously sponsored by John and Dianna Shomaker.

Prior to the concert, a 2:00 p.m. visual artists reception will feature the art of Robert Benjamin, oils on canvas; Julianna Kirwin, prints, collage and paper mache; Harriet Neal, photography; and Rebecca Nolda, mixed media. The works, which are for sale, are on display from August 29 to October 2.

Robert Benjamin’s true love is landscape painting. His expression and artistic vision of the innate beauty of the New Mexico landscape continues to be celebrated in museums and private collections alike.

Julianna Kirwin’s images reflect her environment and her travels: back roads in New Mexico, historic churches, black birds and the people of Old and New Mexico. Her work is “place-based,” using the rich media of printmaking and paper mache to express the experiences along her journey.

Harriet Neal has pursued photography passionately, primarily in the West. Her award-winning photography is evolving and is constrained neither by camera nor darkroom.

Rebecca Nolda has exhibited artist’s books, paintings, collage and drawings nationally and internationally.

The concert and visual artists reception both take place at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church in the village of Placitas, located six miles east of I-25 on NM 165 (Exit 242). The facility is completely accessible.

Placitas Artists Series projects are made possible in part by New Mexico Arts, a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

For more information, call 867-8080 or visit

O’Rourke and Stuhlmann win the blue

Placitas artists take First Place at Sandoval County Fair

Laurie O’Rourke’s landscape, “Illusive Mountain,” is composed entirely of paper and took the blue ribbon in the Fine Art-Collage category at this year’s Sandoval County Fair. She achieved the unique texture and color of the land by staining rice paper with coffee. Her stunning blue-violet mountains are the result of melting crayons on Washi paper, a process O’Rourke borrowed from batik.

Adele Stuhlmann, also an oil painter, won first prize in Fine Art-Mixed Media contest at the Fair with “The Weaver.” She achieved the delicate, intricate design by letting Saran Wrap dry on wet acrylic paint, which created the foundation subject matter. Stuhlmann then applied paint and organic collage paper to enhance the images she saw in the design.

Both artists are active members at the Placitas Community Center and participate in the collage class “Collage Like Picasso! Learning Studio,” taught by professional artist Elizabeth “Liz” Bogard. The class meets every other Friday from 2:00 to 4:30 p.m. at the center, located at 41 Camino De Las Huertas. For information on enrollment in the class, call the center at 867-1396 or Liz Bogard at 214-542-2192. The next class is scheduled for September 4.

Last Chance, Honorable Mention; (Taken at old Placitas Mini-Mart)

Photography by Marie Maher; Thunder Road, Third Place winner

Maher earns photography awards

Placitas photographer Marie Maher received the Third Place Award and an Honorable Mention in the “Rural Impressions” contest held by the New York Center for Photographic Art (NYC4PA). There will be a gallery show entitled “Urban Landscapes—Rural Impressions” that includes all winning images. The opening reception is September 17 from 6-8 p.m. at Jadite Gallery, 413 West 50th Street, New York, New York.

“Last Chance,” the Honorable Mention winner, is a photo of the gas station at the old Placitas Mini-Mart. View all winning images on the NYC4PA website at:!rural-impressions-2015/c1h7g.

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