Fine art

Anaïs and her crows

Artist exhibits new installation at Harwood Museum’s Studio 238

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Fans of Taos artist Anaïs Rumfelt have been watching her creative evolution through nearly two decades of gallery shows and events. Now they, and you, can see her latest collection of work — titled “108 Crows” — at an opening reception Friday (Nov. 3) from 2-4 p.m. at the Harwood Museum of Art’s Studio 238. Admission to the reception is free.

“I’ve been making art since I was a kid,” Rumfelt said. “I grew up with it. My mother, Katie Woodall, is an artist — a fantastic, awesome artist, and a creative soul. I watched my mom work many jobs throughout my childhood, working to maintain an active creative life. Now she’s an artist and art teacher at Taos Charter School. Those kids are really lucky to have her, and so am I.”

She said that it was in her early 20s that she began to take her own artwork seriously. “I’ve slowly kept doing it ever since. I’d have a stint of doing printmaking or painting, show some work, and then go back to my stint as mother and breadwinner.”

Her first solo show was in the 1990s. “Those were nudes. I’ve been doing figurative work the whole time, it’s what I love. The human body. Then I took printmaking classes with Gary Cook and loved it. That medium is so pleasing to me.”

After years of print work, she found herself inspired to return to drawing, and to prioritize art in her life in a new way.

“Last year, as I was turning 40, I realized I’d been putting art on the back burner as I was busy raising a kid and working at Twirl. So as a birthday gift to myself, I did a drawing challenge where you do a piece of art every day for 30 days. I did it so I could rewrite the story I was telling myself: that I didn’t have time to make art because I was busy. During that time I would go to work, pick up the kid, feed him, then spend three hours a night working. I came out of it with a new perspective. I disproved the idea that I couldn’t do it. I taught myself that I could.”

As she was completing the month-long challenge, a friend asked her to draw a crow. “I drew it — and then I just kept making crows. It was around the election, and I was going through some stuff personally also, and I didn’t know what else to do but make art obsessively. I just kept painting the crows, like I was making a spell or something.”

The ongoing work impelled her to begin researching crows’ deeper symbolic meaning. “There was an element of their symbolism that really appealed to me and spoke to me on a deep level. They represent mystery, magic and transformation, and a call for authenticity and truth in communication. Crows are exceptionally adaptable and able to respond to changing conditions by altering the way they behave. I thought I could use some of that — we all could. What began with one crow became 108, a number signifying completion and wholeness in Hindu and Buddhist teachings.”

Each panel in the show hosts three unique crows, individual but interacting with each other. “This creates a composition within each page, as well as the greater composition of the whole. The use of ink and water lends the form the ability to move in and out of solidity, as if floating between worlds. The completion of this project has informed the direction of my work. I’ve continued to use crows in the paintings that followed, which are hanging at Manzanita Market on the Plaza now.”

Taos Paseo Festival co-founder J. Matt Thomas has added the position of Curator of Collections at the Harwood to his stellar array of creative ventures.

“I’ve been given the opportunity to curate the Studio 238 series,” Thomas said. “Studio 238 is a new series of month-long pop-up exhibitions featuring local artists. In particular, what I’m interested in is under-represented artists in our community, really exciting new work that’s coming out. I want experimental or challenging work that isn’t usually seen. Different media, different formats.”

“I’m really excited to get Anaïs’ work at the Harwood. I’ve been following her work for a long time. Through other projects I’ve had the pleasure to work with Anaïs on really creative levels, and it’s been inspiring in a number of ways. This show is just the tip of the iceberg on the depth of her work, and we hope to see more at the museum in the future. She’s awesome.”

Thomas said he found “108 Crows” especially exciting to curate. “The craft and execution, the creativity of the concept — I found it really engaging. I’m thinking of this as an installation, not a traditionally hung exhibit. The 36 panels will be floating an inch off the wall, so there’ll be a shadow reveal, like they’re flying. You’ll be able to approach from the staircase so you’re looking up at them, and then come to eye level. It plays with perception and projection.”

Rumfelt told Tempo that working with a trusted curator like Thomas has been a joyful experience. “This is a really cool thing that Matt is doing. It’s brand new to the Harwood, and it’s a different approach. It’s an edge the museum has to play, and that is to be at a professional level as a respectable, accredited institution, and still be accessible and inclusive. That’s a challenge in this community, because there’s so much richness of creative art here that you have to be really present and conscious — and that’s a total asset.”

The Rumfelt installation will be on view throughout the month of November.

The Harwood Museum of Art is located at 238 Ledoux St. For more information, call (575) 758-9826 or visit harwoodmuseum.org.

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