Exacting creatives

The spirit of the collective art group TNT!

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How seven successful, highly individualistic female artists of a certain age group living and working in Taos managed to coordinate their personal visions and creativity to produce a participatory installation artwork — without knock-down drag-outs over purpose, process, interdisciplinary art activities and more — is yet another success of “The Corridor,” a 30-foot-long sculptural passageway erected in the lilac garden of The Stables Gallery during The Paseo Project II, Sept. 25-26, 2015.

TNT! members Dora Dillistone, Jan Dorris, Dianne Frost, Sally Gray, TJ Mabrey, M. Oliver and Barbara Zaring got together in January of 2015 and met monthly

to create the final iteration of “The Corridor,” with only two partial trial runs before the actual day of installation — a pretty nerve-wracking scenario for such

exacting creatives as these women.

“Sometimes, beginnings can be easy if the end is not known,” writes Mabrey, the group’s unanimously named instigator, about their installation piece.

“Allowing for the unseen, the unknown, the adventure of creating something can be magic, allowing for new and not seen aspects of a collaborative art to appear.”

The very same spirit of collaborative magic was foreseen for The PASEO, first proposed by STEAMarts innovator/Taos artist Agnes Chavez and Taos Renaissance man Matt Thomas. It is a festival of performance installation art intended to unite the different exhibit venues of the 2014 Taos Fall Arts Festival. This town-wide, free-admission festival is now a highlight of Taos arts and a source destination in its own right.

The Corridor artists all knew each other from a critique class with University of New Mexico’s Jeremy McDonnell, variously attended over a five-year period. They had never worked together, but they knew each other and their work.

“We all like each other,” Oliver said. “Working alone, you have a tendency to get insular and isolated, so it really helps to see each other’s work and give each

other feedback.”

Truly a “gestalt,” where the whole equals more than the sum of its parts, the group process somehow worked for each of them.

“I loved it,” Zaring said about the whole process. “I’m an introvert, but I became ‘The Teacher’ when everyone came through. I knew a lot about the artists and I’d tell them when people would ask. Dora had a heat-sensitive part of her tube and it would leave an imprint of your hand embedded on it. Everyone loved it, especially the kids, they loved being a part of it.”

The Corridor was ultimately constructed of 24, 12-foot-tall cardboard tubes mostly repurposed from Dan’s Carpets of Taos. Each artist designed a specific tube, which was then combined with 17 additional silver tubes inscribed with the names and histories of women in the arts — women from Sofonisba Anguissola (1532-1625) to Taos’ Agnes Martin (1912-2004).

“It was quite an adventure,” Gray said. “Here we are, longtime mature artists and we managed to work on it for eight months, and then to have it up and down in just two days!”

Originally designed as a closed tunnel, in case of rain or other weather elements, Dillistone said it was a challenge; the tied top pulled away and morphed into a more open profile once it was finally erected.

Gray and Dorris both agree that it seemed harder when they were in the middle of it all, and then it was suddenly done.

“It was fun,” Dorris said. “At the time I thought, ‘Oh this is hard.’ But when I look back on it, it was fun. And people enjoyed it. I was shocked at how responsive people were to it.”

Mabrey said the TNT! group is dynamite artists and women who, during the whole process, “came out with one voice.”

“The unique tubes exhibit unquestionable talent, humor and a collective art spirit,” Mabrey concludes in the installation statement. “‘The Corridor’ unites art, history, women and collaboration, and inspires the empowerment of creativity with and within the Taos community.”

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