Fine art

Take home some Taos color

Las Comadres Gallery a breath of fresh air for locals and visitors

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It’s that time of year when the streets of Taos downtown are packed with visitors and even the locals hit the pavement. Everyone checking out what has transpired in Taos over the winter.

One favorite is Las Comadres Gallery, a business cooperative comprised solely of women artists. The women-only idea came together in 1997 and they opened an Arroyo Seco shop featuring local artisans of Taos and surrounding areas. Over the past 20 years, if you’re a female artist and you lived in Taos, you very likely have been part of Las Comadres.

A 20-year celebration is planned for late in the year. Be on the look out for a reception during Fall Arts.

Since I’ve been writing about the arts in Taos for over 20 years, it surprised me to find I have not been in Las Comadres since they moved almost five years ago to their enviable spot right off the Taos Plaza alleyway, the first door you hit as you enter the John Dunn House boardwalk. Well, it actually was a boardwalk a long time ago, but John Dunn House owner/developer Polly Raye has continually upgraded it over three decades into a busy and engaging placita, complete with outdoor rest spots, music and the occasional food and sidewalk vendor.

The current suite of Comadres are basically all new since the move to John Dunn House shops. Artisanal potter Mari “Mud” Hawkes and art photographer Kathryn Hayden were working the gallery last week when I stopped in (Mari is pronounced Mary despite the spelling. She explains she added “Mud” to her name to honor the medium she works in so passionately).

“I joined four years ago in November and now I’m the longest person here,” Hawkes said, noting that when she joined there was a founding Comadre still with the gallery. With the worst of the Great Recession finally over here in Taos, Hawkes said business is brisk and the gallery’s stable of Comadres is up to 11, all locals hailing from Arroyo Hondo to Peñasco, offering original, hand-wrought artisanal works.

In addition to potter Hawkes and photographer Hayden, Las Comadres includes jeweler Christina Marie Beck; watercolor painter Karen McCurtain Blair; polymer clay folk artist Frances Mascarenas; fiber artists Patricia Morrison, Minna White and Annie Wild; metal-punch artist Kimberly Pollis; mandala artist Barbara Moncivais Sager; and oil/ pastel painter Diana Smith. They also feature popular local outdoorswoman Cindy Brown’s “Taos Hiking Guide.”

“When artists join a gallery, there’s an evolution in their career,” “Mud” Hawkes observed. “I know my work has changed since joining. I understand better what types of functionalities customers want. I get feedback – like adding lids to my mugs, so you can put them in the fridge if you don’t drink it all, and then put it in the microwave to heat it back up.”

Don’t come looking for esoterica at Las Comadres, Hawkes continued. “This is an eclectic mix of ideas and mix of prices. Women can come in and find art to wear, to use in their kitchen or things just to make your house a home” – women and of course men, anyone who loves shopping.

“Take Home Some Taos Color” is a new tagline Las Comadres added recently, Hawkes said, along with a new logo. The gallery window is themed by a featured member of the month, and then added-to accordingly by other members. July’s theme is sunflowers and birds and the window is predominantly yellow and blue with a few ravenesque and magpie undertones.

“I think we have something really unique here in Taos,” Hayden said. “It’s all handmade local products, all in one location. Customers love to buy from someone who’s making the work. And we get locals buying too.”

Hawkes said Las Comadres is solidly behind Saturdays’ Farmer’s Market. “Saturday mornings used to be kind of dead. Now there’s just a hubbub of activity.”

The gallery opens daily at 10 am. Members meet monthly, share management responsibilities and each artist works rotating days. Las Comadres is always interested in reviewing new talent and welcomes the opportunity to view the work of women seeking gallery membership. Applications are filed and then reviewed when an opening comes up.

For more information, contact the gallery at (575) 737-5323 or visit with the member on duty at the gallery. Also see lascomadresgallery.com for details.

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