Taos has a lot of artists hustling to raise a family and to earn a living while creating amazing art. In fact, many pieces of artwork speak to this reality: of what it's like to be a local artist. At The ORALE! Gallery, art lovers can immerse themselves in this experience.
Tre DeCosta, along with his wife Lizzy, is the entrepreneur-owner of The ORALE! Gallery at 114 Kit Carson Road. On Saturday (Feb. 17) at 6 p.m., the gallery will host a Saint Valentine's artist reception. The event is free and all are welcome.
"Our mission for ORALE! is to promote Northern New Mexico alternative artists," DeCosta said. "These are the artists that don't get a shot at the hiring galleries in the major retail districts in Santa Fe and Taos. We give voice to the voiceless, the artists that have no voice."
At the Saint Valentine's Artist Reception, ORALE! plans to give free flowers to all the women who show up that night. There will also be free chocolates, candies and champagne.
"Our events are free-flowing and fun. There's no other way to describe them," DeCosta said. "We usually have in excess of 200 people show up at all of our openings. Coming through our gallery on Kit Carson Road, it takes on a life of its own."
For Saturday's event, local artist El Moises will be signing the children's book: "Owl in a Straw Hat: El Tecolote del sombrero de paja." El Moises illustrated this book for the highly revered New Mexican author Rudolfo Anaya. In a press announcement for the book, the Museum of New Mexico Press stated, "Anaya is the author of the classic 'Bless Me Ultima.' In 2016, Anaya received the National Medal of Arts presented by President Barack Obama."
Anaya's Spanish text was translated into English by the University of New Mexico scholar, Enrique R. Lamadrid.
Tempo caught up with Lamadrid to get his take on the book. "Owls are wise," he said, "but they're not very smart sometimes. Ravens and crows are really smart, but they are not very wise."
Ollie the owl lives in an orchard in Northern New Mexico. Other colorful characters in the book include a fox, a coyote, a lobo and Randy the Roadrunner who learned how to read, earned a business degree and now owns the best lowrider shop in Española. Through his unique, colorful style, El Moises brings all of these characters to life.
DeCosta said, "That book was a real departure for what El Moises usually does, which is oil on canvas, oil on wood, and cutouts. The illustrations are incredible, and they are having great success with the book. We will have the books for sale, and El Moises will be here doing book signings."
The ORALE! Gallery will soon celebrate its second anniversary in July. Historically, the DeCostas have enjoyed representing artists and throwing big receptions. "For my wife and I, we are chefs. We're waiting to open a new restaurant. The hospitality comes really natural to us," explained DeCosta.
Paños are also on display at The ORALE! Gallery. Paños are highly decorative handkerchiefs created by prisoners. Often at prisons, a cotton handkerchief is one of the few items allowed. Prisoners create their art using ballpoint pen. This form of art was the subject of a Paris Review article in 2015.
"I'm the only gallery that I know of in the entire Southwestern U.S. that is actually showing and selling handcrafted paños that were made from inside the penitentiary at Hobbs," DeCosta said. "I represent a couple of artists from Hobbs. I put back 75 percent of the sale on their commissary in prison. These paños are amazing."
DeCosta said Taos Tattoo is his other store. "I'm very familiar with great tattoo art. I know the level of the art on these handkerchiefs. We have a whole display of them. They are for sale at $300 apiece. They're just amazing inmate art. In Texas, it's illegal to do this. Only in a few states is it legal for a gallery to sell and give the money back to the artists in prison."
About the importance of these pieces, DeCosta said, "The locals understand what a paño is. You don't have to have five art degrees to create some fine work."
Other featured artists at the gallery are Tera Muskrat, two-time Grammy Award-winning Robert Mirabal, Scripture, and Heather Ross to name a few. "Tera Muskrat has a new painting she's going to be rolling out. Scripture was born and raised in Taos; we have quite a few pieces from him. For Robert Mirabal, we carry his whole line of jewelry. We have his books, his CDs, and his spirit amulet jewelry," DeCosta said.
About Heather Ross, DeCosta noted that her work is outstanding as a fine arts photographer. And she is hardworking, working numerous jobs while creating art. "She is a local Taos artist who suffers and slaves at that on a daily basis here. She's the real deal."
Gary Blackchild is a New Mexican singer-songwriter. He will be providing the entertainment.
"The whole night is free; we want families coming. It's family appropriate. We want all the locals to come out and celebrate this style of art in Taos," DeCosta said.