Fine art

Ceramic Alchemy

The magic of 'Earth Fire Paint' at Studio 107B

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A busy hub of the contemporary art world is hiding in plain sight in a light, airy space between Mesa's Edge and Nambe on the north side of Taos Plaza. That space is Studio 107-B, the brainchild of multi-talented Taos artist Maye Torres.

On a recent afternoon, the studio saw a stream of visits from local and international artists, writers, gallery-owners and friends as well as buyers drawn by the fresh collection of world-class work.

Keeping up with a steady parade of exhibitions since the venue opened a few months ago, Torres is debuting "Earth Fire Paint" at a reception planned Saturday (May 12) from 4-7 p.m., at Studio 107-B. The show continues through June 17.

"This exhibit focuses mainly on ceramic artists working in a variety of uses," Torres said. "Ceramic vessels are the meeting of earth and fire, then painted with glaze. So: Earth Fire Paint. We were inspired by the clay shows being organized by some of the Kit Carson Road galleries."

Sixteen artists, including Torres herself, will be represented in the show.

Brian Shields moved here decades ago from Barcelona, Spain, to teach art in the San Luis Valley in Colorado. He and his partner (and Amigos Bravos co-founder), poet Sawnie Morris, will be collaborating on a piece for the show encompassing visual media and poetry. "It's exciting to see this historic gallery space bring contemporary art back to the Plaza, and I'm thrilled to be part of it," Shields said. Morris, incidentally, is also the first Taos Poet Laureate.

"Brian is an action painter," Torres said. "He has a directness with medium, a spontaneous use where there's a happy dance with the canvas."

Stephen Kilborn and John Hutson both create functional artware out of clay. "They use clay cups and plates and platters as their surface to paint with incredible glazes," Torres said. "Stephen's a born artist and a master with his medium. John is incredibly prolific. He specializes in carving amazing textures into his clay, and has a color palette of vivid oranges, reds and blacks."

"If I had to describe my work in one word, it would be 'eclectic,'" Hutson said.

"Michael Gorman is a nephew of the late R.C. Gorman, and will soon be continuing that legacy and opening his own gallery here in Taos," Torres said. "He focuses on raku firing his vessels. Mercedes Montoya is a multimedia maker who's been in Taos for years. She's usually at art fairs, so we're lucky to have her. Carl Gray Witkop works with burnished pit firing, with carvings that are really exquisite.

"We're fortunate to have two brilliant clay artists from Taos Pueblo. Jeralyn Lujan Lucero does sculpture with micaceous clay. She's pioneered innovative, contemporary uses of traditional Taos clay and is working in exciting new forms. Dawning Pollen Shorty comes from the Track family legacy of potters. She is a multimedia artist who has been focusing on using the micaceous clay for sculptures and vessels, and she also paints beautifully."

Ron Cooper moved to Taos from Los Angeles in the 1960s. "He was one of the first of those L.A. guys to come here," Torres said. "He has done spectacular work with sculpture made from ceramic torsos of people's bodies, painted with glazes. Kathleen Ferguson's creative journey has taken her from Taos to the Middle East, where she studied the silk road and taught for 12 years in Qatar. Her work was exhibited in New York City at the Whitney Biennial. Deborah Rael-Buckley is originally from Albuquerque and has been a ceramic artist most of her life. I love her imaginative use of clay, woven with New Mexico legends and quotes from her experiences in life."

"My soulful relationship with clay is about enriching, nurturing, forgiving, creating and remembering," Rael-Buckley said.

Gretchen Ewert was raised in Mora. "I think she's a multidimensional artist from another universe," Torres said. "She's technically exceptional, and she combines animal forms with people and archetypal objects. Her artwork links science and myth and the 'rational world.'" Said Ewert, "Everything I do refers to the natural world and me in it."

Marcia Oliver came to New Mexico to paint in 1969 and has been working and showing here for most of her life. "She is one of the most extraordinary abstract artists," Torres said. "Her work is like the sublime language of dream time. Marcia has powerful use of art and paint that talks to our subconscious.

"Hank Saxe is not only an important ceramic artist himself, but over the years he has facilitated many other artists, hosting them to work in his Taos studio and assisting them with technical aspects of sculptural development. Hank has a very direct way of manipulating the clay, and really other-worldly architectural forms emerge. Jim Wagner, so well known as a painter, has also been working in Hank Saxe's clay studio for decades. Clay gives him that surface for his brilliant color skills. Jim's subject matter can be so delightful and whimsical. We're excited to show him. Jim's authentic, playful use of material never fails to wow the audience."

Torres traces her own clay work to early childhood experimentation with mudpies. "Gradually I worked my way up to figurative sculpture. I find clay has a memory of what it wants to be, and I'm like the human guide to these forms. Sometimes angels are just using your hands."

Her profoundly evocative work indeed seems to have a timeless, other-dimensional quality, beautifully interweaving antlered deities with exalted human forms and esoteric scripts.

"I think being an artist is an honorable curse," she reflected. "It's our job to carry the torch in darkness, and that's our intention with this gallery. One of our goals is to start the Renaissance 2020. We're doing it with art because revolutions are too bloody. Taos has always been a hotbed for the arts and for equality. I think we're still fighting for that equality."

For more information, call (575) 779-7832.

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