Recycled Art Show & Tell

This fabric piece by Susan Faeder was my favorite. It’s not large or nicely framed, nor do I have any idea who Susan is, but it won my heart. So painterly, and her self-expression is so full of feeling. Yes, I’m blogging about last Saturday’s Arte de Descartes that I mentioned last week while focusing mainly on the organizer and originator of this 11-year Taos recycled art tradition, Melissa Larson.

Also greatly admired this wood and metal piece by Lydia Garcia. It takes the idea of retablo art to a new level. As the title suggests…glorious! And I won’t be able to show all the art that had a similar energetic quality to these first two, but I will say that this is the kind of art that I expected to find more of in Taos when I moved here, now 15 months ago–art that feels authentic, from the soul, and with its own inherent quality of liveliness and spirit. And for this reason I highly recommend any of you reading this who missed the opening to try and get by the Stables Gallery and see this show, a true Taos treasure. It’s open until September 11 and the hours are normal business hours.

This construction is by Sybille Palmer, a Taos local and art friend of mine. It’s titled Ceremony and is expressive of an aspect of one of my favorite themes, the Divine Feminine. The small painting to the right is my collage named Shakti Yantra, which expresses something similar but in a highly symbolic language. The juxtaposition of the two pieces feels harmonic.

Out in the courtyard during the first two hours of the opening was Reuben Medina and his band of several musical friends. It is my understanding that Reuben has a kind of open house at his place on Sundays for a musical gathering, but don’t just show up on my word please. He obviously loves music and the idea of playing in a spontaneous way in the context of a group. This approach lent a beautiful atmosphere to the courtyard where lots of folks were milling about, some in anticipation of the fashion show.

The recycled fashion show (called Glam Trash) started at 6 PM with a bang–this very relaxed and dramatic woman on stilts. Wish I had her name to offer. But this photo captures the excitement of the moment when she appeared to start things off. Also I love the way the photo reflects the natural beauty of this courtyard dedicated to art of all kinds throughout the seasons in Taos. It is an extension of the Stables Gallery which is basically a public gallery, operated by the Taos Art Organization, TAO.

There were, of course, many charming and delightful women who walked the “catwalk,” some in shoes that made walking in gravel a challenge–women of all ages and shapes and degrees of swagger and interesting outfits. But there were also many young girls and this one stood out in my photos. Her outfit was named, “Everything.”

And I would be remiss if I failed to mention the band that played for the fashion show. Each person walking down the path had her own individual music. As I hope you can see from this photo the kind of music played somewhat defies typing. Horns were a big part of the sound, I’ll say that. The complexity of the drums and percussion you can only surmise from the set-up on the lower left corner of the photo. The entire event–this celebration of recycling was a wake-up call to the spirit side of myself and I expect that was the effect it had on everyone. What a collaborative creation, a kind of art “happening” in the heart of downtown Taos! I’m proud to have been a small part of it.

My other collage in the show–Divine Feminine Yantra

Taos Wholly Rags & Art from Discards

The occasion slipped by me last year this time, but Taos has had an annual recycled art exhibit for 10 years now. On August 27 the Arte de Descartes XI will have its opening. Being relatively new here I was simply attracted to “recycled” as a premise for making art and participating in a gallery show. When my pieces were done and the deadline near for submitting photos of my work for the jury process I chose to hand-deliver my application form to Melissa Larson at her spacious studio, the official home of Wholly Rags.

A picture is worth a thousand words and luckily this is a photo kind of blog. Here in her studio Melissa is surrounded by recycled fabric, by art created from fabric, by tools for making art from fabric, by some fine examples of such art and by a library of books for finding techniques and inspiration for it. To say I was impressed by the sheer amount of fabric would be a start, but before long it was Melissa herself who was amazing me even more so. Yes, she is the founder of the Art de Descartes 11 years ago. And no, Descartes, does not refer to a famous philosopher by the same name, but rather simply means “discards” in Spanish. Said gringa failed to put that one together.

Through conversation with Melissa I learned that she, more or less singlehandedly, keeps the flow of discarded fabric in Taos moving toward true recycled use as opposed to a final resting place in a landfill. This seems to be a self-oppointed mission and she works hard every day making her rounds. The CAV (Citizens Against Violence) thrift store is one of the major drop off places for people trying to “do good” by way of their castoff fabric things. There the donations are evaluated and most are put aside for a trip down the recycle road. They call Melissa often and she picks up these castoffs and adds them to what is accumulating in her storage unit, rented for this purpose.

Another fertile sourceof “overflow” is the “free box” at the Taos Recycling Center a few blocks away from Wholly Rags. When the storage area there gets overloaded it’s Melissa who comes to the rescue. Eventually her storage unit is full and then the contents are sold by the ton to some recycling entity from out of town. I’m oversimplifying this but hopefully I’m painting a picture that is somewhat realistic. The whole point of Melissa’s efforts is to keep fabric out of landfills and see that it find usefulness above ground, either as clothing, art or even in home construction projects (this may only be conceptual now). If you visit the Wholly Rags website, linked above in the first paragraph, you’ll learn more. And to find out more about the art show, Arte de Descartes, just select “EVENTS.”

I enjoyed seeing this 3D fabric art I found on one of the walls. At one point in my interview with Melissa the other day (yes, I had to return a 2nd time with my camera) we were standing next to a pile of old corduroy fabric. She pointed out that it was all 100% cotton and that this quality is getting rarer to find. We were both mesmerized by its velvety, rich texture and feel. There was so much beauty and even more potential beauty in the place that it was on one hand exciting and inspiring and on the other a bit overwhelming and chaotic.

Melissa states on the Wholly Rags’ website that its mission is “to piece together and re-thread the fabric of our community by gathering the cloth of the past to conserve the culture of the future.” I know meeting her has been eye-opening for me and as an enthusiastic participant in the Arte de Descartes show my wish is that it be well-attended and an inspiration to the community, as well as a boon for Wholly Rags.

Colorado & Back


River rafting was the big attraction at 3Rivers Resort where my family had a big reunion last week. The resort is situated along the Taylor River about 10 miles north of Gunnison, CO. My granddaughter was able to attend it and renew relationships with folks she hadn’t seen since she was 4. She celebrated her 12th birthday while we were there.

This shot captures the natural beauty of the resort and the way 12-year olds like to take photos with their iPhones. Sometimes she would switch over to borrowing my digital slr and give the iPhone a rest. We were a photographing team.

On the last full day of our time in Colorado we took a little visit over to Crested Butte, a small ski town developed 50 or so years ago. We both loved it. Even Emma, who grew up in the ski town of Sun Valley, Idaho, was impressed by the natural beauty of the landscape and the town itself. It seemed to have a sense of itself, how it wanted to look and feel, and as far as we explored there seemed to be consistency. There were many benches such as this one, along the main street, created to be functional works of art. They showed off the artistic, funky spirit of the town.

I’ll use this one photo to symbolize all the flowers we saw everywhere we went. Even along the main shopping street there was space for flower beds and displays. The sidewalks were wide, giving pedestrians a feeling of space as they walked around. I think the elevation of the town was around 7,700 so I know they have a short growing season so I suspect they achieved their flowers by using lots of perennials and setting out starts grown in greenhouses. The effect was truly inspiring and uplifting.

I saw somewhere that Crested Butte claimed to be the wildflower capital of Colorado. Many family members went on hikes and enjoyed the flowers.

In this photo you can see what I assume to be the Crested Butte that gives the town its name. These houses are typical of the local style. Not sure how you would describe it but seen at a distance it looks like a toy town. Snow is a major factor here and might explain these steep metal roofs, good for releasing accumulating snow.

On the drive back home to Taos we stopped at the Earthship Center located along Hwy 64 west of the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. My granddaughter had never seen or even heard of an earthship so she got an eye-full. This Earthship World Headquarters location handles a lot of related activities, such as a school to learn green building concepts and techniques, and an earthship rental service (one night).

This shot accentuates the free-form use of adobe-like building materials and the incorporation of glass bottles for color and aesthetics. Gotta love that Taos plateau blue sky.

I loved the use of so much glass in the design of this wall and the pleasing shape of the opening. This was part of a project that was still under construction, but located near the center, encouraging visitors to look around.

Next on the Taos tour was the Gorge Bridge. I mentioned that the people of Taos were concerned about the recent larger numbers of “jumpers.” She felt there should definitely be a net below the railing. We looked at a recent copy of the Taos News the next day and saw that concern about bridge suicides was a headline. She was happy to see her concerns shared by the town.

Next day was Saturday and we went straight to the farm market for a palm reading by Bonnie Bramble who offers readings each week during the market season. Children’s palms are read for free, which is generous of Bonnie.

Aw shucks another lovely hollyhock.