As the pandemic drags on, New Mexico’s artists are conjuring a wellspring of creativity from isolation.
The New Mexico Cancer Center’s Gallery With A Cause is displaying the results of that work in “The Art of Quarantine,” available online and by appointment through May 20.
The exhibition features 400 pieces by 20 artists, including ceramics, quilts, weaving, mixed-media, painting, printmaking and photography. Forty percent of the proceeds go to the New Mexico Cancer Center Foundation. The organization raises funds for patients’ nonmedical needs, such as utility bills, child care, food and housing.
Gallery curator and director Regina Held scrolled across the internet, finding countless images in a galaxy of materials and styles.
“Some people kept painting a new piece every day,” she said. “People were staying home. What do you do all day? Artists were becoming more creative, more productive. I said we should celebrate this.”
Placitas artist Tricia George completed a children’s book featuring her own whimsical illustrations of animals, vegetables and fruit.
“I was writing a picture book about relationships,” she explained. “Relationships are composed of gifts and you never know when they’re going to come or go,” she continued. “You never know when you’re going to meet someone new; you never know when somebody’s going to leave your life. While I was painting the critters, the rhyme came to me. I was painting two to three images a week.”
Each animal offers a piece of fruit or a vegetable to another. In “The Chameleon and the Kingfisher,” the reptile offers a mango to the bird sitting on an apple.
George says she has at least three additional books in the works, including a piece about Albuquerque and its balloons.
Constance Falk, a retired New Mexico State University professor now living in Placitas, painted “Monastery Road” from her own photograph. The modernist oil on canvas depicts the road to the Monastery of Christ in the Desert in Abiquiú.
“I have a lot more time on my hands because I can’t go anywhere,” she said.
Falk belongs to a plein air (outdoor) painting group, where she focuses on color, interesting perspectives and landscapes.
“I try to walk a fine line between realism and pushing the boundaries of color,” she said. “On that road there’s so much beautiful scenery,” she added. “It’s kind of a favorite road for painters.”
Falk moved here after retiring as a professor of agricultural economics four years ago. She took art classes as she was working. Today she is the treasurer of the Rio Grande Art Association.
Cristina Sanchez created her “Geometria del Pensamiento” in clay and mahogany. The sculpture is part of a series inspired by the pandemic. The blue color is the result of copper oxidation.
The Corrales artist says the piece is about complex thought. The pandemic forced her to look inside because she couldn’t go outside.
All of her 2020 art shows were cancelled, Sanchez said.
“I had the opportunity to make a lot of work,” she said. “In the beginning, I was a little depressed because I had lost my goals. After a few weeks, I decided to do more work to prepare for when it ends.”
The veil or mask covering the sculpture’s eyes refers to aviator goggles, Sanchez said.
“You travel with your brain, with your mind and with your feelings.”
The Gallery With A Cause hosts four exhibitions annually, usually aligned with the seasons, Held said. About half the artists in the exhibit have shown there before.
“We actually lose money on the art,” Held said. “The primary reason to have art in there is to create a beautiful, healing, meditative space for our patients and to lift the morale of the staff.”
The exhibition usually raises between $6,000 and $12,000 per show, she added.
Held is the former owner, founder and director of Matrix Fine Art and New Grounds, a non-toxic print facility in Nob Hill.