Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
The hands of Deret Roberts reveal the stains, paint and scars of constant work.
That work includes fine art, painting building signs, murals and other projects.
“As long as I’m doing something with my hands, I’m happy,” he said.
The owner of Las Cruces’ Obscura Gallery, Roberts grew up in Deming, where he realized he was an artist in high school. He also shows his work at Santa Fe’s Keep Contemporary.
“When I was in high school, someone convinced me to go to art club,” he said in a phone interview from Las Cruces. “I had never thought about actually making anything. The teacher really lit a spark in me just by being around artwork. It really gave me that mental freedom.”
The artist went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in fine arts, with a focus on painting, at New Mexico State University.
Realizing he couldn’t “do a normal job,” he opened his gallery in 2013 under the condition that he restore the space first.
“Somebody that owned a building made a deal with me,” he explained. “They would put it towards rent.”
That sweaty deposit lasted a year.
Today, Roberts’ Art Obscura exhibits the work of about 50 artists, including his own.
His work reflects both the imagery and techniques of the Great Masters brushed with a dash of Surrealism.
“I’ve always been drawn to the Flemish painters and the Renaissance – the way they painted skin. I’m always drawn to the more realistic.”
He works in both oils and acrylics.
“I can work a lot faster that way,” he said. “I do all the underpainting in acrylic because it dries so fast. I hate having to wait around for paint to dry.
“I’m in the studio four weeks straight,” he said. “It’s ‘I’m going into the studio and I’ll see you in a couple weeks,’ ” he added.
“I use painting as a tool to discover things about myself. I’m always trying to change it up and not repeat myself, and hoping for another show in the fall or winter.”
He paints figures; most of them female and from his imagination.
“My work has been a joy for me in finding my own style,” Roberts said. “I’m not even sure I’ve found it yet. It takes me down this ever-changing rabbit hole.”
“Golden Veil” is a portrait of a woman, her face and shoulders draped in a cloud of netting. Roberts prefers that his paintings remain mysterious.
“This latest theme was dealing with what reality really is,” he said. “It’s got different colored eyes and this golden veil. These are all faces and bodies I’ve put together. I’ve never used a complete model.
“I never really give a definitive answer on my painting,” he added. “I give you enough to get you started.”
“Under the Shade” shows a downcast woman, her neck and forehead ringed by halos.
“That painting came out as more of reflecting an emotion rather than a narrative,” Roberts said. “I wanted it to have a feeling to it.”
With “All That Glitters,” heart-shaped golden forms cover the woman’s eyes.
“It goes back to that old saying, ‘not all that glitters is gold,’ ” Roberts said, “and that expression ‘rose-colored glasses.’ ”
Over the years, Art Obscura has gained traction in the community by hosting art openings, live music performances, comedy shows, plays, film screenings and other opportunities to socialize and connect with others. Roberts knew of many talented artists with an underground style who were ignored by the community.
“The pandemic was rough,” he acknowledged. “I have a lot of art openings with music and poetry. It’s only within the past couple of months that it came back again.”