Place can connect us to something beyond ourselves.
For Placitas artist Joan Fenicle, that sense of place begins in the Southwest.
Fenicle’s exhibition “All About Place” runs through Jan. 30 at Wild Hearts Gallery in Placitas. The artist combines oil, photography and mixed-media work into compositions of almost spiritual resonance. Most of her 12-by-30-inch landscapes center in Colorado and New Mexico.
The photograph “Point of No Return” captures a spot on the road through Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Monument near Alamosa. A sign warns drivers they might get stuck in sand if they go farther.
“It was that late day golden sun,” she said. “For me, photography is just a tool. I desaturated the sky so it wouldn’t compete with the beautiful foreground.”
Her photograph “Along Ancient Trails: Penitente Canyon” is another southwestern Colorado location near Del Norte. Fenicle remembers feeling wary of bears as she spotted berries growing along the hiking trail.
“We were in some of the old Spanish trails,” she said. “There’s supposed to be a spot where you can find the ruts.”
She often prints her pictures on watercolor paper to give them a painterly feel. For “Penitente” she used birch panel with cold wax instead of varnish.
“It has an organic feel and it gives some depth to the image,” she said.
Her painting “Autumn Encounter in the Jemez” was inspired by a trip to the Jemez Mountains. Close observers can spot a bear between the slender trunks.
Fenicle created “La Junta: View from the Rim” after a camping trip using construction materials, found objects and acrylic paint.
She based the image on a topographical map. The piece features beads for bridges.
“They’re a lot of fun if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty,” she said of her mixed-media technique.
She stumbled upon the unused village chapel in Ojo Feliz near Mora and decided to paint it. She glued Belgian linen to the canvas for more texture.
“The villagers who built it still plaster and paint it,” she said. “It’s a real act of love.”
Fenicle first came to Albuquerque with her first husband, then moved to San Antonio, Texas. She returned, moving to Placitas, after their divorce. Her own jobs ranged from a business analyst at the University of New Mexico to a software business with her second husband.
“I was a free-range child,” the 80-year-old Fenicle said. “I grew up in a small town in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado – Idaho Springs.
“My father was artistic,” she continued. “His idea of a new toy was a box of crayons and a piece of paper.”
Always a painter, she learned photography to capture images for her canvasses.
Although she wanted to major in art, Fenicle went to business college in Denver at her father’s urging. She built a studio after moving to Placitas.
“For the first time, I had a dedicated art studio and I got involved in the arts coming up here,” she said.
“I think all children are creative and it either gets stifled out of you or it gets encouraged. It was a given in our family.”