Healing can encompass medication, surgery and spirituality.
For the artists at the New Mexico Cancer Center’s Gallery with a Cause, it begins with a paintbrush or a camera.
“The Art of Healing” will hang at the gallery through Feb. 17. Curated by Regina Held, the exhibition showcases 380 meditative and uplifting works, most of them by artists whose lives have been impacted by life-changing illnesses. Forty percent of each sale is tax deductible and goes to the New Mexico Cancer Center Foundation. The money supports patients’ nonmedical needs for utility bills, child care, food and housing.
Self-taught photographer Rozanna Hakala hikes and photographs the rugged corners of New Mexico with her husband and dog Koda Chrome. Originally from outside Buffalo, New York, she moved to Placitas in 2013.
Hakala’s fascination with lenses germinated when she watched her older brother working in their home’s basement darkroom.
“Watching him do images on film was my first introduction to photography,” she said. “It was fascinating to see this picture appear out of nowhere.”
After working in communications at a local Washington, D.C. public television station, then at PBS, she worked as an executive for an international media company.
“I’ve always been around creatives, from photographers and writers to media producers, so I hope some of that rubbed off on me,” she said.
When Hakala moved to New Mexico, its landscapes and people beckoned. She shot “Native Dancer” at an Indigenous dance at Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa.
“I took this photograph with a slow shutter to capture the movement and motion of her dress,” Hakala said. “I kind of wanted her to represent no one in particular. It’s not so specific that she’s identifiable. My subjects were always primarily landscapes until I met her.”
This marks Hakala’s first entry into Gallery with a Cause. Her father-in-law was a New Mexico Cancer Center patient.
Painting a floral series helped Nolan Winkler of Hillsboro cope with the trauma of nursing her husband, who died of a heart condition. It also helped her escape the pandemic-saturated news.
“It took my mind off everything to paint,” she said. “It always does. You go into the studio and you get started painting and you try not to think.”
Katherine Irish knew she was an artist from the time she was a child. She favors the jewel-like vibrancy of pastels.
“When you look under a microscope, the particles have a prismatic quality,” she said.
A retired counselor, she has won numerous awards, including the Frank C. Wright Medal of Honor with the American Artists Professional League. Irish moved to Albuquerque in 1992.
Irish began working in pastels seriously in 2002, finding inspiration in New Mexico’s landscapes, blue skies and brilliant geological formations.
“Forest Light I” emerged from the New Mexico maples in Fourth of July Canyon.
“My husband and I like to go hiking there in October,” Irish said. “I just love the color. I take a ton of photographs and work on it in my studio.
“I do a quick sketch and I block in the light and dark masses,” she continued. “I do water on top of that to seal it.”
Known for her sunsets, Irish calls herself a “skywatcher.” She was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2002 and is currently in remission.
Contemporary abstract impressionist Kari Bell moved to Taos after retiring from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania.
Now living in Rio Rancho, draws from personal experience and New Mexico’s natural landscapes and rich history.
Bell uses an experimental cold wax technique to create space for spontaneous occurrences within the paint. She mixes a turpentine-like substance with beeswax, mixing it with paint so that it dries faster.
“I have a hard time waiting for paint to dry,” she said.
She spent much of her early work experience in Spain and France, immersing herself in the expanses of European and Latin American arts and culture. She served as a university educator and department chair of modern language studies for more than three decades.
For Bell, the act of painting takes on a transformative and sometimes subversive role. She abhors brushes, preferring to use pot scrapers and even credit cards to apply her paint.
“I paint what I feel about, what I see,” she said. “I like the idea of capturing the Southwest and the desert without making it so clear.”
Her painting “Stories” reflects us all.
“Everybody has a story,” she said. “Everybody has a journey. We go through time, the beauty of it is a story point for new growth and new development. I just think it’s something everybody has. Everybody knows what you mean when you say you have a story.”