Artist Joan Fenicle crafts works with bold colors and found objects

Artist Joan Fenicle crafts works with bold colors and found objects

“Sunset” by Joan Fenicle. (Courtesy of Wild Hearts Gallery)

Joan Fenicle has spent a lifetime traveling the caminos and callejónes of New Mexico and Colorado, offering impressions of these mountainous states in paintings and photographs.

Fenicle grew up in an old Colorado mining town, the daughter of Scandinavian immigrants.

Fenicle says her father’s people arrived in this country before the Revolutionary War and came west, some in search of gold, some in search of adventure. He was born on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, where her grandfather had come to live among the Shoshone and build schools.

“Ghost Ranch Dreaming” by Joan Fenicle. (Courtesy of Wild Hearts Gallery)

Fenicle’s latest, largely vertical, body of work can be seen at Placitas’ Wild Hearts Gallery in “Down to the Bones.”

The mixed-media exhibit concentrates on a narrow view of the landscape using the bold colors of acrylics and construction materials such as stucco patch to explore her ideas.

A founding member of Wild Hearts, Fenicle is a retired accountant who also manages Placitas’ KUPR-FM radio station.

“I’m not a college educated artist,” she said. “I was encouraged from the time I was a little kid. My dad was very artistic.”

In New Mexico since the 1970s, Fenicle has lived in Placitas since 1999.

“Some of us just have a need to create,” she said. “For me, it’s very much an expression of who I am.”

She continues to attend workshops that inspire her. Three years ago, after the death of her husband, she attended a Colorado class that introduced her to acrylics and mixed-media.

“They’re fun,” she said. “Oil painting is hard work for me; it’s very cerebral. With mixed-media work you have a design. You’re laying down areas of texture. Once you put down color, the piece takes on a life of its own.”

Some of her imagery grows from her own photographs; others stem from her memory of mountains, rivers and streams, or the rivulets carved into sand.

“Keeper of Secrets” by Joan Fenicle. (Courtesy of Wild Hearts Gallery)

She calls her latest work “little snippets of bigger scenes; bigger ideas.” Most of the paintings hang 24 inches high by 6 inches wide.

“Sunset” combines an oil painted sky with a textured foreground. “Ghost Ranch Dreaming” depicts a chimney rock climbing skyward with found objects, including a bird’s skull, placed in the foreground. The artist has added objects ranging from an old key to bones to her work. A cast raven skull appears in “Keeper of Secrets.”

“I love collecting objects,” Fenicle said. “I’ve got stones and specimens in my pockets.”

Fenicle once exhibited her work at Sumner & Dene Gallery. Her abundant volunteer work prevents that now, so she concentrates on Wild Heart.

“I tend to work in bold color,” she said. “I am not concerned with reproducing imagery as you see it in a painting. I’m trying to express what I see.”

She says New Mexico’s landscapes present an abundance of surprises.

“You never know what lies at the end of that dirt road until you venture down it,” she writes on her website. “Rudolfo Anaya wrote that there are places on this earth where the energy that flows between Earth and sky are stronger than most and, for me, New Mexico is one of those places.”

She still travels the back roads searching for stories to capture in her artwork.

Fenicle shares her hacienda with a rescue Schnauzer, an adopted wild mustang, one ex-feral cat, chickens and peafowl.

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