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Poster artist for the Rio Grande Arts & Crafts Festival presents a kaleidoscope of color

“Día De Los Moo-Uertos” by Amy Ditto.

“Día De Los Moo-Uertos” by Amy Ditto.

FOR THE RECORD: The opening times for the festival have been corrected in this story.

Dorothy’s ruby slippers rest languidly atop a checked tablecloth while a tornado churns across the background. A trio of marigolds blooms through a cow’s skull dubbed “Día De Los Moo-Uertos.”

The photographic montages of Amy Ditto mix fact and fantasy with a nod toward surrealism. A collage of photographs, digital manipulation, layering and painting, her work infuses canvas, aluminum and hand embossing into works of wonder with an edge of menace.

Poster artist for the Rio Grande Arts & Crafts Festival Balloon Fiesta Show, Ditto will be one of 250 painters, sculptors, potters and jewelry artists presenting a kaleidoscope of color at Expo New Mexico opening next weekend.

Now in its 27th year, the show will sprawl beneath its signature white tent across the New Mexico state fairgrounds for two weekends. Visitors can listen to mariachi music while savoring a taco with a margarita as live horse racing orbits the festivities.

For Ditto, it all started when she took a black-and-white photography class at the University of New Mexico 30 years ago. Her father gave her a Nikon as an 18th-birthday present.

“I spent more time in the darkroom and running around looking for subjects for assignments than anything else,” she said in a telephone interview from her Tijeras studio.

Never imagining she could earn a living making art, she majored in psychology, later earning a doctorate in biology. By the time she had finished, her computer scientist husband announced he wanted a career change; he wanted to open a photography business. Ditto began learning Photoshop to process portraits.

“Día De Los Moo-Uertos” emerged when she combined a cow skull with a French marigold.

“That title has probably sold that print for me more than once,” she said. “I built the background and I started layering the cow skull on top of the flowers. Basically, I just play.”

“Meanwhile, Back in Kansas” surfaced from a dream.

“All of a sudden, I woke up one morning,” she said. “I had the whole concept in my mind.”

The dress, the ruby slippers and the legs are her own.

“The tornado is in the public domain because I just didn’t have a tornado living in New Mexico,” she said. “It makes people laugh and it resonates with people on multiple levels,” she added. “I tell people it’s a lifestyle statement.”

Ditto is represented by Studio 14 in Madrid, the Albuquerque Photographer’s Gallery in Old Town and the Range in both Bernalillo and Albuquerque. She and her husband Stefan own Aperture Photography.