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From ceramics to prints, 80 artists show in Placitas

SANTA FE, N.M. — From fairy mobiles to glass-studded shoes, the Placitas Holiday show offers a twist of the whimsical in a vista of rolling hills.

The 34th Annual Placitas Holiday Fine Arts & Crafts Sale features 80 artists selling paintings, prints, clay, glass, wood, silk, photographs, painted gourds, jewelry, metal and more. Wax resist painter Dorothy Bunny Bowen, who makes landscape paintings and painted silk scarves, is this year’s featured artist.

Sarena Mann infuses her floating “ladies” with motion and flight. Hers are not the mobiles designed to float above a crib. Created from wire, paper, fabric, paste and patience, they dance with spirit and grace. Seemingly lifted from some enchanted wardrobe, her papier-mâché figures dangle from balloons, butterflies, birds, dragonflies, ribbons and wings.

“They start with a wire armature,” the Albuquerque artist said. “Then I fabricate the paper over that. Then I dress them in fabric. Some of them have beads and other embellishments.”

Mann says the figures represent the power of flying and the freedom of American women. She’s done circus figures in boats and climbing ladders. Fairies become airborne through wings and swings; others soar from umbrellas and kites.

“The kites are one of our best-sellers,” she said. “I think people just like that freedom of flight.”

Raised in Evanston, Ill., Mann came to Albuquerque in 1971 to study art at the University of New Mexico. She’s been creating her flying females full-time for more than 30 years. She shows her work at art shows and fairs and in 200 galleries across the United States.

“For some reason, they still have that original spirit of flying and charm; they make lovely shadows. They’re very, very childlike.”

Albuquerque’s Cate Clarkcreates glass slippers and small sculptures in ceramics and fused glass. It all started with a 2007 project for the Placitas Recycling Center. The ceramic artist created mosaic panels of eagles, a great horned owl and rabbits.

After completing the Placitas panels, she was hooked.

“I liked seeing the small unrelated pieces come together to make a beautiful whole,” she said.

A detail from a "Celtic Crane" scarf by Dorothy Bunny Bowen, featured artist in this year's Placitas Holiday Fine Arts & Crafts Sale.

A detail from a “Celtic Crane” scarf by Dorothy Bunny Bowen, featured artist in this year’s Placitas Holiday Fine Arts & Crafts Sale.

For Clark, mosaic is like a three-dimensional collage: a mixed-media assemblage encased in grout.

Like a mason with armature, she often begins with layers of cement and stucco mesh.

“Many of my supplies come from Lowe’s and Home Depot,” she said.

Clark bought her first glass kiln three years ago. She enjoys the risky gamble of opening the kiln door to discover creation or destruction. The glass may change color; it may shatter into fragments.

“It’s either Christmas or Halloween,” she explained. “The fire does wonderful things or it destroys your piece.”

Clark began making ponds and incorporating mosaics into sculpted ravens, blackbirds, falcons, cardinals and tiles. The shoe series kicked off with a cowboy boot.

“The shoes started right before the ‘Killer Heels’ show came to Albuquerque,” she said, referring to the Albuquerque Museum exhibit.

She liked the boot so much she made a pump, embellishing it with Koi, leaves and vines in a rainbow of glass mosaics. The backs often wave the transparent flutter of tail fins.

“Shoes can be so functional, but why be so serious?” she asked.

Lately, she’s been experimenting with egg shapes placed atop vintage candlesticks festooned with dragonflies and rose vines.

“The eggs look almost like artichokes,” she said. “One looks like a sky full of balloons.”