ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — When Reyes Padilla hears music, he sees paintings in lines and curves.
His collaborator, Natalie Voelker, excavates the secret inner lives of women.
The two Albuquerque artists are joining what seem like very different aesthetics to create “La Joya 2017” (“The Jewel”), a mural across the west-facing side of the Harwood Center for the Arts. The public celebration is from 5 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 4, coinciding with the center’s annual Encompass celebration of more than 200 artists. The mural will remain through the end of December.
Built in 1925, the two-story brick building began as a Methodist boarding school for girls.
“They were young women from throughout the state,” said Julia Mandeville,the Harwood’s chief programs officer. “Many of them came from agricultural and rural communities and wanted potentially more lucrative vocations.”
The Harwood offered job training.
Both Padilla and Voelker have been part of the Harwood community of artists for some time, Mandeville said. The pair have painted the imagery using latex paint on fiberboard to avoid damaging the facade. The building is listed on both the New Mexico State Register of Cultural Properties and on the National Register of Historic Places.
“Natalie was very intrigued by the story of the Harwood girls school,” Mandeville said. “They integrated Reyes’ very geometrical music impression work with Natalie’s portraiture.”
Padilla had been painting excruciatingly detailed portraits of eyes when a dramatic stylistic shift occurred. Although the Explora science center purchased the entire series, he was exhausted.
“I spent three months painting eyes,” he said. “Afterwards, I was like, ‘I just want to play.’ ”
His version of play turned into an op art-meets-Keith Haring amalgamation in black and white. What initially appear to be stenciled angles and shapes are the result of a sponge used in place of a brush.
“I have synesthesia, which means the ability to see music,” he said. “I thought everybody had it. I think roughly one in 20 people have it. I see colors and shapes and movement. The curves represent a bass tone with a sweep of sound. All of my work is based on music —— everything from jazz to hip-hop.
Padilla is essentially colorblind, which is where Voelker comes in.
The Albuquerque artist designed four ghostly life-sized figures for the mural.
“I’m interested in the personal aspects of people’s lives,” she said. “I’m interested in the history of the building and the people.
“I’ve been going through the old yearbooks. I’m using these images as a source, not a direct representation of those women.”
Most of the images date to 1936. The mural is a way of telling the history of women in Albuquerque during the 1930s and ’40s, she said.
Some of the inscriptions read, “You’re going to darn Leroy’s socks beautifully,” and “Keeping house is such fun.”
“There weren’t a lot of options for girls at that time,” Voelker said.
Padilla sees his contribution as embodying the spiritual side of the original inhabitants.
“My work will be about their spirit spread throughout the building; the legacy they left here,” he said. “I want to create a dance between the two styles.”