Spencer Beckwith On The Arts

Twice A Month During KUNM's Broadcast Of NPR's "Weekend Edition Saturday"
Albuquerque Museum, gift of Dr. James Gunn

In the early years, rock 'n' roll posters were pretty basic -- large legible print, studio photos of the performers and one or two primary colors as accent.  In the 1960s, responding to changes in music and society, there was an explosion of new ideas about what a rock poster could be.  An outstanding collection of these posters, Dreams Unreal, is on display through April 12 at the Albuquerque Museum.


Over 500 people crowded into Albuquerque's Harwood Art Center last year for the opening of Recycled Heart, an exhibit of artwork made from cast-off objects.  The proceeds from that night's sales, over $3,000, went directly to the artists, many of whom lived on the streets.  That annual exhibit is back this month, presented by ArtStreet, the community art studio of Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless.  Barbara Jensen, who runs ArtStreet, explains how this open studio provides AHCH with "a natural venue for engagement with folks who are on the street."

© Nathaniel Brooks

Covering Super Bowl XLIX in Phoenix a few years ago, New York Times journalist Michael Powell, disheartened by the commercialism of the big game, drove north into Navajo country to spend time with a community known for its love of basketball.  He ultimately spent six months with the Chinle High School Wildcats as they pursued a state championship.  The result is his book, Canyon Dreams: A Basketball Season on the Navajo Nation.  "Basketball is a passion play there.  In a town of 3,000," Powell told KUNM, "5,000 will show up on the night of a big game."

Photographer, Andre Jones

Towns in 18th Century New Mexico were built as enclosures.  Outside adobe walls were windowless and doorless, facing inward were homes and a place of worship, and at the center was a plaza.  New Mexico's last such remaining structure is the timeworn but largely intact Plaza Del Cerro in Chimayo.  In 2017, hoping to save this historic place, the Chimayo Cultural Preservation Association teamed up the Santa Fe non-profit Cornerstones Community Partnerships.  Cornerstones Director Jake Barrow spoke with KUNM about the significance of the plaza and what the partners have done to preserve it.


When her husband Alfred Stieglitz died in 1946, Georgia O'Keeffe left New Mexico to settle Stieglitz's complicated finances in New York.  She wound up having to stay in the city for three years.  One of her few paintings from that disruptive period is a memory of her New Mexico home.  Spring from 1948 remained in O'Keeffe's private collection until her death.  The painting is now in the collection of the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, and last fall the Museum received a grant for a much-needed restoration of Spring.  Head Conservator Dale Kronkright spoke with KUNM about the work he and his colleagues will be doing during that year-long process.


The Grawemeyer Award is the world's top honor for musical composition.  Recipients include John Adams, Pierre Boulez, Esa-Pekka Salonen and John Corigliano.  This year the Grawemeyer went to Chinese-born American composer Lei Liang for his orchestral work, A Thousand Mountains, A Million Streams.  On February 3, Lei Liang will travel to Albuquerque to premiere a new chamber work as part of the 2020 John Donald Robb Composers’ Symposium at the University of New Mexico.


Through December, and after sunset, the public can visit five locations in downtown Albuquerque where local artists have created light-based artworks.  These temporary installations are sponsored by the City of Albuquerque's City Bright program.  One of them, entitled The Game of Life and located at 114 Gold SW, was designed and built by the University of New Mexico's Social Media Workshop.  This team of undergrad and grad students from a variety of departments is led by Andrea Polli, UNM professor of both Art and Engineering, and she joined us to talk about the Workshop's new installation.

from In A Modern Rendering

Printmaking, said Gustave Baumann, "requires soul, imagination, deftness . . . and unlimited patience."  A beautiful and deeply-detailed new book on Baumann reveals the painstaking process behind his sublime and seemingly evanescent views of the New Mexico landscape.  In A Modern Rendering: The Color Woodcuts of Gustave Baumann is a complete record of Baumann's printed works Author Gala Chamberlain put together this 600-page catalogue raisonné at the request of Ann Baumann, Gustave's daughter, and Gala spoke with KUNM about that 30-year process.


Nick Otero teaches art at Bosque Farms Elementary School south of Albuquerque.  In his spare time he makes saints -- New Mexico's traditional santos.  Nick's retablos, bultos and altar screens are made using centuries-old methods of preparing pigment and carving wood panels by hand.  He's been doing it since he was 16, and he's pretty good at it.  This fall, at age 38, Nicolas Otero was one of six individual recipients of the prestigious New Mexico Governor's Awards for Excellence in the Arts.  He spoke with KUNM about his work and what the award means to him.


When her husband Alfred Stieglitz died in 1946, Georgia O'Keeffe left New Mexico to settle Stieglitz's complicated finances in New York.  She wound up having to stay in the city for three years.  One of her few paintings from that disruptive period is a memory of her New Mexico home.  Spring from 1948 remained in O'Keeffe's private collection until her death.  Last month, the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe received a grant from Bank of America for a much-needed restoration of Spring.


Since its founding 90 years ago, the University of New Mexico Press has been telling stories of the American Southwest through fiction, history, poetry and scholarship.  Many of those stories, of course, have dealt with Native and Indigenous cultures.  UNM Press will soon start to tell those stories in a new and contemporary way, through graphic novels and non-fiction by and about Native Americans.  The new series, Red Planet Books, is a collaboration with Albuquerque's Native-owned Red Planet Books and Comics.


They called themselves The Chasers.  Twelve young men, eleven Mexican-American, one Jewish.  Tucson High School, Class of 1959.  "More club than gang," they were inseparable -- also cool, smart, and slightly dangerous.  At a high school reunion 50 years later, the remaining Chasers spoke about what their adult lives owed to that youthful solidarity.  And one of them, Renato Rosaldo, has created a poetic collage of those conversations, a new book titled The Chasers.


In each photograph, Joan Myers shows us the West both as we want it to be and as we fear it's become: a plywood buffalo stands before a piñon-dotted mesa, a neon saguaro glows against a starry night, a mountain worthy of photographer Ansel Adams rises over tourists and their lime-green cooler.  In her striking new book, Where The Buffalo Roamed: Images of the New West, the Santa Fe-based photographer asks us how the myth of the West can survive the realities of modern life.


Along with Antarctica and the Sahara, one of the best places on earth to find meteorites is the dry lakebeds of New Mexico.  So it's not surprising that among the first institutions established to study these extraterrestrial visitors is UNM's Institute of Meteoritics.  The Institute celebrates its 75th anniversary with a Symposium on October 24 and 25 that includes an open house at the Institute's Meteorite Museum.  The Director of the Institute, Dr. Carl Agee, joined KUNM to talk about meteorites.

As an Army private in 1958, Jack Loeffler witnessed the first atomic tests in the Nevada desert.  He spent years afterward as a radical environmental activist.  But those years also included gigging as a jazz trumpeter, watching for fires in an Arizona forest, tripping on peyote with Carlos Castaneda and, ultimately, having a successful career as a self-taught aural historian.  Jack tells his story in Headed Into The Wind, just published by UNM Press.

Photo by Carrie McCarthy

In a unique display of artistic collaboration, three Santa Fe theater companies are sharing production duties this fall on a prize-winning three-part drama.  At the center is Iraq War veteran Elliot Ortiz, who shares with the trilogy's playwright, Quiara Alegría Hudes, family roots in Latin America and a hometown of West Philadelphia.  Staged in repertory by Teatro Paraguas, Santa Fe Playhouse, and Ironweed Productions, The Elliot Trilogy performs September 26 - October 13.


The central character is a charismatic young priest with a radical approach to Catholicism and possible powers to heal.  The rise and fall of Father Gabriel Romero is told by the people around him -- believers and skeptics.  American Saint has just been published by the Amazon imprint 47North, and author Sean Gandert has set the novel in his hometown, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

Photo courtesy of the University of New Mexico

There's a unique class available in UNM's 2019 catalog.  Introduction to Pueblo Pottery (Studio Arts 389) focuses on "gathering raw materials, pigments and clays, from sites accessible to the public, and then processing the materials to understand their possibilities and outcomes."  UNM assistant professor Clarence Cruz, a noted potter from Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, has been teaching these traditional pottery techniques to UNM students since 1989.

from Reconciliation at the Institute of American Indian Arts Musuem of Contemporary Native Arts
Photographer: Juan D. Rios, from https://manitos.net/2019/06/08/reconciliation/

Fiesta de Santa Fe has been a defining tradition of the city's cultural life for over 300 years.  This year, the annual celebrations will not include La Entrada, a pageant about the reclaiming of Santa Fe by Spanish forces after their expulsion by the Pueblo Indians in 1680.  That decision was controversial and divisive.  Hoping to reconcile disagreements in the community is an exhibition at Santa Fe's Institute of American Indian Arts.  Reconciliation runs through January 19, 2020 at IAIA's Museum of Contemporary Native Arts.

New Mexico can claim an important role in the career of Ida Kavafian.  Every summer, the acclaimed violinist travels here from her home on the East Coast.  First, she performs as part of the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival and from there she heads north to lead Music From Angel Fire, intimate concerts in the mountain communities of Northern New Mexico.  The 2019 season, August 16-September 1, will be Ida's 35th as Artistic Director.

Barelas Neighborhood Association

Barelas is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Albuquerque.  It was established in 1662 -- before the laying out of Albuquerque's Old Town.  Today, Barelas is the center of the city's Hispanic roots and culture.  Residents gathered this spring to share stories of their neighborhood with three local playwrights, Monica Sanchez, Raul Garza and Leonard MadridThe Barelas Trilogy will be presented to the community for the first time in a series of staged readings, July 28, July 31 and August 3.  The project was developed by the local nonprofit Artful Life in partnership with the National Hispanic Cultural Center and Homewise.


Budget cuts have left music education virtually absent from New Mexico's public schools.  Fortunately, local non-profits have been working imaginatively for years to offer effective musical experiences for young people.  This summer, for example, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival continues its series of concerts for kids and families.  The Festival's Youth Concerts take place on four consecutive Mondays at 10am starting on July 15 at the New Mexico Museum of Art.

Carol Highsmith

Scattered throughout New Mexico, in cities like Santa Fe and Albuquerque, as well as in small towns like Cordova, Las Trampas and El Rito, are dozens of historic mission churches.  These adobe and stone structures date back to the 19th, 18th and 17th centuries, and many are in danger of collapse.  A new non-profit, Nuevo Mexico Profundo, is helping to maintain and restore them.  One of the founders, writer and historian Frank Graziano, joins us to talk about the organization's mission.

photographed by Anita Back

The Santa Fe Dreamers Project, a non-profit offering free legal services to immigrants, has what amounts to an artist-in-residence this year.  hazel batrezchavez, an MFA student at the University of New Mexico, is one of four young artists selected this year by the Santa Fe Arts Institute to work with local government and non-arts organizations, helping to increase the organizations' community engagement.  It's called the Story Maps Fellowship

Frank and Pilar Leto met over 30 years ago at a Carnaval parade in San Francisco, and they've been celebrating Carnaval ever since.  Notably, with a joyful show they stage every February in Albuquerque, featuring Frank's big band, PANdemonium, and Pilar's dance ensemble, Odara.  This year, their celebration spills over into June with two outdoor concerts, on the 7th in the Albuquerque Museum Amphitheater and the 13th at the Albuquerque BioPark.

Mousumi Roy / The Cliburn

Audiences in Albuquerque have watched Ishan Loomba grow up.  He gave his first solo recital here at the age of eight, his orchestral debut came at ten, and concerts followed with the New Mexico Philharmonic and Chatter, as well as further afield in Aspen, New York City and Dallas.  Now, at age 17, Ishan is one of 24 teenagers from around the world selected to take part in the 2019 Cliburn International Junior Piano Competition.  The eight days of judging begin on May 31 in Texas.


Betty Busby is based in Albuquerque but her work wins awards and acclaim around the world.  What she creates are called quilts, but they're more accurately paintings with fabric -- and sometimes made with paint on fabric.  It's artwork not for the bed but for the wall.  She'll be the featured artist in the 12th Biennial Albuquerque Fiber Arts Fiesta, May 30-June 1 at Expo New Mexico.


In addition to Netflix recently naming Albuquerque its U.S. production hub, the city was also cited by the trade magazine MovieMaker as its No. 1 big city to live and work in as a filmmaker.  And, the state film office reported last year that New Mexico is now the largest base for movie crew technicians between the coasts.  In response to this expanding local industry, the University of New Mexico has announced big changes to its Department of Film and Digital Arts.

Robert Stokowy

Since 2017, German artist Robert Stokowy has been researching, and reflecting upon, the sonic environments of cities -- among them, Berlin, Miami and Minneapolis.  Stokowy then sets up, in each city, locations where visitors can follow his suggestions to create their own sonic sculpture, an artwork of the mind.  At the invitation of Albuquerque Parks & Recreation, Stokowy has this spring set up similar locations in the City's Open Spaces.  The project, structures [albuquerque], runs through April 2020.


Art in America called her work "pure optical pleasure" -- "shimmering" and "optimistic."  Grids of tiny hand-painted numbers laid out in bands of color across the canvas.  Artist Xylor Jane is sharing the process and the philosophy behind her work with art students this spring as the University of New Mexico's 2019 Frederick Hammersley Visiting Artist.  She will give a public lecture on April 24 at 7pm at the Albuquerque Museum and host an open studio on May 2 between 6pm and 8pm in the UNM Art Annex.  Both events are free and open to the public.