Spencer Beckwith On The Arts

Twice A Month During KUNM's Broadcast Of NPR's "Weekend Edition Saturday"

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.