Monday, November 21, 2011

Santa Fe Railyards

We've been back a month now, and I am still living portions of the trip to New Mexico in my mind. We spent alot of time at the Railyards while there. It's where there's some great art, the farmer's market and some beautiful design. Recently - as in 3-5 years ago, the area was rehabbed to accommodate a park, playing fields and the Farmer's market area - among other uses. Walking in an area that has new life without remnants of it's old one stripped away or paved over deeply inspired me. I found it refreshing that the design choices respected the old in ways that are culturally relevant and engaging today without being saccharine, facile and overtly commercial. Keeping the connection to the railroad - with the commuter rail service that runs to Albuquerque, the old Santa Fe Railroad, (even the logo design is iconic) and the layout of the old tracks establishes the sense of place - and establishes a strong rhythm for the site, wherever you move through the site - there is always the datum of the straight line to refer to. These lines run through spaces with mostly hardscape and those without - the poetry of these lines is that they always make sense given their location and retain their integrity as path, incised design element or material. Being such a long site, the lines also helped to choreograph movement though narrow spaces and helped to delineate the different programs going on. 

I could go on about the cool, landscape geeky details that abounded. The best summation though is expressed by the joy of the children I saw there - who delighted in the market, waving at the trains, and in the creative spaces for sliding, running and being their age. What a great accomplishment for the city and what a gift for the people that live there.

Friday, November 11, 2011


One of my favorite lines is “keep redreaming the world with more light.” It’s from the Famished Road, a novel by Ben Okri. What a directive. I attempt to do so in my paintings, and aspire to do so in my daily life. Inspiration lies out the window – there are so many types of light and characteristics of it that it would be a project to document them all. 

The light in New Mexico astounded me. The combination of altitude, no humidity and colors in the landscape produced some of the crispest, cleanest light I’ve seen. The sublime scale of the sky and mountains, desert, and mesas displayed the variability of light and deep contrasts of shadow – that trees, hills, and soft, well-watered landscapes obfuscate. (It’s funny that before going to NM, I posted about the nature of Fog.) Walking around every day while there, I could see why artists – especially Agnes Martin, an abstract painter, gravitated to the area. While buildings, hills, mesas and mountains were legible as such to me, the powerful contrast between light and shadow, and sky and earth, created abstractions and compelling patterns on forms that were already engaging  – adding unique dimensions to my visual experience. The following are some examples of this light phenomenon. I am eager to explore them more deeply through painting this winter. 

Friday, November 4, 2011


Winding through the canyons near Los Alamos and seeing the steep cliffs pocked with holes should have been an indication of the wonder that awaits at Bandolier National Monument to me, but I was so inspired by the beauty of the surroundings they did not register. A short distance from the visitor’s center at the monument, the canyon cliff walls rise precipitously, and in them are many, many caves and dwellings from centuries ago. Since I was little, I have always loved going to places and seeing how peoples there lived before modern times. In these past years, I have had the good fortune to see monuments and sites in the Americas. What I am struck by in these locales, be they in Peru, Mexico, or New Mexico, is the rootedness in place they exhibit with the materials and configuration of the settlement patterns. I have never visited any settlements that were based on the circle as the abandoned pueblo at Bandolier and the thriving pueblo at Taos are. There’s something powerful to me about basing the town pattern on a sacred geometric form. I am no expert, but it’s a compelling way to connect people to the land and to their ancestry. Besides, it’s also very defensible against marauders. The cave dwellings were beautiful and interesting as spaces, and the prospects they offered of the verdant valley were inspiring and at the same time comforting. I enjoyed the adventure of climbing into them and imagining what the scene must have been like centuries ago. 

Perhaps the most exciting experience of going to Bandolier was seeing the petroglyphs in the canyon walls above former dwellings. There were many incised circles, spirals, people figures, and abstract step patterns. My favorite one was of a parrot. At 100 paces and after centuries, this rendering had a divine sense of humor, spirit and gesture. I love when art makes me laugh. Seeing this art, in this setting, and how the connection it shared with patterns of settlement and belief was marvelous. As an artist, it inspired me greatly to see that the compulsion to make stuff, to express wonder or confusion or just joy, spans time, cultures and place. It’s a gift for today, the future and the ones who went before.