Heart of Humanity

By Susan Hallsten McGarry

I believe it’s part of our very humanity to be creative,” says Margaret Nes. “To be human is to draw, dance and make music.”

As of late, Nes has tested that maxim. In the summer of 1996, a wildfire snuffed out the home she and her husband built in the forest just outside Taos, NM, leaving them with little more than the clothes on their backs.  In the months following the devastation, Nes has searched for the road to the future and reflected on how moving forward brings you back to the beginning. That she continues to paint her provocative, silent paintings with their glowing points of luminescence reminds us that art has the capacity to heal—to satisfy the restless spirit and impassioned soul.

California sculptor Marie Barbera is a fitting example of the latter. Although she initially questioned her desire to explore Native American themes, she realized that her obsession with Indian history and philosophy objectified her concept of humanity. With fingers stained by red clay, Barbera communes with the past, preserving emotional moments such as the Sun Dance, when pounding feet and swaying souls instilled the belief that a shirt could protect against bullets and hatred.

“Every culture gathers to sing and dance,” echoes Brenda Kingery. “I try to capture the times when we abandon ourselves and enjoy the simple things.” Simple becomes complex in images such as Grandfather’s Journey, wherein life emerges from cosmic ether, fractures into multifarious patterns and is sucked back into eternity. “My goal is to create paintings full of life’s breath, to have that boundless energy and yet to be very controlled and exacting in combining complementary opposites, the yin and yang of life,” says the San Antonio, TX, painter.

Yin and yang well describe the loose association of artists featured in the exhibition Tucson 7 at the Tucson Museum of Art, AZ, this month.  While the seven painters have distinc-tive styles and work in a variety of media, they share a zest for living based on the philosophical belief that friendship is at the heart of humanity. Dick Bryers, Harley Brown, Tom Hill, Bob Kuhn, Ken Riley, Howard Terpning and our cover artist Don Crowley (also see article on page 90) come from different back grounds, yet their shared experiences as East Coast illustrators-turned-Arizona painters emerge in a joy for living that chuckles between the lines of Jim Willoughby’s text and Bryer’s commentary and caricatures.

The exuberant, healing rhythms of art are everywhere to be found in our March issue … join in the dance.

Featured in March 1997