Santa Fe, NM
Manitou Galleries, March 6-27
This story was featured in the March 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art March 2015 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
When William Becknell pioneered the Santa Fe Trail from Franklin, MO, to Santa Fe, NM, in 1821, he opened a route for transportation, trade, and cultural exchange. It was a fruitful path—and fertile inspiration for the 13 gallery artists exhibiting in Manitou Galleries’ group show opening this month with a reception on March 6 from 5 to 7:30 p.m.
Manitou’s Palace Avenue location lies a block from the Santa Fe Plaza, the Santa Fe Trail’s terminus. “There was more of a narrative within this theme,” says gallery director Frank Rose. Rose says it was a natural topic for participating artists, many of whom have touched upon trail-related subjects in their work already.
The show features two or three works from each artist, and although the theme is unified, the artists’ approaches to the subject matter vary widely.
Colorado-based painter Maura Allen depicts the landscapes that settlers would have passed on their migration. In LAND OF THE MESAS she shows Wagon Mound, a hill that looks like a covered wagon and that served as a landmark to cue travelers that Santa Fe was just over 100 miles south. In subsequent works, she hopes to capture the dedication and perseverance of settlers along their 62-day journey through her contemporary lens.
Fellow Colorado artist Debra Sindt is also depicting the sights along the trail in pieces such as STANDING GUARD, featuring a nesting pair of red-tailed hawks against a blazing sunset. “I had the privilege of watching a pair of hawks raise their young near my home,” says Sindt. “While I was painting this piece, they would be outside my studio, and I could hear their shrill cries.” Just as the settlers would have seen and heard the hawks along the trail, she points out. In PRAIRIE SCOUTS, the wildlife artist captures a duo of Gambel’s quail against a background of fence posts and barbed wire. It’s a common sight in the West, she says, and one Sindt herself spotted on a recent drive home from Santa Fe.
Instead of focusing on the Anglo settlers who were transported west, California-based Dennis Ziemienski concentrated on the original peoples in New Mexico: In PUEBLO HARVEST, he portrays a Pueblo farmer amid a cornucopia of fall crops—gourds, pumpkins, apples, and chilies. In highlighting this produce, Ziemienski also shines light on the trail as a force for economic growth as settlers traded with locals. The work is in his typical style, one honed during 30 years as an illustrator. “Some of the things I want to convey should be painted with the tried-and-true way I do it,” he says.
Artists such as Fran Larsen, who will take a new, topographic map–like approach to painting the trail’s landscape, and William Haskell, who will highlight 20th-century transportation along the route, are also included in the group show. —Ashley M. Biggers
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