Two Towns: Taos to Vail, Vail to Taos |

Two Towns: Taos to Vail, Vail to Taos

The Plaza Gallery in Vail has joined forces with Galleria EliasInez in Taos, N.M., to host Two Towns, an artist exchange. Until July 13, selections from the Taos gallery can be seen at the Plaza, with an artists reception today from 5-8 p.m.

For the first time, the work of painters Alyce Frank, Alex Chavez, Bill Stewart, Linda Harper and Mary Ann Warner, photographers Robbie Steinbach, Desiree Manville and Pat Pollard, printmaker Ria Burnett, woodcut artist Angie Coleman, master printer Jennifer Lynch and folk artists Lydia Garcia, Armando Lopez, Lloyd Rivera and Christine Goetz can be seen in Vail.

Though privately owned, Plaza Gallery is the closest thing to an artist co-op Vail has. Staffed entirely by the artists who show there, every medium from paint to pottery to photography is represented.

“Kat Schilke from Galleria EliasInez approached me about doing an exchange show at the Plaza gallery last spring,” said Susan Mackin Dolan, gallery artist and co-curator of the show. “I thought it was a great idea and we worked out the logistics and put out a call for entries to Taos artists in April.”

Frank is probably the most well known of the Taos bunch; her work is in private collections across the globe. She didn’t begin painting until she was in her 40s, when she and her family moved to a Arroyo Hondo near Taos. She was transfixed by the landscape. Taking her cue from the German expressionists and the fauvists (known for their unrestrained use of color), she began painting in what would soon become an easily recognizable style.

The devotional art is a change for the Plaza Gallery, though Mackin Dolan has long been a fan. Created in a folk art style, the makers often utilize the humblest of materials, such as buttons and dried grass. According to Mackin Dolan, the tradition probably originated in the Slavic countries.

“I think the folk art and devotional works are particularly exciting

because they represent a cultural identity that is not usually in the

public eye in Vail,” she said.

She began collecting folk art, specifically Day of the Dead art, more than 20 years ago. Living in San Antonio, she regularly traveled south of the border to seek it out. Her collection has since expanded to include visionary, prison and tramp art.

“Today this is a very popular genre and more widely accepted and

collected,” she said. “To me it has a raw purity that other more institutionally sanctioned art lacks.”

Lopez is a folk artist who gathers his materials by hand and fashions them into figures. He began at a young age, after his mother told him a story about a doll her father, a master basket weaver, had made for her. It was so lifelike that the eyes seemed to follow her around. The story stuck with Lopez, and he spent hours every day watching his grandfather at work on the baskets.

He soon began making dolls. He never gave it up, and currently uses willow twigs, corn husks, reeds, cattails, onion skins, dried flowers, native grasses, ceramics and gold leaf for his creations. He combines the pre-Colombian custom of decorating family altars with Catholic imagery.

Ria Burnett is a printmaker who specializes in monoprints and mixed media.

“My interest lies in the poetics and experience of landscape and in those intersections, defined or otherwise, where person and place meet,” she said. “I am intrigued by the play between what is perceived – tangible – and what is experienced – intangible.”

Vail artists will send their work to Taos for a show from July 19 through September 3. For more information about Two Towns, call Plaza Gallery at 476-4477.

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at or phone at 949-0555 ext. 618.

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