Scaling the ‘Wall’ to Artistic Perfection at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center

One of the most exciting things about Albuquerque is that there is always something going on, whether it’s waking up to a crew filming the cable TV series “Crash” on your street, hearing the B-52s at the casino, taking in mariachis in the Plaza at Old Town, attending an ArtsCrawl, or stumbling upon fantastic art exhibits that you didn’t even know were going on!

For locals and tourists alike, if you haven’t been to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, there’s no excuse for not taking the time to check it out. I’ve been meaning to go for a while now, but by chance I found myself in “el barrio” and thought I’d pop in to have a look–SO glad I did.

Since I’m now a New Mexican, I actually got in for four bucks instead of the normal six. This was pretty exciting, and my dinero was way better spent there than at Starbucks. The lobby currently features a marvelous display of art created by children from the Indian school on the Jemez reservation. A number of these kids are the offspring of some of the most famous and esteemed potters from the Jemez tribe. Avid Native American pottery collectors will recognize the names Wall, Gachupin, Yepa, among others. From paintings on canvas to handmade aprons to friendship bowls, the works elicit awe in light of the fact they were made by children. Nonetheless, they all bring a smile to your face. And the best part is, most of the pieces are available for purchase! How special for these children that, while most public schools in this country are cutting art programs, they are learning the ropes from master artisans and carrying on the tradition of generations.

Part of the overall experience of the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center is getting to browse through the books and manhandle contemporary pottery in the gift shop. You can also take in a wonderfully informative and up-close and personal video of the late Maria Martinez and her son making their distinct San Ildefonso pottery, view examples of Native pottery through the centuries, or watch Native performers bring their tribe’s dances to life in the courtyard. At present,however, the main event is taking place in the South Gallery with the exhibition of Celebrating Native Legacies:Works in Clay by Kathleen Wall of Jemez Pueblo.

I was completely unprepared for this exhibit, mostly due to the scope, and the overwhelming detail that Ms. Wall, one of the most skilled Native potters working today, brings to these characters that include some depictions of herself and fellow tribespeople. Immediately upon entering the gallery, which allows the spectator to go right up to the pieces and touch them, I was moved to tears. Wall’s ability to fully capture the spirit, energy and warmth of the Jemez people in the eyes and physicality of her figures is remarkable. From room’s corner to corner, the gallery was filled with distinct personalities, who seem to whisper, in an amalgamation of voices, “Come to me. Welcome. This is who we are. Let us show you.” While Wall’s works depict tradition–honoring family, elders and making pottery–it is quite exciting to see how contemporary her style is. Like all art forms, they are constantly evolving, and the old ways give way to new traditions and forms. Perhaps the only thing traditional about her creations is that they are made from clay.

The highlight of Kathleen Wall’s exhibit is her rendering of six female elders of the Walatowa tribe singing and dancing. The child-sized figurines are aptly placed before a wide screen upon which plays a looping video of the same women in flesh and blood mirroring their clay counterparts.

There are few words to describe walking among the “spirits” in this artistic celebration of life, the living and traditions. It can only be experienced first-hand. Celebrating Native Legacies opened back in February, but it will continue through October 11, 2009. The majority of Wall’s works are available for purchase. For more information visit http://www.indianpueblo.org/.

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Lenore Fiore-Mills: Master Storyteller in Wax and Dye

Sometimes in life, you sit back and realize that you’re lucky to know certain people. For me, one of those people is Lenore Fiore-Mills. Last September, I had the pleasure of attending her solo exhibition “Celebration and Ceremony”at the Pleiades Gallery in Manhattan’s Chelsea District. As a lover of folk art, color and works that make me want to peruse every inch of them, I was in artistic heaven when I first walked in and saw her magical works in Batik. Seldom do you see Batik art in galleries, and especially work of this caliber. She truly is a master storyteller in wax and dye!

It’s a thrill to possess art like the variety that Mills creates in a collection, so imagine my excitement, the week before last, when I received a tube in the mail containing an 11″ x 14″ Batik piece, inspired by Mill’s larger work “Smoking Dragon.” It’s a fantastic new addition to my New Mexico apartment, and it will always hold a prominent place in my home, wherever I roam.

Batik is one of the oldest art forms in the world, with its roots going back to approximately 206 BC-24 AD in China. Traditionally, Batik artists utilize a special wax-dipped knife with which they paint designs and patterns on cloth. When the wax dries, it cracks, and during the dyeing process, the dye enters the cracks creating lines. The signature Batik patterns are revealed on the cloth once the wax boils away. To create what she calls “harmonious compositions,” Mills uses material as her canvas on which she first does a pencil drawing. She then alternates layers of wax and dye to completion. The wax is applied with fine brushes and the fabric is submerged in dye.

For more than 40 years, Lenore Mills has been honing her craft and finding inspiration in a variety of subjects that find their way into her work such as her fascination with festivals, ceremonies and street scenes ranging from the Giglio in Williamsburg, to the Black Cowboys at the Manumission Day commemoration, to St. Augustine’s on the Lower East Side. Though her earlier works were much simpler, Mill’s Batik has grown-up, taking on more intricate elements.

In addition to her showing at Pleiades Gallery, Lenore Mill’s works have been seen at DaVinci Art Alliance in Philadelphia, the Artspace in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, as well as New York City’s L’Atelier Gallery and Framing and the Photo District Gallery, in addition to the Dutot Museum, Delaware Water Gap. Her works are sought worldwide, Mills’ Batiks are held by collectors in the United States, Japan, and Brazil.

For more information, contact Lenore Fiore Mills at 570-947-7942 or batiknick@att.net. Please see www.fiorebatiks.com for sample paintings and more information.