LOS LUNAS — Pandemic or not, art will prevail. This year’s Los Lunas Museum of Heritage and Arts Juried Art Show, the eighth annual, is being held under less than ideal circumstances, but museum specialist Jan Micaletti said the show will continue the tradition of highlighting local art and artists.
“We have so many artists in Valencia County, and it’s always amazing to see the art they make,” Micaletti said. “The show is really about our own art, what we have here in our community.”
This year, the juried show drew about 60 entries, down from the usual 100-plus entries, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The theme for this year’s show was “Celebrations of New Mexico,” which artists interpreted in a number of ways, using a variety of mediums. A video of the winning pieces and the other pieces juried into the show is available on the museum’s Facebook page and the village of Los Lunas website.
To vote for the People’s Choice award, go to the museum’s Facebook page and leave a comment on the video with the name of the artist and piece. The show will be on display at the museum through Jan. 19, 2021, Micaletti said. She is hopeful the public will get to see the show in person before it ends.
After 30 years of being part of the local arts community, as an artist and instructor, Eddie Ramirez said for many, art is a way of coping with COVID-19.
“We’re all trying to stay alive. We have to protect each other,” Ramirez said. “Art has a way of touching all of us to some degree or another. You could feel it. It’s a cultural thing, a spiritual thing. Now with COVID, it’s become a healing thing. If anybody ever needed art right now, it’s all of us.”
Ramirez’ oil painting, “Final Tribute,” was named Best of Show in this year’s juried show. Depicting an American flag, white glove, sword and military medals. Ramirez, a veteran himself, said the painting is based on a photo of a casket of a fallen Marine, a friend from high school.
“We have all these tributes to veterans, Veterans Day, Memorial Day,” he said. “The final tribute is when we bury our own.”
As the Best of Show winner, Ramirez received a cash prize and, more significantly, a solo show at the museum in 2021. He said the show will most likely feature other patriotic paintings, as well as pieces from what he calls his “Blue Door Series,” paintings of New Mexico’s traditional use of turquoise doors and window frames, as well as a series of paintings he’s done on old saws.
“As a starving artist, there’s a lot of work in the garage that I haven’t sold,” he said with a laugh.
Using pastels to recreate a vivid New Mexico sunset, Linda Boatwright’s first-place painting “Glorious” is simply that. A retired professional designer and jewelry maker, Boatwright said she’s always wanted to be an artist.
She works primarily in pastels, enjoying the pure pigment of the medium.
“People think it’s chalk, and it’s not chalk. It’s pure pigment with a binder,” Boatwright said. “You’re painting with just pure, vibrant colors. There’s an immediacy. You don’t have to mix anything; you can layer them, do all kinds of things.”
Creating mostly landscapes and skyscapes, Boatwright has entered the juried show the last four years and successfully gotten in at least one piece.
“This is something I like to do to support the local museum and be part of the local art scene,” she said. “I was very thrilled to have a piece awarded this year.”
“Glorious,” along with her other three pieces accepted into the show, are all for sale.
Every year, Laura Sanchez has a bit of a love/hate relationship with the juried show’s theme.
“I try to just go with it and see what comes up. This year, there are so many celebrations. I was thinking and wool gathering and it struck me, after the people who put these on are dead tired,” Sanchez said. “I imagined all of the celebrants having their own after party and letting their hair down.”
And that’s how Zozobro, a Roswell alien and a drag queen from a Pride parade, among others, came to be clustered around a campfire, roasting marshmallows.
Sanchez, who’s drawn and painted all her life, found herself creating watercolor renderings for custom home builders at one point in her career.
“I was on a forced deadline to learn how to do watercolor,” she said. “The contractors wanted every detail of the house. I couldn’t get creative. I’ve been trying to loosen up ever since.”
A demanding medium, watercolor artists tend to work from light to dark colors. To create the sparks from the fire, Sanchez had to mask the paper to paint in the dark sky, then remove the masking to reveal the lighter sparks.
“You have to learn to trust the paint. If you nudge it in a certain direction, it will do something far more wonderful than anything deliberate,” she said.
Sanchez only entered the one piece and she is delighted it was selected for second place. Last year, three of her pieces were accepted and she sold one.
“This is a great way to support the museum and have a good time,” she said.
Two artists tied for third place in this year’s show — Harriet Anaya for her acrylic painting “Dia de Los Muertos,” and Viola Luna’s mixed-media piece, “Count Your Blessings.”
Anaya has been drawing since she was a child but as an adult didn’t have much time to create. After she retired and moved to Los Lunas, she began making retablos.
“As a Jewish person, I learned about the conversos and hidden Jews, which I thought was fascinating,” Anaya said. “This is the third juried show I’ve been in and the first time I’ve placed.
“I am jazzed out of my mind every time, just to be accepted. It lets me know my work is good enough. There are so many wonderful artists.”
For 15 years, she has been showing her work professionally and making a living from it. One of her pieces — a cross with stars of David — is in the permanent collection at the museum.
Viola Luna uses found wood and handmade accessories to create her miniature buildings. She has created about 25 buildings, mostly churches, but other structures, such as tiny mercados, bursting with colorful goods.
“I love old buildings, always have, especially old churches,” Luna said. “I’ve been making them for about eight years. I gotta be busy all the time; I cannot sit still.”
Luna doesn’t buy many ready-made items to go in her buildings, choosing to make most of the accessories and furniture by hand. She’s even made some buildings entirely from mini adobes.
“It’s fun, like therapy,” she said of her creations.
In addition to working in mixed media, Luna also paints on found items. She has transformed several used small satellite dishes into New Mexico vistas. The piece accepted into the show depicts the old Los Lunas train depot’s distinct yellow building.
“I didn’t have a canvas and I wasn’t going to the store. I found that satellite dish in the shed,” she said. “I thought I’d enter and whatever. I wasn’t expecting a call. It’s pretty awesome.”
There was a three-way tie for honorable mention — “Convergence,” a carved elm wood bowl by Bill Killough; “Artistic Chemistry,” an oil painting by Michael Boerding; and “Welcome Home,” an oil painting by Lyle Brown.
Los Lunas Museum of Heritage and Arts Juried Show
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.