Los Lunas

March 13-19, 2002 – ¡Caliente! TV & Entertainment – Valencia County News-Bulletin Page 3

Joan Artiaga is making a statement and loving it. With a new sense of style and determination, the creative artist is about to unleash her latest artwork at the Tomé Gallery.

“It is always stressful to put your work out for public scrutiny, but my masks seem to have a personality of their own, and it seems to me that they need to be seen,” she said.

Artiaga is talking about 30 of her new ceramic masks that will join the art show display of rattles, drums, incense burners, infusers, candles and paintings on Friday, March 15.

Sitting down to discuss the show, Artiaga points out that she has always wanted to be an artist. She reveals how getting there was quite a journey.

After a successful business career and years in government and politics, Artiaga was ready to embrace her creative side.

Following her job as Valencia County Clerk from 1985 to 1989, Artiaga decided to devote her time to a new cause and began attending classes at UNM-VC, where she received a certificate in art studio in 1997.

In one of her sculpture classes, Artiaga learned how to make a cast of a person’s face and use that cast to press a clay mask. For the past two years, she has been experimenting with this technique by elaborating on the mask and stretching the features.

“My real fascination has been in using glazes to set a mood or strike an attitude.”

With a noticeable flare, Artiaga began adding leaves, antlers, wings and horns to the masks. She also exaggerated and added features before glazing them to completely emphasize a mood or attitude of the piece.

The idea is for Artiaga to keep working as the ideas flow. Often, the artist has found herself creating masks depicting family members, such as her daughter and grandson.

With a warrior women touch, Artiaga used blue glaze to color her daughter’s face and add a twist. “It’s like wind and lightning are all around her,” she says.

Although Artiaga has created images of few men, the mask of her grandson is indeed an eye-catching piece, with wire circling his face along the dark clay coloring.

“My grandson is such a boy, running around with tools and cutting things. He’s stuck with all these rules. I wanted to create something to capture that.”

The gypsy-like Artiaga now finds herself experimenting often. She decorates masks after they are glazed by adding feathers, leaves, shells or pieces of bone and wood tied together with string and horse hair.

Some of the masks can be hung on the wall. Others have been mounted on pieces of wood and decorated with feathers and bits of turquoise and arrowheads so they can be set on a table as a conversation piece.

A big moment came last year when Artiaga joined the Tomé Gallery Artist’s Co-op. “The artists that belong to the co-op are so talented, supportive and enthusiastic. I haven’t had a show in several years and decided it would be a good time to put some of my new work out for public viewing. ”

Along with the masks, Artiaga will also be showing some pastels and recent paintings in addition to the items that she has placed in the gallery year round.

For Artiaga, it has been quite a switch to work quietly and independently in her studio after being in the public eye for so long.

“I like to sit in my studio experimenting with new ideas. I have found it to be a wonderful, quiet time to reflect on my relationship with God and express myself through my art.”

Come out and discover Artiaga’s mysterious masks for yourself at her art show, opening at Tomé Clay Gallery on NM 47 in Tomé on Friday, March 15, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. A reception will be held with music by Michelle Artiaga, and refreshments will be served. The art show will carry over to Saturday, March 16, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Artiaga will also be offering some classes at the Tomé Clay Gallery this coming year on mask-making and re-discovering your creativity. Call 565-0556 for more information on times and dates.

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Jennifer Harmon