Sounds of the Holidays

soundsofchristmas1Christmas in New Mexico offers a feast for all the senses. The eye takes in winter landscapes crowned by frost-clear blue skies that span the heavens, as well as the farolitos and luminarias that deck the streets and houses. Taste is pleased with traditional brandy-laced bizcochitos, luscious posole cooked with green or red chile, and piping hot blue corn atole or cocoa with crema. The nose draws in the scent of wood smoke, incense, piñon and many tempting foods, while our sense of touch luxuriates in the feel of coats, hats and mittens guarding one from the cold wind—or the still, quiet New Mexico chill that can be even more potent.

But for me, the final sense—hearing—is the one that takes the coin every time during a New Mexico Christmas. Nothing can match having the ear caressed by holiday music performed by our own artists in local venues from churches to clubs, with inspired artistry (and sometimes even on the street during Christmas Eve)!

Since I was trained as a classical musician, my own holiday music tastes run that way, and I admit to a partiality for the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, because that organization brought me to Santa Fe and New Mexico three decades ago. I came here to sing in the chorale’s first season, in 1983, and stayed. I’ve since followed the group over the years, and I’ve been impressed with how it maintains a definite sound presence, even under four different music directors: founder Lawrence Bandfield, then Dennis Shrock, Linda Mack and now Joshua Habermann. Continue reading

Trash Fashion

This weekend, the annual Recycle Santa Fe Art Festival returns to town for its 15th year. “The country’s largest and oldest recycled art market” kicks off with tonight’s trash fashion show, followed by two days of of more than 200 artists—whose works consist of a minimum of 75-percent recycled materials—from around the country. The trash fashion show, says Thalia Gibbs-Jackson, a a third-year participant in the festival, “is where everyone—a regular person, to a high school student to an old grandma and grandpa—gets to be a fashion model for a day.” Gibbs-Jackson, who designs, among other products, unique tote bags made of recycled materials, says the artistry is breathtaking. “I was blown away, totally blow away. The quality of work in the show is very very high.” In their own words, two young women participating in this year’s Recycle Santa Fe Art Festival at the Community Convention Center tell their stories:

Jasmine Russell

I have been an artist from a young age. I am 18 now and am currently a high school senior at the Public Academy For Performing Arts in Albuquerque. I love working with impractical materials, it makes things much more interesting. If you want to be a successful artist, it’s important that your work be unique and interesting. I make accessories and portraits out of duct tape and I make collages, accessories, jewelry, wall art and clothing out of found/recycled materials. My first year competing in the Trash Fashion Show was in 2010. I refer to this as my practice year. I was still learning the basics of clothing design and I didn’t know much about the show itself. My dress that year was a combination of my two favorite mediums; duct tape and newspaper. I didn’t place that year, but I had a marvelous time and I learned a lot. In 2011, I used fabric from an old mattress and a patio umbrella to make my gown. I took first place in the teen category that year.

Last year, 2012, I made a ’20s inspired dress out of cigar bands, pieces of soda cans, and a patio umbrella. I placed second in the teen category. I participate in a wide variety of arts based events throughout the year. I sing, I compete, I make clothes, I sell my art in big events. Recycle Santa Fe is by far my favorite event. I look forward to it all year. From being part of this event, I’ve met some amazing people and I’ve been presented opportunities I never thought I’d have. Not to mention, it’s a blast! I’ve met some great people these past few years, and even though it is a competition, the atmosphere is inviting and relaxed.

Chiara Brandy

I am 16 years old and I’ve been doing the fashion show for about 6 years now. In the past I’ve used many materials for my dresses including, target bags, candy wrappers, plastic inner tubes/ pool toys, maps, and last year’s newspaper bags and Chinese fortunes. I got into the fashion show by word of mouth and because of my love of fashion design that had started at an early age. My grandmother, Gioia Tama, an amazing seamstress, had been in the very first Trash Fashion Show and was thrilled when I wanted to get into it as well!

When I participated my first year it was fairly last minute and my sewing skills were more taping skills if anything! However, the next year I was back, with a dress I had designed and sewed each candy wrapper myself. Of course, in the first two years I walked in the show, all of us younger girls back stage whispered to each other and admired the outfits in the older categories which had the opportunity to win a prize for their creation. So the next year I asked my grandmother to help teach me how to cut out a pattern for the target bag dress that ended up taking 2nd place in the show. Every year since then, the show has been something I look forward to as a chance to show my creativity and style in a really fun and unique way. Working with unconventional materials has not only given me a challenge as a young seamstress but also broadened my clothing constructing skills greatly because of this.

Last year, my grandmother, who I was extremely close to, passed away. So, for me, the show is more of a tradition; a memory of my grandmother and my creations and hard work together that i will always hold in my heart. I knew that making my dress would be a completely different experience this time, which was difficult. Remembering everything she had taught me about sewing, from pattern construction to needle choice i made a dress i knew she would be proud of. And I added the fortunes that her and i had been saving for years to finish it off. Walking on stage last year in that dress made me feel alive. All of us who do the show are creators and artists. When we see the outfit that we put our hearts and spirit into go out onto that runway, its a really special feeling.

Over time, I have meandered away from the career choice of fashion design, however I know that I will always hold a special interest for it, especially when designing once a year for the Trash Fashion Show. I look forward to this year’s show as it just gets better each year!

For more information on the Trash Fashion Show and Recycle Santa Fe Art Festival, visit For more information about Thalia Gibbs-Jackson’s work, email Photos by Lavelle Jacobs, courtesy Recycle Santa Fe Art Festival.

Cannupa Hanska Luger

NM artist Cannupa Hanska Luger


Back what seems a lifetime ago, before phones were smart and airports had security guards, I remember projecting ahead to the time that is now. My friend Deb staunchly maintained that humans could and even surely would extricate ourselves from global crisis. “But it won’t be the scientists or techno geeks or politicians who lead the way,” she said, “it’ll be the artists.”

“How does a painting in every living room save the world?” I argued.

“Not just the art,” she said. “The process of making the art.”

Continue reading

Tony Abeyta

new mexico artist tony abeytaTony Abeyta

Tony Abeyta calls himself a creature of habit, but when he ticks off the list of what he’s done, where he’s been and what restaurants he frequents, it’s clear that he’s anything but.

It’s a hot summer morning, and Abeyta sits on the patio of Tune Up Café where the wait staff addresses him by first name. He asks for a warm up on his coffee and digs into a rich green salad with beets. Talking between bites, his sentences run into and over themselves, through ellipses and past dashes.

He is a contradiction embodied: bursting with energy as he muses about his art and his life, while simultaneously exuding deep peace. An air of utter relaxation. He is all at once a man at home in himself and his surroundings who is yet ready to rush off to whatever comes next. Perhaps he’ll head back to his studio to paint. Maybe work on his jewelry, something he’s been doing for only two months. Perhaps meet up with friends. Continue reading

Rose Simpson

NM artist Rose B SimpsonRose Simpson

Discussing ideas for her M.F.A. thesis recently, one of Rose Bean Simpson’s mentors at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) listened to her brainstorm possible projects. Then, looking Rose straight in the eye, she told her, “I know you can play artist. But I dare you instead to do the thing that scares you the most.”

“Play” artist? Just Rose’s lineage alone is daunting. Great-granddaughter of famed Santa Clara Pueblo potter Rose Naranjo, with beloved sculptor Roxanne Swentzell as her mom and a handful of othe aunts and cousins also descended from the matriarchal family of artists, this brilliantly gifted 28-year-old shines with originality in any of the vastly diverse mediums she explores—ceramic sculpture, printmaking, drawing, writing, music, dance. There are few (if any) missteps in the short but comet-like career of Rose Simpson. Continue reading