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Las Comadres uses 20th anniversary celebration to benefit homeless women

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In the competitive world of art galleries that need patrons to keep the lights on and nonprofits that need community support for their altruistic goals, there is a breath of fresh air and a long-standing tradition in Taos of women helping each other.

On Saturday (Oct. 7), from 3-6 p.m. in the John Dunn Shops, 120-G Bent St., Las Comadres Gallery, a cooperative for women artists, and HEART, a nonprofit offering transition assistance for women, continue this tradition and join forces to raise money and community consciousness about homelessness.

Award-winning watercolorist and member of the co-op Karen McCurtain-Blair said about the fundraiser, “Women just get things done.” McCurtain-Blair describes the Las Comadres Gallery as “more cooperative than competitive and definitely not corporate; there is no hierarchical structure. We all pitch in to pay the rent, and the commission schedule is 20-80, favoring the artist.”

Artist Janeen Marie started Las Comadres Gallery in Arroyo Seco in 1997 to give women artists of Northern New Mexico a voice. The co-op remained in Arroyo Seco for a few years, but didn’t have enough commercial traffic to support itself. The artists put on garage sales and made enough money to finance a move to the gallery’s next location on Paseo del Pueblo Norte in Taos. In January 2012, the gallery moved again to the John Dunn Shops, its current home.

HEART, the organization that will get all the proceeds from the event, aims to provide hope, empowerment, advocacy, respect and transitional housing for women in the community who are experiencing or are at risk of homelessness. HEART is privately funded and supported entirely by the Taos community.

Taos artist Robin Cunningham, a holistic health practitioner, member of Las Comadres Gallery and grant writer for HEART, says she got involved with the group because “they are changing the paradigm of what it means to be homeless.”

Cunningham experienced homelessness firsthand when her life savings and possessions were stolen out of her car in Oregon while traveling with her son and cat. She said that she was appalled by the way law enforcement treated her. She said the banks were also against her because during the robbery, all of her identification was stolen. She said she felt the community shunned her because of the stigma associated with homeless women and this experience showed her the importance of community involvement, galvanizing her to work with compassion for this all-too-often marginalized population.

Cunningham’s work in the gallery is beeswax candles using vintage molds. She uses locally sourced beeswax as much as possible, and her work highlights the championing, protecting and promoting of the honeybee.

Las Comadres Gallery is also home for Taos artist Frances Mascareñas. She says that being a member of the co-op has allowed her to continue making art and work part time so she could care for her son, who has Down syndrome. For 20 years, Mascareñas has been making polymer clay sculptures inspired by the Southwest.

Other members of the gallery include jeweler Christina Marie Beck, whose specialty is buying estate jewelry, dismantling it and creating contemporary pieces. Potter Mari “Mud” Hawkes works in traditional glazes, as well as raku. Her pieces range from whimsical garden sculptures to coffee and tea mugs, in addition to other works for the home. Silk artist Patricia Keeler makes hand-painted silk scarves and wearable pieces with an old-meets-new flair. In her process, she takes apart a vintage piece, dyes, paints and re-creates it with her signature silk.

Isabella Kristina is an acrylic painter who intentionally uses bright colors and believes in the power and influence of color to affect emotion and remembrance. Kim Pollis does traditional Spanish colonial tinwork, with a modern edge. Her handcrafted work encompasses Día de los Muertos motifs, wall art and lighting fixtures. Recently, Pollis was commissioned to do large pieces for a newly constructed building in Lama, New Mexico. Barbara Sager creates mandalas using a variety of mediums. She also creates intricate paper mosaic fish pictures.

Minna White, a felter, raises Navajo-Churro sheep and is working to increase their genetic diversity. Her felted products range from wearable capes to table runners, wall hangings, rugs, purses, bags and tortilla potholders.

The event includes a raffle tied to the Las Comadres anniversary, for which artists featured in the gallery are donating work, along with a gift certificate and discounts from Marshall’s Great Noodles on the patio at the John Dunn Shops.

Call Las Comadres Gallery for more information at (575) 737-5323 or visit lascomadresgallery.com.

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