Izumi Yokoyama and Theresa Gray belong to the continuum of artists who have followed the call to come to the High Desert since Bert Phillips and Ernest Blumenschein’s wagon wheel broke, stranding the two young East Coast artists in Taos.
Theresa Gray first came to Taos a decade ago and like so many others who accidentally wind up here, she was captivated by the place and its inhabitants. In fact it was during that first trip that she met her husband, musician and film protectionist, Peter Halter.
After a whirlwind courtship, she moved here to be with him and the couple live off the grid, dependent on the elements that power their handmade home.
Just a few steps down from the home they share in the thriving community across the Gorge in what was once a virtual no-man’s land, sits a one room, passive solar A-frame structure, that once housed another intrepid resident prepared to dig ditches and carry water.
“We collect all of our own water in cisterns,” Gray told us as we sat in the space that is now her studio. When the previous occupant passed away, she bought it and renovated it herself. It was cold the day we were there but the space required no heat. The sun was enough to keep the spartan, white-washed room cosy.
The tiny house draws the outside in, and the outside is what Gray sees and in turn draws. She draws and paints mostly on Arches oil paper or linen, depending on her mood and subject matter.
“If it’s a line I’m after, then paper is what I choose because frankly it’s difficult to get a definitive line on linen.” She said but then pointed out the newest piece stretched across one wall of the space.
“It’s mylar.” She noted. “It doesn’t have the same memory as paper, so I have to work quickly.”
Dune grass bent by wind off a lake, whispered across the miles - the painting is from memory; the Great Lakes where she grew up, and had recently visited.
She indicated a golden glow on the top right of the piece. “I waited for that moment.” She said.
Gray says she works from memory mostly, painting feelings and emotions rather than rendering what is seen. “It’s all about capturing a moment,” she explained. “If l wait until the moment is right and then all of a sudden, it’s done.”
She says she’s more of a participant than an observer, and the space and its proximity to the elements allows for that.
We trudged back up the hill through the snow melt and mud, to the main house and as we got ready to depart, I was struck by the wind playing with Gray’s long silver hair. It reminded me of the grasses in her whimsical works, caught in perpetual motion by an invisible breeze.
Both Theresa Gray and Izumi Yokoyama frequently show their work at Magpie and Studio 107b in Taos, both in group shows and individually. You can visit both artists online and make appointments to visit their studios.