10 Questions: Two artists, two days in Taos

The Stables Art Gallery of the Taos Center for the Arts will be center of the universe for two artists ...

Rick Romancito
Posted 8/11/13

The Stables Art Gallery of the Taos Center for the Arts will be center of the universe for two area artists, Dawn Chandler and Joan Fullerton. Both have ties to Taos and have been working on launching a special exhibition of their art — one that …

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10 Questions: Two artists, two days in Taos

The Stables Art Gallery of the Taos Center for the Arts will be center of the universe for two artists ...


The Stables Art Gallery of the Taos Center for the Arts will be center of the universe for two area artists, Dawn Chandler and Joan Fullerton. Both have ties to Taos and have been working on launching a special exhibition of their art — one that will be open only for two days.

Titled “New Work,” the show will opens with a reception for the artists Friday (Aug. 9) from 5-7 p.m. at the Stables. Light refreshments will be served. Starting Saturday (Aug. 10), their show will be open two days, until Sunday (Aug. 11).

They plan to exhibit new mixed media paintings exploring “themes of land, stillness and memory.” It is their third such show at the Stables.

Normally in this column, we haven’t been tied to specific events, but this time we thought we’d take a look at what it takes to put a show like this together and to find out what’s riding on it. So, let’s find out what they’re thinking ...

1. Do you know how your work will look when it starts out?

Joan Fullerton: Usually I have no idea what direction my paintings will take when I start. I begin by drawing abstract divisions of space on the canvas with charcoal, and then I add textural elements which will allow the paint to behave unpredictably. Drizzling and scumbling paint onto the built-up surface begins to suggest possible subject matter. There are many layers beneath my final images.

Dawn Chandler: I do not. I may have a very general concept in mind, but that can get shoved aside as the painting starts to develop.

2. Why do a show that is open for only two days?

Fullerton: This show has been about getting a new body of work completed. It was about dedicating time and energy toward a specific deadline. This one weekend of sharing the art produced has been a wonderful motivation.

Chandler: The show is merely a deadline on the calendar. I (and I know Joan, too) work best and am much more focused in my studio when I have a deadline to work toward. Knowing that we will be displaying this work in a professional manner to the public amps up my motivation and studio practice. This Taos show is a jumping off point for more that we want to do with these paintings. Also, because we both now live far away from Taos —I in Santa Fe, Joan near Denver — keeping the show to a mere weekend was more a financial and logistical decision than anything else.

3. How did the two of you put this show together?

Fullerton: Dawn and I have presented two previous exhibitions in the Stables Gallery, so we are familiar with the space, and we share the same ideas of how an art show is best presented. We made the decision nearly a year ago to do this show; at that time we created a time-line for invitations, catering, press releases, etc. We occasionally emailed and made phone calls to each other, and were able to include a few studio visits. But mostly we have worked with little contact.

Chandler: Lots of phone conversations, emails, and occasional studio visits. This is our third two-woman show together at the Stables, so we have the planning and organizational aspects of it down pretty well by now. It helps that we are great friends. We have similar artistic sensibilities and standards and, maybe even more important, similar senses of humor, all of which make putting together a show pretty seamless.

4. What ideas are rooted in your work?

Fullerton: I endeavor to create original images that provoke an emotional response. Using symbolic representations of trees, birds, flowers, and houses, I encourage the viewer to make their own metaphorical and poetic associations. I like my work best, when there is enough ambiguity for multiple interpretations. In this recent series there are ideas and suggestions of “fences.”

Chandler: Words. Text. Poetry. A rapture for the land. The fragmentation and fading of memory. How, as we age, we take on new interests, often abandoning those of our youth, only to have those youthful interests and passions rekindled years later. We wonder, “Can I return? Am I still who I once was? Do I even want to be?”

5. Has your style of artwork changed much since you started out?

Fullerton: My MFA degree included very large, high chroma paintings of cows, with titles like “Cowfrontation.” (These paintings were similar to the art of Malcolm Furlow.) Since the ‘80s, I have moved into and through several different stylistic phases. A double exposed roll of film shot in Europe in the mid-1990s, began my obsession with mixed media and the juxtaposing of images.

Chandler: Yes and no. If you look at my oeuvre, you’ll see that for years I’ve been painting in two distinct styles: Traditional landscape (in oil) and more abstract mixed-media work where I often embed text into my paintings. It’s been my longtime desire to unite these two styles into one statement. This show proved the perfect opportunity to pursue this concept. So in a way this is very new work for me, and yet it also feels familiar.

6. Is it important for artists to have a website, and if so why?

Fullerton: A website is imperative to a visual artist. I have been relying on my website for sales and for attracting teaching opportunities. It is much easier to direct someone to my site, than it is to describe what my art looks like.

Chandler: If an artist wants to make a name for themselves and sell their work, then having an up-to-date website is of vital importance. It allows people — the whole world! — to find and view your work. It also shows that you take your work, and your career as an artist, seriously.

7. What do you hope your patrons come away with after viewing your work?

Fullerton: My art is quiet, meditative and serene. In a busy world of information overload, I offer my calm palette, and compositions with large empty areas, to the viewer as place of stillness. I hope the meditative quality of my art encourages the viewer, to discover his or her own place of silence.

Chandler: That they will reflect on their own experiences upon the land, be it hiking up to Williams Lake or Wheeler, or simply observing the afternoon thunderclouds build, and want more. Especially in this day and age of being constantly “plugged in” to gadgets, my hope is that my work might trigger or rekindle that interest in people to step outside and pause, reflect upon, value and experience this beautiful land. Appreciate the ability of experiences with Nature to shape each of us, to heal us. As Robert Service asserted, “Have you searched ... have you roamed ... have you gazed? For God’s sake go and do it.” Now. While we can.

8. How important is it to learn about the business side of art?

Fullerton: The business of art is always changing. As technology expands, the economy fluctuates, and people do more shopping online, artists have to keep up. In grad school, learning art marketing was considered tacky and not relevant to making “fine art.” But, I agree with those who say it isn’t “art” unless it has an audience and a connection is made; getting the art into the marketplace is part of the art experience. For most artists, business does not come naturally; I refuse to be a starving artist — I want to be a thriving artist, and therefore I have had to learn about marketing my art.

Chandler: Like having a website, if one wants to make a name for oneself as an artist, and sell one’s work to the buying public, then learning the business side of art is essential. Artists need to take responsibility for the success (or failure) of their own career, and that means overseeing every aspect of it, from marketing to networking, to selling, to the presentation of their work and themselves. All of it. No excuses.

9. How would you describe your style or genre of artwork to someone completely unfamiliar with it?

Fullerton: I create abstracted, simplified, versions of places that are physical or emotional. The images are symbolic and understated, the palette is subjective and intuitive, and my methods are eclectic. I have no idea what sort of category to put my art into, but the term “Visual Reductionism” is very interesting to me.

Chandler: Impressionistic landscape meets fading memory and language. Some passages of the landscape are clear and sharp, while others are faded, rusted. Words, text, ghosted throughout beg questions and perhaps a contemplation of the land.

10. What is the most fun part about doing a two-person show?

Fullerton: The most fun part of a two-person show is that Dawn and I are both fun! But, not only do we enjoy each other’s personality, we share a dedication to having all the exhibition details done well. Unfortunately for Dawn, she is more skilled than me, when it comes to writing press releases and designing invitations; therefore, she has done more than her share of the work. I guess I will have to do more of the gallery cleaning!

Chandler: Being inspired by each other, especially when we get to visit in person during the months leading up to the show and see what the other has been doing in their studio. Those visits always motivate me to paint with yet more energy and focus. And then, of course, actually hanging the work and seeing it all together on the clean walls of the gallery, and celebrating the accomplishment of meeting our deadline.

Dawn Chandler was raised in the woodlands of central New Jersey. Classical music and lively discussions of books, the arts, current events and autopsies (her father was a pathologist) were the soundtrack of her upbringing. It was while backpacking at Philmont Scout Ranch as a teen participant in the early 1980s that she first fell in love with New Mexico.

A graduate of Miami University of Ohio, Dawn earned her BFA in painting in 1988. In 1992 she attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and earned her MFA from the University of Pennsylvania in 1993.

She moved to Taos in 1994, where she was a resident for 15 years before moving to Santa Fe in 2009. She was also executive director of the Philmont Staff Association, an alumni organization of current and former staff based out of Cimarron, N.M.

Joan Fullerton was born into a Wyoming ranch family, where she grew up with a deep regard for the natural world. “For me the subtle nuances as well as the awesome power of nature’s beauty, made the solitude of the isolated prairie sacred,” she says in a statement.

While raising three children, she studied watercolor with Edgar Whitney, Frank Webb, Charles Reid and other nationally known watercolorists. In 1985, she returned to college and achieved BFA and MFA degrees in painting from the University of Wyoming.

“In 2003, I fullfilled a longtime dream when I moved to Taos, to paint full time. After eight successful years in Taos, I am now in the Denver area, painting and teaching workshops.”


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