Fine art

Confluence of creativity

Artists band together for first SOuth of DOwntown historic district expo


Taos artists are reinventing the art wheel in Northern New Mexico, and 10 of those artists invite the public to their “Open Studios” event Saturday (Sept. 23), from 1-6 p.m., during the Taos Fall Arts Festival.

Even before the Great Recession in 2008, artists have been squirreling away into a group of eminently affordable studios and lofts, built into a Quonset-hut building at 1022 Reed St., south of the downtown historic district, hence the acronym “SoDo” (sounds like SoHo, but with a ‘D’).

In the past 20 years, notable artists – such as Jack Smith, G.Phil Poirier, Patricia Michaels, Delinda VanneBrightyn, Michael Walker and others – have made the SoDo studios one of Taos’ best-kept secrets, according to T.J. Mabrey, a stone sculptor and maestro of paper who will be on hand, showing and discussing her work.

Because artists need solace to keep distractions to a minimum while they plumb the depths and spans of creativity, Mabrey stressed how the SoDo “Open Studios” event offers a rare chance to visit the Reed Street artists to glimpse “the creative ferment that has made Taos a mecca for artists for more than a century.”

I spent two hours with the folks mentioned below and wish the time could have been spent with each artist. What inspires them, what they are working on now versus the past few years, how they got to Taos – all are grist for the “Open Studios” mill.

Spoiler alert! ARTAOS has moved to Denver, Colorado. Founder Jason Rodríguez, aka FORGE, a self-described “artivist,” printmaker and co-owner with Aya Trevino of 555 Editions gallery (formerly on Reed Street), said moving was a last-minute decision made a month ago to grab an opportunity to further his family’s arts education. He and Trevino will be present, however, in 555 Editions gallery’s former spot, showing works and work in progress, with printmaker Nick Beason.

Refreshments will be served, so grab a sip and amble through these 10 intense hubs of creativity. You will be well-rewarded for it all and better acquainted with the award-winning art talent percolating throughout the present art scene of Taos.

Here are some of the artists of SoDo:

• Maurice Lowe: A former assistant to Henry Moore, Lowe is an Australian by birth whose work has been inspired by nature, mythology, travel in Asia and his reaction to events that impact our times, i.e., the atomic bomb, the Kennedy assassinations, the U.S. lunar landing, the vulnerability of the planet and the destruction of the Twin Towers. In giving form to the cataclysms that have affected us deeply, he creates sculptures that become sculptural metaphors and three-dimensional icons.

• Nathaniel Lowe: Inspired by growing up in the workshop of his father, noted sculptor Maurice Lowe, and with a 20-year background as a high-end custom jeweler, Nathaniel Lowe has forged a career as a crafter of objects. He is a refined metalworker who explores solace in dark humor. He’s also a romantic, yet practical bladesmith who understands that art is a safe place to face our fears.

• T.J. Mabrey: Primarily recognized as a sculptor in stone, paper has always been Mabrey’s secondary medium of choice. Embossed paper and cellulose pulp are the fundaments of her current work. She has limited the direction of these new experiments by her use and consideration of the square. The foundation of the work is embossing the paper, which is done on a large etching press or by hand, pressing pulp through a template. The resulting paper and pulp are incised, folded, manipulated, repeated, possibly painted and made available for endless modular installation. Recent work in paper will be on exhibit at Studio 238 at the Harwood Museum of Art from Oct. 4-30.

• Nick Beason: Beason’s attraction to printmaking began many years ago, hanging out at Zella9 gallery in London, whereafter he pursued an etching class at Winchester Art College. Relocating to the USA in 1987, he spent 20 years in the San Francisco Bay Area and resumed printing at the Pacific Arts League of Palo Alto, where he was introduced to monotypes. He moved to the Taos area in 2008, pursuing monotype and photogravure printing with Mike Vigil at Graphic Impressions. Since 2015, he has continued producing series of short editions of serigraphs with FORGE/Jason Rodríguez, formerly of 555Taos, and Gerd Bianga in Peñasco.

• Lise Poulsen: Poulsen was born in England to a family devoted to needlework traditions – sewing, embroidery and tatting (lace-making). Initially, she juggled a career in software with her developing love and natural talent for the fiber arts. Poulsen and her husband, Nick Beason, quit the software industry and moved to Peñasco in 2008, where they run and exhibit at the Gaucho Blue Fine Art Gallery.

• Peter Chinni: At 89, Chinni’s distinguished career began in the 1950s and spans two continents. He took classes at the Art Students League in New York and later studied painting and portraiture at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Rome. A longtime resident of Italy, he returned to New York in the ‘60s and developed a powerful, richly expressive approach to three-dimensional abstraction. He has exhibited internationally and has important pieces in the Rockefeller collection, the Hirshhorn Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Smithsonian.

• Jason Rodríguez/FORGE: Rodríguez is a printmaker combining studio production, demonstrations and exhibitions. Rodríguez’s  MAG (mobile art gallery) has exposed Taos arts to wider audiences in and out of Taos.

• Aya Trevino: Born in Zaragoza, Spain, Trevino spent most of her life in Mádrid, New Mexico, and has been an integral part of organizing and volunteering at the community level. She is a photographer, painter and designer of Desert Fairy recycled clothing, adornments, health and beauty products.

• Dan Enger: Known for his colorful and iconic Day of the Dead characters, Enger is inspired by regional history, folklore and legend. “Taos is an outpost on the frontier,” he says. “Spirits and magic thrive in this rugged, ancient land, where double rainbows abound and coyotes lope through town.”

• Ann Landi: Primarily an art journalist (a contributing editor of ARTnews and the founder/editor of, Landi started working with Dura-Lar about a year ago and has been making collaged paintings on panel that combine abstraction with cloudscapes and seascapes. There may be more than a hint of nostalgia for the East Coast beaches of her childhood, along with a nod to the passionate skies of Taos. It’s all in the eye of the beholder.

For more information, call Mabrey at (575) 613-3269 or contact Paul Figueroa, president of the Taos Fall Arts Festival board, at