Fine art

Honest and straightforward

Artist T.J. Mabrey exhibits works in paper at Studio 238 in the Harwood Museum


T.J. Mabrey has two different disciplines, which she refers to as “different parts of my brain.” The first is her stone carving, for which she is primarily known. The other discipline is her work in paper. And it is this latter pursuit that will be on display at the Harwood Museum of Art.

The exhibition, titled “On the Square, The Works of T.J. Mabrey,” is planned to open with a reception Friday (Oct. 6), 4-7 p.m., in Studio 238 at the Harwood Museum of Art, 238 Ledoux St. Admission is free to the reception and the public is invited.

“I’m embossing squares on squares. Sometimes I fold them, crunch them up, make little windows or make patterns. It’s simply fun to see all I can do by eliminating everything except the square. There’s an incredible variation in the square,” Mabrey said.

Mabrey’s show is presented as part of the “Studio 238” concept that the Harwood Museum has developed.

J. Matt Thomas, the Harwood’s collections manager and curator of collections, explains, “Studio 238 is a mobile exhibition that we move all over the museum. The intention is a short, one-month show highlighting exciting new work. These are local artists that might not have had an opportunity to show and/or are exploring different mediums, different concepts.”

Studio 238 adapts to the museum’s larger, seasonal exhibits. “I try to really react and find the space that works well,” Thomas said. “That means alcoves, full walls, upstairs and downstairs – it all depends on the factors.”

For this show, Studio 238 will be in the upstairs alcove of the back stairwell. Mabrey’s works will be displayed in a traditional fashion: framed and hung on the wall. “But it is done for a good reason. The space given is small – cozy – and to have hung the work as I would have preferred, without frame or barrier, would have put the work and viewer at some risk of getting tangled up together. So, like special specimens of an exciting new experiment, the works have been put under glass. This could work to an advantage, I suppose, by focusing the attention of the viewer on one element at a time,” Mabrey said in a statement.

When asked about Mabrey’s work, Thomas notes that he admires how she can transform paper.

Mabrey frankly assesses her own work and points out that “she goes on automatic” with paper. She said there’s no particular philosophy to it. This is in contrast to her work in stone, which deals with stories, thoughts, mythologies and philosophies that matter to her as a human being.

“When I’m working as an artist,” Mabrey said, “I’m almost always alone, so I suppose in a way that’s a meditative practice. I just call it being alone and having fun. I’m also not thinking of other things. My brain is free to cool down from other things in the world that drive me crazy. I’m not concerned with those things when I’m working with paper: no anger, no love, nothing I’m trying to express. I’m just investigating the process.”

A Harwood Museum press release notes that Mabrey’s “life and work is far-reaching.” For example, at one point in her international life, she lived for four years in Cairo, Egypt. During that time, Mabrey worked in a stone studio near the pyramids and organized four exhibits of her work.

In 2011, she and her husband moved to Taos. She opened her Studio Santiago in 2014. Mabrey’s designs and sculptures are prominent in private collections in the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Egypt, Lebanon, Italy and the Orient.

If you attended Mabrey’s full-scale June 2016 exhibit at the Encore Gallery in the Taos Community Auditorium, this “On the Square” show at the Harwood is smaller.

“We were trying to come up with a title for this show: It is squares on square paper. When I typed in the phrase ‘on the square,’ I found it could also mean a person who is being honest and straightforward. I really liked that idea. This stuff is honest and straightforward. It’s paper, it’s been cut and folded and embossed and voila! Look how the light falls on it. There is nothing fancy, no bells and whistles, no sleight of hand, no message to influence you,” she said.

The paper works are mostly uniform in size, ranging from 20 inches by 20 inches to 24 inches by 24 inches, and all are framed.

Mabrey’s exploration of embossed paper and cellulose pulp runs concurrently with the Harwood’s fall exhibition opening, celebrating the works of Ron Davis, Paul Pascarella, Jamie Porter Lara and Sam Scott.

With an exhibit at the Harwood, Mabrey acknowledges, “This is a very big deal for me. To be asked to show my work at an accredited museum within my community validates and acknowledges that my work is worthy of a look and further consideration.”

Mabrey’s “On the Square” will be on view at the museum through Oct. 30. For more information, call (575) 758-9826 or visit