Born in Nambé, Ed Sandoval grew up in nearby Los Alamos where his father worked as an engineer, but summers were spent on the family ranch in Nambé, where he learned to ride horses, as well as learned the love of the land that had sustained generations of his family.

His roots in New Mexico go back to the late 1500s when his first ancestor – a cartographer – arrived in El Norte to map the territory for the Spanish Crown.

Sandoval is a recipient of the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts here in New Mexico, and is well-known, with his works in important collections both nationally and internationally.

His love of New Mexico is what drives his sense of altruism. Sandoval feels it’s important to give back to the community that has supported him and his work throughout his life. This Thanksgiving, he pays it forward once again, gifting the village of Questa the copyright and proceeds from a painting he made of Questa’s St. Anthony Catholic Church.

We spoke to Sandoval about his generous bequest and more.

Tell us a little about this painting?

I love painting old adobe churches. New Mexico has the most unique, wonderful, historic churches, and each one has its own energy and spirit. Most were built centuries ago and they are timeless. You stand before one and you really can’t tell if the year is 1600 or 2000. That’s what I love about them. The hands that built them, and the people who went in seeking comfort and connections, I can picture that in my mind.

I was driving through Questa and decided to check out St. Anthony Catholic Church because I hadn’t seen it for so long. Wow! I had heard the community was coming together to restore it, but I had no idea they made such progress. It was so moving to see that church on a sunny fall day and to realize that the love of a community made it all possible.

I decided to add light in the doorway and the luminarias because that’s what a church really is – it is light. Our churches in New Mexico welcome and invite people in. Once I thought of that, I just had to make it happen. There is a sunrise too in the background, and the scar in the mountain where the Taos Pueblo Indians travel to this day. It is sacred to them, and the history behind it – they took the trail on horseback all of the way there. Still do. It is so inspiring and humbling. It feeds the imagination and the soul. It’s the history of our land and our people. You can’t get any closer to God or a higher power than that.

You’ve gifted the copyright to the village of Questa – can you talk about that and why you did it? 

Once I completed the painting, I was telling a friend how impressed I was with the love and spirit of the community. They all came together and gave their time, money, effort and good will over – I don’t even know how long – years I would imagine, to make their vision a reality. My friend suggested giving rights to the church to make prints so they can earn money to keep the restoration going.

I thought about it, and I thought, “Wow! That is really what it’s all about. The community gave so much, and it’s the least I can do to provide this image to them. They can make cards, prints or whatever, and keep the momentum going so that if there are future repairs to be made, they can make them. The church is a symbol – all churches in New Mexico are – for the enduring spirit and love of the people. I for one hope that church is around for another 500+ years to provide light, reassurance and love for all who step within its adobe walls. 

You closed your Taos Plaza gallery early this year and are back at your original studio space on Quesnel Street, Can you tell us a bit about the decision to consolidate, and also how the pandemic has affected both your work and business?

I made the decision to close even before the shutdown in March. We knew what was coming. Others thought this would be a blip that would last for weeks or months at most, but we knew it would be a long haul. I had been at the plaza gallery location for about 10 years, and it was time to go. I had my old gallery waiting for me, and it was like coming home.

We cleaned and reorganized the space, and after we painted all the walls (I never realized how bad the old paint looked) and hung the new signs, it was like a weight lifted off of me. I have only been open by appointment since March. I’m not taking chances. 

We have such a strong online following through the website, newsletter and Facebook that we’ve been able to do that. Now I paint at home. When the weather is nice, I’m out in the portál, looking out over piñon trees and Taos Mountain. And when the lights go down, I see the blinking lights of Taos. When it gets too cold, I move into the garage. It’s been interesting, but good. I’ve reconnected to what really matters in life: Love, health, family and friends. It’s all good.

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