We catch up with Georgia Gersh in her spacious shop on 218 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, where she is seated at her broad central table, cutting out pieces of colored paper for her collage gift cards: "People love getting them and even framing them," she says, merrily glueing on tinsel dots.
Her shop -- she prefers to call magpie a shop, and resists capitalization, to keep it on the casual and unpretentious -- is crammed with colorful, displayable, adorable and, most important, affordable stuff. And to get inside the three-room enclave the visitor has to pass the large front wall featuring the intriguing landscapes by George Schaub: Are they photographs? Are they paintings? You squint closer and you see that they are both.
Schaub is magpie's featured artist until Sept. 28, and the show is called "New Potential." A former custom printer, who spends time between Guilford, Connecticut, and Taos, Schaub has embraced the unusual form of enhanced electronic imaging; he experiments with archival paper on which he then paints over the image with charcoal, ink, pencil, chalk, pastels or oil and acrylic paint. The images are based on photographs he has taken in and around Taos for the last 10 years.
"I make the first stroke and see where it goes from there," he explains about the images doctored with pastel and charcoal. "I was always involved with manipulation of photographic images, be it with alternative processes, hand-coloring with pencil and oils and various darkroom techniques. Paper surfaces for photo inkjet printing allow for many options that became closed when the darkroom era went away. It's a very visceral and engaging process and allows for enhancement and abstraction, plus it's hand-work, so you become engaged on many levels. You go where the eye and hand and image lead you."
The result is uncanny and arresting, somewhat abstract, somewhat surreal, as the manipulation by the artist brings out eerie special effects, as it were. Gersh describes the work as "pretty to look at, very accessible, and you don't have to be a connoisseur of art to enjoy it."
Schaub is a multitalented artist, photographer and painter, as well as a writer. He just had his one-act play performed at the Taos Center for the Arts (see Tempo, July 28). Back East, his early career involved writing and editing. "I worked as a magazine editor for most of my career. I wrote a bunch of books on photography and illustrated all of them with my own work, and always made a study of my craft as part of my journey."
How did the pandemic affect him?
"I decided that it was a good time to hunker down and work on my art and writing, and got into yoga and tai chi, and made all of it part of my routine," Schaub replies. "It has cut into my travel, for sure, but like many folks I made the best of it."
Magpie accommodates artists
"The featured wall is a way to accommodate artists that I don't normally represent," Gersh explains of her modus operandi, "but to give them some exposure. I focus on artists living and working here full time, but if I like their work I can give them some exposure and they can get a collector base and get some attention without my committing to represent them full time. And it keeps things fresh -- the front wall -- and people can always see something new."
A new COVID scare has squelched plans for magpie's public openings for the Taos Fall Arts Festival (Sept. 24- Oct.3), a tradition she had hoped to carry over from the gallery's previous location at the Overland Sheepskin compound. "We had a window there," Gersh expresses sadly, "but it's closing. I am just waiting. It will happen."
However, she is booked with featured artists through next summer. Next up is Alice Webb. "Artists mostly come to me, looking for representation," notes Gersh. "Even though I am full -- I have about 45 artists who show in this gallery -- if I really resonate with someone's work, I make room for it. It's crowded in here!"
The pandemic hasn't slowed Gersh down. "I had a record-breaking June in sales," she says. "Everyone has had the best June and July. People are shopping, going out of their way to support small businesses and artists. Now everyone is coming to Taos, trying to get out of their familiar after the pandemic, and here is about the most unfamiliar of anywhere in the U.S. People want mementos and are spending money, people from all over the country - not too many foreigners."
She patiently plies her collage cards between greeting visitors. In the winter she will use the downtime to do other crafts like papier-mâché and refinish furniture and paint.
She muses: "I don't really travel anymore, so the world comes to me."