The Fechin Studio and Taos Art Museum have been quiet for months. Two spring shows were canceled in the wake of the pandemic, and the traditional late-summer annual gala never happened.
That all changes on Friday (Oct. 9) with an exhibition of 29 silver gelatin photographs of Taos women artists at work in their studio by Meredith Garcia.
Photographer Garcia's show is called "A Room of One's Own," inspired by the Virginia Woolf 1929 quote "a woman must have money and a room of her own." Garcia's intimate, reflective portraits of women working in their studios is also inspired by a Helene Wurlitzer Foundation fellows exhibit at the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos last year. The foundation in Taos is a local nonprofit that provides three months of rent-free housing for artists. The foundation's residency program is one of the oldest in the country, providing artists with the space and time to work without distractions.
Tempo caught up with Garcia and asked her a few questions about the exhibit, which will be on view at the TAM through Dec. 6.
How did you decide who to include in the exhibit?
I wanted to photograph a wide spectrum of the women artists of Taos in their studios - younger and older, established and emerging, Hispanic and Native American and Anglo, LGBTQ,and artists who work in a variety of media.
As a member of the Taos art community for years, I know some of these artists. Others were chosen from seeing their work in local galleries and museums, and some were recommended to me by the artists I was photographing. Not everyone I contacted wanted to be photographed - for some, the privacy of their studios was of greatest import, and I respected that.
What was the process like with each artist?
Each photo shoot presented a unique set of challenges - the light, the size of the space and even the temperature influenced the process. I started photographing the artists in July 2019, and finished in late January 2020, so some studios were freezing by the time I finished. Christina Sporrong, Caitlyn Au and Nikesha Breeze were wearing their snowsuits because it was so cold! When the artist had pets, I often included them in the photographs - Pattie Traynor and her cat, Martha Reed and Audra Knutson and dog, Arrow, are two of my favorites.
Part of the fun of this project was talking to the artists and getting to know those who were not already friends. I shot 10-20 photographs of each artist using three different cameras and then reviewed the individual negatives to choose the one that I would print - the composition and the quality of the light were two of the criteria I used in making my choices.
For my photograph of Maureen Tibbs, I shot her back-lit, against a window which is not what I would normally do, but it produced a wonderful image. For Christine Autumn, I shot down at her from a staircase, and captured her image reflected in a mirror. I photographed Patty Mara Gourley with her back to me and her face captured in the reflection of a mirror - yes, I love reflected images.
What do you hope the show will inspire?
I hope it will inspire an appreciation for the circumstances under which these artists work to produce their amazing art. Some artists work in a corner of their home, some have dedicated studios of varying sizes [and temperatures], but all can eke out their own physical space in which to create their art. The need to make art supersedes the physical challenges of finding a room of one's own. The place of art in the post-COVID world is not clear … galleries, symphonies, operas and, yes, museums, are all at risk in this changing environment. Art is the heart and soul of Taos, and I hope that the people of Taos come together to support the arts in our little town, so that the soul of Taos remains intact in this brave, unknown world.
The Taos Art Museum staff has been trained on COVID-safe practices and are New Mexico Safe Certified. They have set capacity limits, are enforcing 6 feet social distancing regulations, require all guests to wear masks and are checking temperatures of all who enter with a touchless thermometer. For more information about the exhibit, visit the TAM website at taosartmuseum.org.