It was not long ago the two, blossoming artists were enmeshed in their New England lifestyle of long winters, gray skies, and the close quarters not always recognized until a more expansive landscape is introduced. Graduates of the Rhode Island School of Design, Hazel Elsbach and Sylvie Mayer had often talked about living in New Mexico but as Elsbach explained, "life intervened," and they remained rooted in the East Coast.

But roots are not stagnant and when fed with intention, change and growth eventually happen. It was Mayer who first arrived in Taos last July followed by Elsbach and her dog, Fin, five months later. The artists soon discovered the intensity of the light and the sweeping landscape that has drawn artists to Taos for decades, did not disappoint. During their brief time in Taos, they have experienced a range of 'firsts' including their first joint exhibition at the aptly-named, 'Fin,' a project space located on the south side of town.

"The Ground Floor," as Mayer explained, "will be the first and final art exhibit at the Fin space. There will be more exhibitions, but this one is special because it is both the first and the last." The exhibition is in collaboration with the southside Taos Fall Arts Festival.

Like the artists who arrived before them and the artists who will most assuredly arrive after, Elsbach and Mayer are living through a time of new, new, and more new. New landscape, environment, culture, light, experiences, and opportunities are on their proverbial palettes waiting to be discovered. Elsbach, who had never been to New Mexico described her experience. "We're both learning to make sense of a new landscape. It's as though we've been arrested by the drama of the landscape. Seeing so far in every direction, the light and vegetation and the openness that you feel in your mind. The landscape feels more approachable."

"There is something so intense here about the sky and the ground and the space in-between," commented Mayer. Indeed, it is those 'spaces in-between' where the seeds of Mayer's art are sewn. The painter and drawer's work are informed by transitions - those turning points of growth that can only come from loss, grief, healing, and renewal. Mayer openly acknowledges her aversion to change, yet her life has been defined by it and so goes her art. "I don't like change. I was the kid who struggled with the transition from school to summer. It always felt like loss to me. I lost my dad when I was 22. I think my grapple with change is inevitable - trying to hold onto a part that is gone. It all feels bittersweet."

Elsbach's art is the yin to Mayer's yang. The printmaker's talent with drawing and collage showcases her ability to take drawn lines and unearth connections that only she can initially see. Her intensely process-driven approach renders work that can resemble an archeological site map or for some, an aerial view. "My work is an expression of an idea and I build off of that. There's a solid foundation yet I'm starting from scratch," noted Elsbach, which is how they came to name their exhibit "The Ground Floor." "We're both feeling a sense of the beginning of a collaboration, like starting from scratch."

The artists' pieces have different styles and expressions. Elsbach works in the abstract with muted colors and tones and Mayer works figuratively, with maximalist color schemes. The range of color, however, has begun to expand, much like the landscape in which they now reside. "The colors here have already influenced our work," noted Mayer. "I was surprised by the light even though I was expecting it to be different," added Elsbach.

As the artists, who both enjoy modern and contemporary dancing, continue to absorb their expansive new landscape, their art, so reflective of their feelings and transitions, will continue to expand. Their shared enjoyment in hiking with Fin and spending time outdoors no doubt informs their processes; both seem intrigued with how their new landscape is manifesting in their art.

The first and last exhibition at Fin, "The Ground Floor" will run Sept. 23 - Oct. 3, from 1 - 3 p.m. An opening reception will be held from 5 - 8 p.m. on Sept. 24. The Fin Project Space is located at 1337 Gusdorf Road, Suite K, in Taos.

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