Fenix Gallery of Taos is the latest victim of the recession. According to a letter to the editor (to follow), Fenix owner Judith Kendall said “resources have dried up,” forcing her to close the doors of one of the few remaining contemporary art venues in Taos.
When told of her decision, several local fans have asked what will Kendall do? Where will her artists go? Kendall said a "virtual" version of her gallery will continue to exist. She will continue to represent her artists on a private basis and to maintain her Web site at www.fenixgallery.com, but the physical gallery space which featured works by the likes of Lee Mullican, Jane Ellen Burke, Ginger Mongiello, Alyce Frank, Ruth Tobey, Ken Price, Bill Davis, Zoë Zimmerman, Barbara Zaring, Sandra Lerner, and some Taos Moderns, will be no more.
In her letter, Kendall says she plans to “explore new ventures and projects.”
“What I look for is art that has its very own voice, work that can’t be anything else, it has its own voice,” Kendall said upon the 2006 relocation of her gallery from its former location on Paseo del Pueblo Norte to the old Hattie Trujillo building at 208A Ranchitos Road. “To be able to manifest your personal individual identity, it’s a rare thing. That must be why I do this. For some reason it’s thrilling to be able to share this with other people.”
For 20 some years, Kendall’s gallery has been a focal point of contemporary art here, a feat which is remakable for a town blanketed by representational and American Western art. Along with the Harwood Museum, the old Tally Richards gallery, The New Gallery, Gallery Escondido, and a handful of others, a standard of sorts was upheld, one that represented to the world that contemporary art venues in Taos continued to nurture roots set down after World War II as a venturous few migrated from urban centers to create in a place undistracted by ravenous scrutiny.
How that has changed, leading to the disappearance of these galleries, save the Harwood, is the probably the subject of future dissertations and may wind up becoming part of serious discussions regarding the new demographics under which Taos businesses must now struggle to understand. Until then, we can remember what it was like when Kendall invited the Taos community to enjoy what she presented.
What follows is Kendall’s open letter to the community …
It was good while it lasted
Today, I was remembering Melody (then Elwell, now Romancito) some 20 years ago when she was the new Tempo editor. She would come into the Fenix with such enthusiasm for the revival of the more contemporary, abstract art showing in Taos. As we chatted about art I was so grateful for her support as I am now for all the Tempo editors who followed. It was wonderful when you, with aplomb and perseverance stayed! Without the paper’s positive, thoughtful reporting of Fenix openings and events, I could never have thrived in Taos. Thank you! and thank you to all the writers, ad reps and general staff!
As you may know, the Fenix is closing its physical space the end of this month. For a year or more, I have thought that it would be wonderful to pass along this legacy to a new owner, one with creative vision and the energy to carry forth the art represented at the Fenix. The new space is so historic and has been a great venue for showing art.
However that was not to be and now the resources have dried up. The gallery will remain intact as a virtual space. I plan to maintain the Web site at fenixgallery.com and represent the artists privately. As they are all here, I can easily set up studio visits. It’s also a time for me to explore new ventures and projects.
While the Fenix was always about showing and selling fine art representing primarily Taos artists, it was so much more for me. It was a community of resourceful, immensely talented artists with high integrity and vision. Without them there was no Fenix and my heart isn’t big enough to express what a privilege it was to hang the shows of such exceptional work.
Whenever I traveled I would be intimidated to go to other galleries but as soon as I entered, I knew what quality we had right here in Taos. We had wonderful fun along the way and, imagine, made some money! Thank you can’t do justice to the artists. What a rare luxury to be with this art everyday! The collectors, curators, directors, other gallery owners, designers, editors, caterers, and all the Taos Community made this unlikely venture last a very long time.
My hope is to step forth into this changing world with a modicum of grace and courage, secure in the knowledge that the spirit of art not only in Taos but also within our closely connected world will explode with renewed vitality.
Bravissimo and mil gracias Taos!