Arterburn Engineers a Solo Exhibition
Las Cruces artist Michelle K. Arterburn likes to keep her hands busy. When she's not painting, she occupies her hands with weaving or beading. It was probably that desire to make things that led her to study civil engineering at the University of Arizona—where she also took some studio-art classes, "for fun." After 11 years as an engineer in Arizona and Colorado, however, four years ago Arterburn switched to being an artist full-time.
The results can be seen on this issue's cover and in a new show, "Architecture & Organics," that opened at the Tombaugh Gallery in Las Cruces with a reception on New Years Eve, Dec. 31, from 3-5 p.m. Arterburn's first solo exhibition, the show features oil and watercolor paintings, stoneware and porcelain items, porcelain jewelry and a hand-woven shawl, all focused on architectural and organic forms.
Arterburn says her inspiration for the show is the Craftsman era of architecture and design, along with the botanical images that have been a recurring theme in her jewelry, pottery and textile designs. The Craftsman period of style was popular in North America from the 1890s to the 1920s as a response to the factory-made, mass-produced style of the Industrial Age at the turn of the 20th century. Craftsman design elements drew from our connection to nature and the "home" vs. "house." Arterburn combines her fascination with this period's style with her love of insect and botanical imagery in a wide variety of mediums.
"I have always had a fondness for the detailed and technical world," says the former engineer. "The idea to bring that world together with the natural world as a cohesive theme seemed a perfect fit for me."
Arterburn's training in civil engineering enabled her to earn a living and, at the same time, work towards being able to do her art full-time. "In college I peppered my engineering classes with studio art classes. Later I worked in engineering mainly to pay the bills, but I was always doing art. As an engineer my work included drawing every day; I always had a pen in my hand."
She is a member of the Las Cruces Potters' Guild, New Mexico Watercolor Society, New Mexico Potters and Clay Artists, Handweavers Guild of America and Southwest Women's Fiber Arts Collective.
The Tombaugh Gallery is located within the Unitarian Universalist Church, 2000 S. Solano, and is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and by appointment. For more information, call 522-7281. The exhibition continues through Jan. 27.