D  e  s  e  r  t     E  x  p  o  s  u  r  e    February 2006

Features

Have Spacesuit, Will Travel
Is space tourism the ticket to success for the proposed spaceport?

For Love and Money
Ivan Thompson, the "Cowboy Cupid," stars in an award-winning documentary.

Connecting the Threads
The Southwest Women's Fiber Arts Collective weaves together area fabric artists.

Blooming in the Desert
"Little Vampire" author and painter Angela Sommer-Bodenburg.

Out of Africa
Festus Addo-Yobo, new director of NMSU's Black Studies Program.

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$1.98 Show
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Exit Here for Art

New galleries aim to lure art lovers off the interstate to discover Deming.

By Marjorie Lilly

"Deming is a place where a lot of people are too poor to move away," a woman at the Deming Headlight once said to me, with a smile. There's been a kind of wry running joke about the minimal prospects here for decades, a generalized despair.

Don Ross of Gold Street Gallery
with one of his portraits.

There are lots of low-wage employees who hang on by their fingernails, and retail businesses too often are in the same awkward position. I've imagined that without the low-paying agricultural work, the town could some day blow away in one of its March dust storms.

But there are surprising winds of optimism blowing in Deming right now, because of a few art galleries deciding to open their doors at more or less the same time.

Some of the gallery owners have a very positive outlook about making Deming an "art destination" and about how this might transform the town. These people always mention Deming's location right off I-10 as an obvious asset. "It's so easy to get off and on the interstate," says Janie Sherman, owner of the new antique shop/gallery called Antelope Alley and long-time resident. "It's kind of a respite place between Tucson and El Paso, or between San Diego and Dallas."

These people talk about Deming's warm winter climate and its interesting history and cultures. They talk about spiffing up old buildings and opening up appealing outside spaces, as Palma's, Joe Perk and Antelope Alley have already done. "When the weather is nice we're going to kind of flow out there," says Sherman.

Sherman also envisions opening up some of the many alleyways behind buildings where small-time antique dealers and artists can set up stands. There is charm in Deming just waiting to be uncovered.

There has always been a kind of grumbling distrust of development among Deming's more conservative elements. They don't want growth to spoil the town's rural isolation. People like it that way. Richard Orona, who with his wife Lyn is starting a gallery called Galeria 200, says, "I can sympathize with them. I've lived in Arizona and I know what over-development is."

The future very much hangs in the balance. "I don't know what it will take to get a critical mass," says Sherman. "When you have enough they sustain each other."

But some people are at least beginning to hold their breath.

Galleries

Gold Street Gallery—Perhaps the most promising new gallery in Deming is the Gold Street Gallery, owned by Don Ross and family. "The reason I came here is that I absolutely love Deming," Ross says. "It's a diamond in the rough. We're trying to turn Deming into an art destination."

There's a good mix of representational and abstract paintings as well as sculpture, mostly metal works. Ross himself is an accomplished artist, and the works of 22 other artists are on exhibit in his large skylit space, the result of extensive renovation. "There are a tremendous amount of talented people down here who aren't showing or that show elsewhere," he says.

Both he and his son are self-taught yet high-quality artists. Don Ross is especially good at portraiture. One strong piece is a painting of a miner, Eddie Pedroza, who lives in Mimbres, "a real rough kind of guy," Ross says. "Eddie is a metaphor for America's new conquistador, who works in the mines, landfills and rough construction. His wife saw that painting and she cried for an hour." Ross makes lots of self-portraits, mostly in acrylic. He also does witty metal sculptures of insects and construction workers.

Just as, as an artist Ross cares deeply about the humanity of the people he paints, as a gallery owner he cares about the human qualities of his artists. He is currently showing Silver City artist L.C. Crow. "He's such a fantastic human being," Ross says. "He's donating all his woodworking equipment to children in Oaxaca." (See the November 2005 Desert Exposure.) He has flower paintings by Sarah Mathewson, who "has a tremendous amount of human spirit. That's what I saw in her paintings," he says. Zelda Megerdichian is another artist on exhibit who, besides being a painter of New Mexico and Caribbean people, paints psychic healers in Mexico. Painter Paul Forster has sold works to celebrities including Jane Fonda and Burt Reynolds. On display also are the unconventional pieces of Eric Yanez, who paints on scraps of wood, ceiling tiles and plywood. "His background is graffiti and street art," says Ross.

Another unconventional artist is his eight-year-old daughter, Autumn Rainson. Her paintings have names like "Bug Antlers" and "Giraffe Cave." He's also showing the works of Deming artist Glenn Hammock ("He's going to be in the Smithsonian," says Ross) and his wife Sam Feehan ("There's a tremendous amount buried in what she does-there's a majesty in it"). (See the September and March 2005 issues of Desert Exposure.) Other artists include Carol Kipp of T or C, Valerie Milner of Silver City and Deming artists Pepe Montoya, Paul Hoylen, Dorothy Palser and Holli Strand, this issue's cover artist.

One innovative idea Ross has for his gallery is to offer commissioned portraits by gallery artists. "We will have different artists according to style," he says. Both he and his son Sam may do portraits, and he might use Dorothy Palser if someone would like an animal portrait done, he adds. (112 & 116 S. Gold St., 546-8200, www.goldstreetgallery.com)

Hearth Fire Gallery—David Hooffmaann opened his gallery in April because "I thought Deming could use the culture. I wanted to introduce people to art." He's sponsored a few art classes and had dreams of "establishing a kind of artists' haven—the upstairs could be studio space"—although that hasn't yet materialized. He has a lineup of several very good artists, including himself, and has sponsored a few art classes in this place.

Your eye may first be caught by the paintings of Gordon Dipple, who's also an accomplished jeweler and sculptor. He's made a living by his art for most of his life and retired to Deming 20 years ago. Dipple says he moved here "because I kept having dreams of New Mexico." His large and assured oil paintings of landscapes and people are full of daylight.

Dipple taught for several years at California College of Art in Oakland, and has exhibited at many places including the Santa Fe Museum of Contemporary Art, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, galleries in Los Angeles and Minnesota, and the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice, Italy. He's had a shop in Santa Barbara where he made custom jewelry.

Painter William Corrigan is so in love with abstraction he doesn't even give names to his paintings. His life is as interesting as his art: He was a seventh-grade dropout and spent time in and out of jail north of Boston. But he's been painting for 15 years now. He's on an "anti-ego trip," he says: "Most artists say, 'Look what I can do.' I didn't want to say, 'Look what I can do.'" His paintings are low-key, but he wants to "bring you into another dimension," he says. He's shown in Santa Fe and in Martha's Vineyard.

Hearth Fire also has paintings by Columbus artist, singer and playwright Tim McAndrews, who, with Dipple, has also shown at the Santa Fe Museum of Contemporary Art. McAndrews' pieces are brooding, almost frieze-like paintings of people, with a definite theatrical bent.

Hooffmaann's own paintings are what he calls "primitive abstract"—small, whimsical works with unusually shaped frames. A self-taught artist, he says of the way he conceptualizes his pieces, "I see it in the paper first." He's shown in Scottsdale, Silver City, New York City, Alaska and Florida.

Hearth Fire also exhibits works by Cesar Pacheco, who has terrific murals at Pepper's supermarket, on the front of Tacos Mirasol and in the local museum. Works by Debbie Duncan, Marie Garay Reynolds, Ted Specker and Jim Stresen-Reuter are also shown.

Unfortunately, Hooffmaann now says family issues may force him to sell or close the gallery. He hopes to find someone to take it over by mid-March. (121 E. Spruce St., 544-4795)

Galeria 200—Richard and Lyn Orona have taken over the large space the Teapot Dome bookstore used to fill. The Oronas had a successful silversmithing business in California for nine years and want to continue this work in their gallery and bring in other jewelers. They'll have about 12 hanging artists as well as textiles, pottery and glasswork, and plan to open Feb. 1.

They see a lot of possibilities in Deming. "It'll take time, but I think we can pull it off," Richard says. "We can see the growth happening since we've been here," Lyn adds. "You can just see it happening right before your eyes." (200 S. Gold St., 544-0417)

Deming Arts Council—The arts council started about 20 years ago with a $50,000 gift from a wealthy California friend of Gordon Dipple's, Kit Tremaine. In February the council will host for the first time an exhibit of schoolteachers' art. March is the KOTS camera club, in April they'll show the New Mexico Watercolorists exhibit, and August will be the Black Range Artists' show. (100 S. Gold St., 546-3663)

Antiques & Arts

Xi'an Antiquities—It's not really clear whether Xi'an is a museum or a store or an art gallery. Owner Tim Weber's place is stuffed with museum-quality artifacts from China, Tibet and Japan. You can stand for an hour in one spot and ask questions about things within arm's reach without exhausting what Weber knows about the history of the objects. He sits outside because there's no room inside, he says.

Weber usually can be found at his table in front of his shop, doing business on his laptop or talking to friends, with a few of his exquisite embroidered textiles or carved pieces behind him. Lately Weber has been getting more obis and kimonos from Japan, where they have, as he says, a "genius" for art.

Weber claims he's almost the only person in the US with such a large number of northern Buddhist objects, which form the core of his collection. (109 E. Spruce St., 546-9223, Mon.-Sat. 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. or by appointment)

The Galleria on Eighth—Another hard-to-define place, this opened just in December and is still a work in progress. It's housed in an 1888 adobe that's among the oldest in Deming. The interior decor is lavishly Victorian, but owner Richard Manning describes the objects he has as "eclectic."

You'll find lots of small decorative pieces—Venetian-style masks, whimsically creative dolls and other figures—and designer pieces like an ornate two-foot high horse by Sheila Rhoads. The shop also has antique furniture, such as an 1830 rosewood highboy and Victorian chairs, costumes from the Chinese Opera, and European church vestments that date back centuries. There's a rather anomalous toy store, too, right in the middle of it all. It's a visually enchanting experience, and everything's for sale. (200 S. Eighth St., 544-9029)

Antelope Alley Antiques and Art—This combination antique store and gallery takes you back a few decades. The style is mostly "retro" rather than antique, with such a multiplicity of things it's hard to describe. Artist Donni Rose makes collage paintings, artsy pins, lamps in a retro style, and framed postcards. The antique part has potholders made in the 1920s and 1930s, upholstery material from the 1940s, quilts and chenille bedspreads, a croquet set, ambulance driver hats from WWI, women's hats from the 1950s, antler handled carving sets, and paint-by-number paintings. And more! (210 1/2 S. Silver St., in alley off Spruce St., between Silver and Gold St., 544-1724)

Finally, don't overlook the Deming Luna-Mimbres Museum. This all-volunteer museum is considered by some people to be the best historical museum in the Southwest. It can easily take several hours to view. It chiefly contains artifacts of the Anglo farmers, ranchers and miners of the early decades of Deming, with a Hispanic room added about 10 years ago. But the most appealing exhibit may be the two rooms full of Mimbres pottery found in Luna and Grant Counties. It's a perennially fascinating record of the early "artsy" residents of the area.

Another fun part of the museum is the hall with replicas of early businesses in Deming, from a general store to a beauty salon and a dentist's office to a mortuary with a real coffin. There's a telephone switchboard, old hospital equipment, a quilt room and a bell collection. Don't miss the large room full of old dolls, which is easy to miss because it's off by itself to the left as you enter.

They have a gift shop with a good book section. (301 S. Silver St., 546-2383).

 

Deming resident Marjorie Lilly writes the Borderlines column.

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