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Sharman Russell's new book about pantheism

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About the cover

  D e s e r t   E x p o s u r e    August 2008

At Home with Art

Joseph Wade paints, prints and preserves the past at his unique Hurley gallery.

By Donna Clayton Lawder

Artist Joseph W. Wade Jr. is used to guests dropping by announced. And though these visitors may have been to his home many times, more likely than not it's the first time he's met them.

Joseph Wade in his gallery with "Quijo," an acrylic.
(Photo by Donna Clayton Lawder)

That's because Wade lives and works in an historic Hurley landmark — the Old Hurley Store — that he and his wife, Karin, have renovated and turned into the JW Art Gallery, art framing business and studio.

"People from all over the country stop in when they're visiting the area," he says. "They're often surprised at what they find, because they're remembering it as what it was like when they lived here."

The cavernous building, once the company store that served employees of the Chino Mines operation, is now a sunny, high-ceilinged art gallery. To the rear is Wade's fine art and specialty framing business. There also is classroom space where he teaches monotype printing and, in a special back room, a custom art printing press.

Wade says he loves to welcome these visitors who have a connection to Hurley when it was an active mining town. In fact, as a member of the Hurley Pride Committee, a community vitalization group, Wade places special importance on keeping local history alive. To that end, he and his wife have lovingly procured artifacts from the town's old mining days — bits of machinery, photos, a blackboard used for company communications, interesting and beautiful bits of copper — and created a local interest museum and gift shop at the gallery's front entrance.

Wade shows not only the works of nearly 20 other artists in his gallery — the "theme" of which he describes as "ranching, animals, mountains and desert landscapes and local people" — but his own paintings, as well, in both oils and acrylics. His work has been shown in juried exhibits and private shows in California, Colorado and Arizona. This month, Wade's oil painting "Council of Trees I" is featured on the cover of Desert Exposure.

"There are things I like about each," he says of the two paint mediums. "To me, oils lend themselves to places — like Southwest railroad scenes I've painted, landscapes. I use acrylics more for abstract things."

He strides around the gallery giving examples of each. He points out "Spur Cross," a huge landscape oil painting, and tells how the property was part of a successful land preservation effort. In the painting, several trees stand at the edge of a small body of water. The dappled light filters through and illuminates the reflections of some large, partly submerged rocks. The painting depicts an area north of Cape Creek in Arizona, Wade explains. He stands back from the huge painting, seeming to relax into the peace of the tranquil place, a peace he has captured and preserved in the work.

For contrast, he points out another large painting, this one an abstract rendered in acrylics. "Quijo" started as a picture he found in a magazine, he says. The Spanish word means "matrix of minerals," Wade explains, and the painting is made to capture the different minerals within the matrix of a certain type of marble.

The many-hued splashes of color are angular, sharp-edged. Some are muted while others sparkle, seeming to go beyond the surface, giving a multi-dimensional view into the very heart of the rock.

Wade has also painted landscapes in acrylic. These range from the sweeping "Grand Canyon" to the intensely personal "Creek in New Mexico" and "Turquoise Trail," which bring the scenery down to human scale, enabling the viewer to feel as if he or she has stepped into the canvas, feeling the cool tranquility of a special place.

As to how he chooses what to paint, Wade says, "It's a balance of what's intriguing to me, what's impacting me at the time, and also what the gallery needs. But I have a good variety here with my artists, so I don't feel hemmed in, like I have to paint this or that."

Wade says he sees his framing business as "a natural connection to fine art." On the back wall of the gallery hangs a huge assortment of wooden angles, samples of the many frames he can procure for customers. He works with five different suppliers, Italian and American. He's done a good bit of framing work for local customers, he says, both commercial, like AmBank and Lois Duffy Gallery, and private owners of art.

"We took over many of Marley's customers as that business wound down," he says of the framing business that used to occupy a storefront on Broadway in Silver City.

In addition to regular framing, Wade also does specialty framing, such as Plexiglas display cases and glass shadowboxes. He tells the story of one customer who brought in a box with a butterfly display. On the way into the shop, the customer dropped the case, destroying not only the box he'd wanted redone but most of the fragile butterflies in the collection, as well. Wade crafted a new display case and restored the fragile insects to their lifelike Lepidopteron splendor.

He also is a trained restorer of fine art, able to reline a damaged canvas, stabilize paint and reduce the acidity of paper. As an artist, he has even repaired images in a work of art — with the customer's approval, of course — by painting in areas that have chipped off the original work. Depending on condition and the amount of work involved, the restoration of a medium-sized oil painting might cost $350 to $500, he estimates.

Besides his paintings, Wade also creates original monotype prints. He shows a couple of examples of this work. In the up-close rendering of "Cactus," the vibrant colors shimmer, giving the subject an almost metallic feel. Though the cactus depiction is somewhat representational, the colors and perspective give an expressionistic feel.

Another print, "Catdra," which translates as "teacher's chair," is even more abstract. Here, more muted hues capture the image, barely giving a suggestion as to what the literal subject is. Still other prints are in black and white, bringing an intense, almost stark quality to the images.

Though many use the terms "monoprint" and "monotype" interchangeably, Wade takes care to clarify that a monotype is a one-of-a-kind image. In a monoprint, the image is printed over and over.

"In a monotype, you paint directly on a plate, with paint or ink. You manipulate the image and transfer it to paper," he explains. "In a monoprint, some of the printmaking process can be added to a monotype."

He says he especially favors a "reductive" printing process called the Picasso method.

Wade also teaches monotype printmaking workshops on the premises. He's run classes with up to 10 students at a time through Silver City's Western Institute For Lifelong Learning (WILL), and will teach smaller groups and individuals. Classes include materials, instruction and printing on Wade's custom-made printing press. A full-day class is seven hours, he says. A three and a half hour, half-day class costs $45.

"And they get two pieces of their own original art out of the deal!" he says with a smile.

JW Art Gallery, Old Hurley Store, 99 Cortez Ave, 537-0330, Tues.-Fri. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-7 p.m., gallery@thetown.com, www.thetown.com


Donna Clayton Lawder is senior editor of Desert Exposure.



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