Originally published in The Taos News, Tempo Section >>
by Tamra Testerman | November 4, 2021 Updated November 11, 2021
The quiet strength of Ann Huston
A few weeks after the success of ‘Eleven,’ the first exhibit of contemporary art at Chimayo Trading Del Norte, one of the artists in the show, Ann Huston went to retrieve her work and was met at the door by owner Gabriel Abrums, who asked her if she’d like to join the Chimayo family.
“We invited Ann Huston to inhabit our restored historic adobe gallery, where visitors can absorb the quiet inner strength and talent of this remarkable artist.”
Huston said Eleven was a wonderful experience, “seeing a lot of old faces, I feel I have reconnected with these Taos artists who have persevered through so many years. I’m not a traditional artist, more of a crossover contemporary. At the end of the show, I like how my work looked in that warm and inviting place where the history just oozes out. I love seeing them in that space, it makes sense to me.”
Tempo reached out to Huston and asked a few questions about her process, time in Taos, and inspirations.
What brought you to Taos and what sustains you here?
I first came to Taos in the summer of 1975. I had seen an advertisement in a weaving magazine for a weaving workshop with Kristina Wilson in Arroyo Seco and I knew I would head this way as a destination. My trip to New Mexico from Vermont, where I grew up, became extended. Living and working in New Mexico, not just in Taos, included Corrales, Santa Fe, Abiquiú and Tesuque, back to Vermont, back to Santa Fe. That’s the long way around how to get back to Taos.
I moved to Taos in 1985 and was fortunate to show my paintings then in a gallery, as well as my weaving done in the Rio Grande Tradition. Art has always been my focus, even young, having grown up in an artist’s family.
What sustains an artist in Taos has got to be the atmosphere, the high altitude light, the mountain, the ‘every single day – out your door’ inspirations. Work, for me, has always been art related.
What is your creative process?
I work with artists’ sandpaper mounted on archival boards. That becomes my canvas, all ready to go, to sketch on location. I do my pencil sketches, including details on site. Sometimes, ‘my boards’ as I call them, get messy with written words and notes to make sure I remember the essence of what I’m sensing. That lies beneath the painting. I am not a plein-air painter, but sketching on location is an important part of the process for me. I take the sketch home to my easel and work from there. My next process is taking out most of the detail when painting. Having just gotten the sketch, I allow myself to take out the detail in the painting process and just go for the feeling of the place. I feel the sketch beneath substantiates the more minimal composition above even though hidden. I choose to keep the pastel fresh in its natural state, without using a fixative. The pastel pigments settle nicely into the grit of the sandpaper, and the sandpaper allows for building up the layers, mixing a depth of the color.
How has your work evolved and what are your inspirations?
I am still totally in love with the pastel medium. Northern New Mexico continues to capture my heart, and it is still those old adobes and the history surrounding these places that inspire. My work tends to be softer, quieter, lately. I’ve always been about less is more with my pastel work. Even when revisiting older paintings, there is that common thread that shows throughout.
Victor Higgins, Earl Strogh and so many artists to admire. But these two are always on my list.
Please talk about the Chimayo Trading Del Norte representation.
Ranchos de Taos is stepping into history. The warmth of the gallery invites you in, just glancing up to the Ranchos Church from the gallery is a treat. Representation came about with the ‘Eleven’ Show, I was recently part of. The show was up during the Fall Arts Festival, launching the expansion of the gallery.
I’m excited to be included in the gallery and hanging alongside other artists I admire. With the newly renovated expansion, the owners were gracious to continue to include my paintings. My paintings seem to be a good match.
For visual details about Ann Huston’s work visit the Chimayo Trading Del Norte website chimayotrading.com or visit the gallery located next to San Francisco de Asís Mission Church, a historic and architecturally significant building on the main plaza of Ranchos de Taos.