Originally published in The Taos News, Tempo Section >>

by Tamra Testerman | September 23, 2021


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Numerology is the theory that there is a mystical relationship between a number and coinciding events. Eleven is considered a “master number” that holds significant power. It is considered by some to be a “messenger from the universe and spiritual awareness.”

The artists in the show Eleven have over a hundred years of living in Taos between them, navigating the shoals of a mercurial economy, finding a life balance, and feeding the muse.

These artists individually are a creative force of nature: Nicki Marx, Gretchen Ewert, Annell Livingston, Margaret Nes, Mimi Chen Ting, Sandra Lerner, Ann Huston, TJ Mabrey, Ginger Mongiello, Paula Verona, and Christine Taylor Patten.

Eleven, brings them together for the first time Sept. 25, from 4 to 7 p.m. to “anoint” the new wing at Chimayo Trading Del Norte in the historic Saint Francis Church Plaza.

Gabriel Abrums, the owner of Chimayo, said “this is something very different from what we’ve done in the past, it’s experimental, mixing contemporary art with our traditional. I’m pleased we’re hosting these artists together at one moment in time. It’s an extraordinary first for Chimayo, and a tradition we plan to continue.”

Tempo caught up with the artists and asked how Taos has shaped their creative expression and if art can save us. There are nuggets of wisdom in their answers.

Here are the highlights.

Mimi Chen Ting – Taos gives me clarity and simplicity of vision. Everywhere I look, I see changing relations of shapes, forms, and colors, how the most gentle sigh of the moving air turns dramatic in the blink of an eye, and I only exist in this continuous narrative like a stitch in a tapestry. Taos gives me perspective. It gives me permission to be silent and just listen without fear of interruption. It called to me, and I answered. I do not think art can save us all, but it can console and inspire, bring light to the darker shadows, and ease, if not enhance, our human experiences. We, who are fortunate to be given the gifts of expression and the opportunities to share them, are privileged fools. I am humbled and grateful to be among the legion.

Christine Taylor Patten – The spirit of Taos extends through to the population which understands and cares about the beauty, and about the lives of the artists. Sometimes art reflects the visible, but its source is invisible, a powerful dimension that we don’t understand yet, but which artists keep trying to show to others because it is there. We extend our open hand, “Look, look what I have found, do you see it?” – The planet and its inhabitants can be saved by that dimension’s lessons to us, once acknowledged within humanity. That’s one of our jobs: to continue inspiring others, exposing what it seems none of us can see otherwise. People are powerful and, once inspired, we imagine.

Ginger Mongiello – I have found that the experience of vast, open space framed by layered mountains has encouraged a large creative vision and opportunity for bold aesthetic risks. Exhilarating! Art helps us remember our humanity and interrelatedness with other people and the world. If the web of interconnectedness holds the world together, art is essential.

Paula Verona – Although much of my work is inspired by my world travels, it is Taos I come home to. It is Taos that feeds my soul, which enables me to find my creative expression – Art influences society. It can be persuasive, it can educate, it can shock us into looking at ourselves and our environment. The transformative power of art heightens our awareness and can evoke emotions that aid in healing and give us hope for the revival of the human spirit.

Ann Huston – It’s just a step out the door to be filled with inspiration, daily. The high-altitude light, the history that is ever present and adsorbed, the mountain, the adobes: the landscape and atmosphere that just keeps giving… Sometimes I think Taos Mountain is growing, for sure that can’t be true, but maybe it’s living and working from Taos over the years that has helped me grow as an artist and see more clearly.

Sandra Lerner – I discovered Taos’s unmistakable ease and that all the cliches spouted about “the land of enchantment” proved to be true: the light, the sky, clouds, stars, the luminous sunsets, and the ageless mystery of Taos Mountain. I am sure the special energy and acceptance that exists in Taos allowed for experimentation and changes in my work, and the content of my work would not have veered toward “investigations of nature” as it has. Much has been written about the beauty of nature in Taos. It has been a magical place for me.

Gretchen Ewert – Taos Talking Pictures / Taos Picture Show, Taos Shorts, Marjorie Malone’s dance performances at the TCA, the TCA Tally Richards Gallery, Fenix Gallery, New Directions Gallery, Hulse Warman Gallery, Claire Haye’s “Cave Vaults of the Moon” performance/ installation, Charles Strong, art patron, Bill Whaley, Geronimo/Horse Fly, 11 years with Shree Yoga, Erin Greenberg yoga at the North Side Spa. The raucous Fall Arts openings at the Civic Center with mountains of homemade food, the early Paseo, the first three years were great, fewer techno gimmicks, more James Turrell. These didn’t shape my creative life, but I’m glad they happened.

Margaret Nes – Art is connected to all life, so in short, all of my life in Taos County and New Mexico has shaped my creative life. The land and the people have helped make my art what it is. Art music, dance poetry writings – are part of our humanity – Throughout history, art has reflected some people, times, societies, environments, from which it sprung. Art is connected to all that is here. It is not separate, and can not alone save us. It can bring greater understanding of our human condition.

Annell Livingston – The artist needs time to work, time alone, time for inspiration. Taos provides all of this. Even though I am not a realist painter, the beauty of Taos is an inspiration to my work. Art can enrich our lives, open doors, take us to unknown places and so much more. I am a painter and could not be happy if I did not paint. I have been practicing for over 50 years, and “to get it right” is still ahead of me. Art is a journey and I’m not through yet.

TJ Mabrey – Taos is an amalgam of many cultures … It is this mishmash of like-minded people I found attractive. It was an environment in which I could live. And in living in a comfortable place, I make things. Some call it art – Art cannot save us. What it can do is predict and record our death – the death of our planet, our species, the world. In my experience, artists seem to have a sixth sense, and unique antennae that pick up on things before they happen.

Nicki Marx – The mountains, skies, land, pure air, people and magic of Taos and has supported, expanded, made magic, and challenged my heart and soul and thus my creativity, life and work. To quote Dan Rather “Somewhere, amid the darkness, a painter measures a blank canvas, a poet tests a line aloud, a songwriter brings a melody into tune. Art inspires, provokes thought, reflects beauty and pain. I seek it out even more in these times. And in doing so, I find hope in the human spirit.”

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