ROCH HART: Family Time
Posted on April 28, 2015
“It’s a great piece. I almost hate to say goodbye to it,” says Albuquerque artist Roch Hart, admiring one of his latest hand-carved creations.
“You say that about every one!” his wife Kathy retorts with a laugh.
It was Roch and Kathy’s 26th wedding anniversary last week. On the big day, they drove up to Santa Fe to explore Canyon Road and drop off some new work at Matthews Gallery. As the only fine furniture maker in our stable, Roch is tasked with filling our Southwestern art room with Spanish Colonial designs. This can be a difficult job considering how quickly his benches, pie safes and chests get snapped up by collectors. Roch leans down next to a new pie safe called Crossroads. He points out symbols influenced by Pueblo petroglyphs, and patterns on the sides with a distinct Navajo flavor. “With the arrival of the Navajos about 1400 AD, there was an immediate influence in the Pueblo petroglyphs. When you look at the Navajo rugs, you notice that there is influence from Pueblo pottery painting,” he says. “There’s definitely a crossover in the cultures.”
Azure accents in some of the carvings hail from yet another civilization. “The blue I couldn’t resist,” Roch says. “Santa Fe has all of these blue doors. The Spanish believed that it was Mary’s color, which keeps out the demons.” This subtle Spanish tribute completes Roch’s circle of influences, culled from his European roots and long family history in New Mexico. In his decade of making furniture, Roch has learned to weave these tales together with fluidity and functionality. Kathy is his trusted confidante.
“I often ask her for advice,” says Roch.
“This one I hardly saw, though,” says Kathy. “He just kind of went for it.”
“I didn’t hold back. It was fun!” Roch says.
Kathy describes herself as more “mechanical”-minded than artistic, but she’s incredibly supportive of Roch’s creative pursuits. She runs the business side of their company New Mexico Jeep Tours, while Roch drives the jeep and photographs the High Desert, exploring ancient petroglyphs and drawing inspiration for his carvings.
Kathy is also a big part of how Roch became a master carpenter in the first place.
“You bought me my first carving kit,” says Roch with a smile.
“A few years after we were first married, he took a class to get the basics of woodworking,” says Kathy. “It wasn’t very helpful, and he kind of realized he had to do it on his own.”
“I was considering carving, but wasn’t sure if I could ever do it,” says Roch. “You bought me my little kit, and I remember one of [my coworkers] asked, ‘What did you get for Christmas?’ and I put up my finger with a band-aid on it and said, ‘I got a carving set.’ I’ll never forget that.”
The two laugh and then head for the door. Before they depart for a romantic dinner in Albuquerque, they sit for a photograph with Roch’s new piece called Sky Bench. It’s a fitting anniversary portrait: they’re on cloud nine.