Eli Levin- Matthews Gallery Blog

“I could eat that!” It’s a surprisingly common reaction to brightly colored or densely textured paintings, and proves that art has serious cross-sensory powers. ARTsmart’s Edible Art Tour takes the idea to its tastiest extent, pairing dozens of Santa Fe galleries and restaurants for a charity event full of feasting (both aesthetic and alimentary). The event begins this Friday with a tour through downtown galleries, and continues Saturday on Canyon Road. One $35 ticket covers both evenings, and helps fund art education programs in New Mexico public schools.

On Saturday from 5-8 pm, Matthews Gallery will offer tasty morsels from Museum Hill Cafe and visually delectable art in our new exhibition WIDENING THE HORIZON: New Mexico Landscapes. The show will examine artists’ attempts to capture the endless vistas of the Land of Enchantment. It features New Mexico legends such as William Lumpkins and Arthur Haddock, and local contemporary artists who carry on their legacies including Alice Webb, Barbara Brock and Jamie Chase.

WIDENING THE HORIZON also marks the debut of a new contemporary artist in our stable. Santa Fe artist Eli Levin has been a realist painter throughout his career. Much of his subject matter is narrative social comment, with major work in still life, landscape and the nude. Additionally, he devoted an eight year period to interpretation of ancient Greek myth. While the greater part of Levin’s work is in the medium of egg tempera, he is prolific in oils, watercolors and intaglio printmaking. Levin is well-known in Santa Fe for his open-studio hosting of weekly drawing groups (one has met continuously since 1969), and of the Santa Fe Etching Club, initiated in 1981. Though primarily a visual artist, Levin also writes on art and if you’ve read his book, Santa Fe Bohemia, The Art Colony 1964-1980, you’ll find colorful anecdotes about the City Different when it was a bit less civilized than today.

In honor of Levin’s arrival at Matthews Gallery, here are his insights on some of the historic artists featured in the show, excerpted from Santa Fe Bohemia. It’s a sort of “tasting” guide to the artwork, full of juicy tidbits from a man who was a big part of the Santa Fe art colony’s history and certainly knows how to dish! From Levin:

Eli Levin- Matthews Gallery Blog

ARRIVING IN SANTA FE

I arrived in Santa Fe in June of 1964 on a small motorbike, having spent two months wending my way westward. I had just turned twenty-six. First I found the Plaza. Someone told me that Canyon Road was where the artists lived so I went there. Canyon was a dirt road, and there were several artists’ studios open to the public, interspersed with private homes.

Canyon Road had long been Santa Fe’s bohemian neighborhood. It developed in the 1920’s and 1930’s when Los Cinco Pintoes (the Five Painters, the name given to the five artists Will Shuster, Josef Bakos, Fremont Ellis, Walter Mruk, and Willard Nash) built studios on the adjacent Camino del Monte Sol. At the same time other artists built on the Road: Randall Davey in the mill at the top, Gerald Cassidy in the apple orchards, and Theodore van Soelen, farther down by the enormous chestnut tree. […]

When I came to town, my first contacts were on Canyon Road, and it has been central for me ever since. The Road was a hidden enclave approached by way of The Oldest Church and then up De Vargas. Santa Fe’s only art store, The Paint Pot, was behind the church. From there, I walked up a winding narrow alley, flanked by ancient houses. […]

DeVargas joins Canyon at the corner of Garcia, where the artist John Sloan lived. Chuzo Tamotzu, an artist, was using his studio when I arrived. A little farther one saw a number of unprepossessing studios, simple adobes with “OPEN” signs propped on windows or doorsills. The artists were not hard to find and they were often ready for a long conversation. That first day I met Jim Morris, Tommy Macaione and Hal West.

Hal West stood in his doorway, the screen door hanging awry. He invited me in for coffee. Despite the darkness and disorder lurking behind him, I accepted, intrigued by the painting of a hitchhiker in the window. Once inside, I was pleased to find some Depression style paintings amid all the clutter.

Later, as I rose my motorbike slowly up the street, it started to rain. Junius Stowe, a furniture restorer, was standing by the well in from this little shop. He invited me to take cover. Some years later his shop became my studio, Laughing Boy Gallery. […]

From there I went to Claude’s bar, practically next door. It was about four p.m., and there were only a couple of people at the bar. I ordered a beer and added optimistically, that I was an artist who had just come into town looking for a job and an apartment. This was the luckiest day of my life. Within an hour I was all set…

Tommy Macaione- Matthews Gallery Blog

TOMMY MACAIONE

Tommy Macaione‘s studio was two blocks up from Claude’s Bar on Canyon Road, in a little divided building with Tommy on the left and Odon Hullenkremer on the right. Both sides were the same: a small picture window in front next to the door. There were a few square feet of level cement in front of the doors. Macaione was often in front of his door, painting or fussing with his dogs and cats. He would yell out to tourists, ‘Macaroni, that’s me!’ […]

I’d see Tommy along Canyon Road, painting or walking up the dirt road, surrounded by dogs and cats. He was really a nut, with his tangled hair and beard, his secondhand clothes, his exaggerated gesturing.

The little grocery store across the street, Percy’s, had a dog-eared book on the counter called Come With Me. On the cover was Macaione, looking surprisingly dapper and Daliesque. This picture book from the 1950s featured Tommy hamming it up in various shops around town, Percy’s included.

For many years past, Tommy had run for political office. When Fiesta rolled around there was always a zany “Hysterical Parade,” first started by John Sloan in the 1920s. Floats lumbered by, covered with bunting and tinsel, pretty women and mariachi bands. Then came an unadorned flatbed truck featuring Tommy on deck doing a Charlie Chaplin imitation.

Arthur Haddock- Matthews Gallery Blog

ARTHUR HADDOCK

Arthur Haddock was one of the last old-timers, whose art I grew to love. I only got to know him when he was in his eighties. I first heard of Arthur through John Fisher, my partner at Graphics House. John hung some little drawings and watercolors of Haddocks in the back room where he lived. The pictures were very low-key and hardly went with the Ettenbergs and Newmans I was featuring. Fisher kept telling me about this old recluse, but I didn’t listen. […]

Haddock had an off-season show at Jamison Galleries, barely advertised with a junky black and white flier. Only twenty or thirty people were at the opening; the big room felt empty. […] Arthur and his wife Ira were standing against the back wall, as rigid as marionettes. They were a handsome couple, but in the bright light they looked like fossils. Zeb Conley, who owned the gallery since Margaret Jamison had passed on, introduced me to the Haddocks. Arthur shook my hand with his bony, cold fingers. He wore a black suit that hung loose on him, a sweater vest and a string tie. As it turned out, he always wore the same outfit. “He looks like an undertaker,” Louie Ewing often commented.

As Arthur stared dolefully past me, I said I loved his work and wished I had money to buy the one in the window, a full sheet watercolor of a big, sweeping desert view with a road cutting through it. In his slow, cadaverous voice he thanked me, but he seemed embarrassed to talk about his work.

I went back to the gallery several times to look at Arthur’s work. A couple of years later, when I was friends with the Haddocks, I managed to track down that big watercolor and buy it. Arthur told me that Forest Fenn had it on consignment, but I discovered he had lent it to a woman named Maya who had a jewelry shop in the Inn at Loretto. I went into the little boutique and there it was surrounded by all this glittering ostentation. The price was five hundred dollars, which included a terrific gold frame. This was a lot for me to pay, but it was nothing considering the quality of the painting.

Maynard Dixon and Fremont Ellis- New Mexico Artists- Matthews Gallery Blog

MAYNARD DIXON AND FREMONT ELLIS

In the 1920’s, Haddock had idolized Maynard Dixon. They often painted together, Dixon giving pointers to the younger artist. Now, fifty years later, dealers would ask Arthur his opinion on paintings attributed to Dixon. Even so, most Dixon fans have never heard of Haddock. […]

The artist [Haddock] was perhaps closest to was Fremont Ellis. For years he had done Ellis’ framing, often ordering five hundred-dollar Heydendryk frames from New York. Ellis and Haddock’s personalities were opposite. Ellis was as light as Arthur was dark. Fremont Ellis did not hesitate to criticize Arthur’s art, which he felt was murky and clumsy. “Fremont think I’m a hopeless case, doesn’t like my things at all,” Arthur would comment ruefully.

Don’t forget to buy your tickets for the Edible Art Tour! WIDENING THE HORIZON: New Mexico Landscapes opens during EAT on Saturday, June 13 from 5-8 pm. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to learn more.

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