bea at the bottom of the stairs
I moved in and out of New Mexico over an eighteen year period beginning at seventeen. The first visit I made with my two brothers Peter and Ben in the summer of 1983. We drove up in a compact Peter had bought, a Ford with a stickshift. Being the youngest I had to ride in the middle. We had (and still have) family property just outside Taos In Arroyo Hondo, sixteen miles to the north. I can't recall how many days passed before my money ran out, but it was probably three or four after having left Fort Worth, and it was another two days before Peter stopped extending loans of any kind, meaning essentially that eating for me (and Ben) came to a halt in what I considered to be a very rude way. We were 'camping' on the property, really sleeping on the ground is what that meant, as we had planned to stay in the little casita on the property, only to find it was rented. Peter had a roll of black tar paper in the truck, and sheets of that served to keep the rain off. I remember the neighbors were growing turnips, and had too many, and so we spent a couple of days eating those - my hands were stained red for the rest of the week.
A few days into that I met Alfred Hobbs, a giant of a man with a yellowing Santa Claus beard and a southern accent - he was and still is the quintessential last bastion of the sixties revolution in Taos, and he gave us a place to stay. New Mexico is a very sensorial place and the best memories I have over the eighteen years I visited are of the smell of ponderosa pine and juniper (in New Mexico they burn alligator juniper and call it 'cedar' because of the smell) burning in a kiva fireplace. Somehow the smell of those woods burning was always comforting, no matter what other dire circumstance you found yourself in.
I started painting in New Mexico on my third trip out, at twenty-four. I had done some paintings in New York the winter before, but I remember my first paintings in Taos were particularly bad, a mixture of watery dribbles on canvas board mixed with thick globs of paint right from the tube. I wasn't learning fast enough, and so took up I took up wood carving instead, and still have one of the reliefs I did then, which was much more successful, and I still like the piece I have - it's a relief of a city, and it hangs in my son Oliver's bedroom. It was a couple of years later that I moved to Albuquerque and enrolled in art school, and studied ceramic sculpture and photography for two years before painting again. The university opened a Taos extension, and I finished the last two years there painting.