Artist in Residence Adventure ~
Stage 2: Arrival at My New Home…
The Drive from Santa Fe to Bandelier National Monument was straight forward, well-marked, and beautiful! I’ve always loved the New Mexico high desert, mountain, and canyon filled landscape. It is incredibly dramatic and foreign to this East coast girl from Virginia! It was all highway until I got to Route 502 and Route 4… The nearest town to the park, White Rock, was a clean and small locale with 2 traffic lights and lots of neighborhoods in great part appearing to be home for folks supporting Los Alamos National Labs which dominates the area. The road got more and more curvy and hilly as it followed the contours of the mesas and canyons. I admit I gripped the wheel more tightly and slowed down to a crawl in some places (luckily no one behind me!!!) as shear precipices and cut-back turns became more numerous! The vistas were gorgeous, but I was NOT looking at them this time through, I was focused on the double yellow!
My coordination POC for the residency is Zach Whitmore, Frontline Supervisor & Visitor Center Manager at the Bandelier National Monument. Sadly, he was out sick, so his boss, Joanie Budzileni, Program Manager – Interpretation & Visitor Services, and Jorge Maldonado, FMSS / Housing Manager, were my welcoming committee. I was surprised I was a bit nervous to get out of the car, I definitely have never embarked on a solo adventure like this before. I waited in the lobby for a ranger to free up from helping other visitors to ask where to find Jorge or Joanie. Jorge had just walked past me, and he immediately made me feel very welcome with a thorough orientation tour of the Visitor Center, staff quarters, and staff office complex. The buildings are CCC-era and integrate beautifully into the Frijoles canyon environment. However, they are also a bit of a mishmash and a maze to find your way!
Jorge introduced me to my private casita, nuances of working the two-handed lock for the door, location of the laundry building, and insight into my sole staff quarters neighbors in this complex. We then strategized how to get my car close to the casita for unloading using the utility drive that goes behind the complex. Jorge has been incredibly helpful and came to the rescue when I realized there were no spatulas in any of the drawers… I tried the fork and spoon approach for flipping a salmon filet and chicken breast and it was a hilarious slippery chase around the pan!!! Next day I came home to find 3 in a bag on my door latch!
With Zach sick and Joanie swamped with meetings, I was on my own! Not to worry, it allowed me ample time to unpack and set up the casita to be both my home away from home and my studio! I love this cozy space, the natural light is amazing and my view of the North Canyon Wall with clear excavated caves right out my window! I covered the nice wood table and the wall under the “canyon” window with freezer paper to protect it from my inevitable creative splashings to come! Paints went onto the mantle and all other supplies that wouldn’t suffer from cold temperatures went to the 1 foot deep windowsills! Luckily, the casita has solid curtains to close off the night-time cold temperatures so each evening they are drawn and secured to “seal” up my own casita cave for the night!
I also took advantage of the open schedule to travel back into White Rock to check out their visitors center and vital locations such as the grocery store and the library for wifi access since there is none available here in the canyon! White Rock also has an overlook of the Rio Grande, so I ventured over to check it out, following a school bus into the site… I had to wait to get out of the car since a downpour had begun, once it broke I got out of the car and made my way to the outlook. It was quite dramatic, to the northwest were black clouds, it was very windy, and to the southeast it was sunny with puffy clouds! I couldn’t believe the high school kids, they were like mountain goats on the outcropping past the overlook platform… turns out there are trails down into the canyons from there… too much for me so I stuck to the platform! Got my “height” legs and had a ball taking pictures… on my way back to the car I met a lovely Scottish lady, Lindsey, from Espanola, it started hailing as we chatted but that didn’t prevent this precious selfie!
These initially unstructured days gave me time to explore the Visitors Center Museum and to go out on the main trail called the Pueblo Loop to re-introduce myself to the scenery and archeological features throughout the canyon. Round one, I encountered the gorgeous cotton woods still displaying their golden leaves and the warm light reflecting off the North canyon wall… Round two, I specifically scoped out plein air painting locations on the trail where I could find subject matter and compositions of interest while not blocking the pathway for other visitors. I was very surprised how consistently busy the park is with a steady stream of visitors throughout the day!
To get the creative juices flowing, I wanted to find what I was attracted to and what got me excited. Just in this immediate canyon area, the excavated caves, petroglyphs, and evidence of the ancient occupants fascinate me. The natural and dramatically diverse textures and shapes of the canyon walls, rock formations and out croppings, and the distinctive cottonwoods and ponderosa pines continually catch my eye. And of course, any and all wildlife sightings delight me! It is going to be challenging to decide what to focus on!!!
Inspiration is flooding in, now just need to finalize the public Artist in Residence schedule with Zach as a framework to structure my ongoing creative and exploration activities! Stay tuned, this ball is about to get rolling!