A Society’s Progress: Santa Fe Artists Lead, and We Follow by Luke Fannin

"Capo di Muro 2." All images © Buchen/Goodwin. Used with permission.

Lately, I’ve been rewatching The West Wing (this comes on the heels of bingeing on House of Cards, because obviously there’s just not enough real-life political drama to satisfy me these days). In a recent episode, Toby Ziegler, my favorite perpetually sad and morally-outraged character, said something that got me thinking. Arguing with a member of the House Appropriations Committee over the necessity and efficacy of the National Endowment for the Arts, Toby rants, “There is a connection between the progress of a society and progress in the arts. The age of Pericles was also the age of Pheidias. The age of Lorenzo de Medici was also the age of Leonardo da Vinci. The age of Elizabeth was the age of Shakespeare.” I couldn’t agree with him more, but I also had to ask myself why. I spend the majority of my time in some way engaged with the arts, and I fully understand how this lifts and enhances my own life and experiences on a personal level. But how that translates into a society’s progress is, to me, much less clear, because I don’t think it can be quite as simple as “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” But then I look again at the way I spend my days, in conversation with the many wonderful artists who participate in Santa Fe Creative Tourism, thinking about their words and works and how I might best convey them to you, our audience, and the answer is immediately clear. We don’t even have to look far--these are just a few of the artists featured on our blog in recent weeks:

Sculptor Tony Buchen (Made in the Future: Working in Virtual Space) works with some of the most cutting-edge technology available, from computer-aided drafting software to three-dimensional printers. While his work takes on various physical manifestations, from photographs and video to 3-D prints, the “real work,” as Mr. Buchen puts it, happens in the virtual realm. "Some of my favorite images would be impossible to do in the real world," he says. "You'd need an infinitely strong material and zero gravity. The 3-D printing is really cool--people seem to like it, and I like it too, but then it's just sort of stuck there in space. You don't have that magical interaction that happens in the virtual realm." Changing and improving technology has been the driving force of our society since the industrial revolution, and although we typically associate such advancements with science and industry, artists like Mr. Buchen demonstrate that the arts are equally involved.

"Abundance." All images © Marguerite Wilson. Used with permission.

Traditional artisans like quilter Marguerite Wilson (Finding Order in Times of Chaos and Building a Vaastu House in the Twenty-First Century) work to preserve art forms which, in some cases, date back hundreds of years, often passed down within families from generation to generation. Ms. Wilson’s work is a testament to the heritage from which it has grown, but just as importantly, it embraces other styles, techniques, and ideas, showing that even the the most traditional crafts can remain relevant in a modern, dynamic world. From a design standpoint, Ms. Wilson pushes the

envelope in many ways, but arguably the most notable aspect of her work is the incorporation of principles from Vaastu architecture and sacred geometry. "Vaastu is all about sacred space," she says. "...As I became aware of these concepts I began to recognize how they came into my quilting--the precision involved in cutting, or even just the way the shape of a square is so calming." Mixed media artist Sandra Duran Wilson (Fun with Venetian Plaster, Playing with Plexi, and mixed media workshops) creates complex, dynamic works utilizing a wide variety of media, from acrylic and printmaking to Venetian plaster and plexiglas. Inspired by her math and science background, which has taught her to detect the underlying music in equations, formulae, and strings of numbers--as well as a condition called synesthesia, which results in her perception of sounds and music as colors and visual patterns--Ms. Wilson seeks to create works which “beautifully blend my love of science, music and painting.”

"On the Bright Side of the Moon." All images © Sandra Duran Wilson. Used with permission.

Abstract artist Andrea Cermanski (Painting with Texture, Abstract Painting, The Art of Color, and Exploring Encaustics) paints in pursuit of truth. Her abstract landscapes, which she calls “synthesized memories of nature,” provide a unique perspective and refreshing alternative to traditional landscape art. “If there is any ‘truth’ in art-making, abstraction is it,” says Ms. Cermanski. “That might sound contradictory, because we often think of realism as the interpreter of “truth,” but abstraction, especially non-representational abstraction, is pure invention on the part of the artist. The abstract artist doesn’t look at a scene and just replicate it; he or she re-invents it using a highly personalized, unique visual language. In this sense, I feel the abstract artist is speaking the truth of his or her own soul by defying ‘reality’ and expressing it according to a personal vision, which is his or her own truth.” These artists don’t participate in the progress of our society merely because they create beautiful things--though that is certainly part of it--but rather because, each in their own way, they share and reflect our cultural values. And I’m not just talking about democracy and capitalism. The creativity

and inspiration of these artists are driven not by the potential for sales and profit but by something much more deep-seated, much more necessary: their passion for their crafts, the ideals to which they--and we--aspire: tradition and heritage, innovation and exploration, beauty and truth. Through the arts we provide a venue not just to have dreams, but, as these artists demonstrate, to actually pursue and apply them, in very real and tangible ways. Best of all, these artists have committed themselves to sharing their skills, knowledge, and experience with as many others as possible, through workshops offered at santafecreativetourism.org. See links above for more information about their classes, and be sure to check out our calendar and blog for hundreds of others.

"Where the Desert Meets the Sea." Acrylic on canvas. All images © Andrea Cermanski. Used with


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