In an age fraught with multiple screens glaring a cascade of pixels, there is something soothing about black and white.
The New Mexico Art League’s in-gallery and online exhibition “Black and White” revels in a calm sense of detail, sometimes haunting, other times spiritual. One of the league’s most popular annual exhibitions, it features artists living and working in New Mexico, with photography as well as drawings.
Tijeras photographer Kathleen Rich was trolling a New York craft fair when she spotted a woman spinning wool.
“I think maybe she was selling her yarn,” Rich said.
Rich was captivated by the motion, the texture and the wood of the spinning wheel.
“I have been doing it for a long time,” said Rich, who has worked as an in-house photographer. “My interest in photography started when I was in my mid-teens. My brother was earning a Boy Scout badge and I watched him do contact prints. It blew me away.”
She received a camera when she graduated from high school. Later she would take photography classes at Eastman Kodak and the New York School of Visual Arts. She moved to Albuquerque in 2007.
She has since returned to film after working in digital photography.
“There’s nothing like black and white,” she said. “I like the grain; I like the process. It’s hands-on, the manipulation, the lighting.
“I have all my own darkroom equipment,” Rich continued. “I’m having them printed on fine art paper. It has such an artistic feel.”
Lisa McBride began learning photography when she realized she needed a creative outlet. She works as a program manager in cartography.
She sees a connection between the two pursuits because both require framing.
“In cartography, you frame an area on the ground. I didn’t realize how creative my job is.”
She shot “Safe Respite” during a 2016 Santa Fe photography intensive at Los Luceros Hacienda near Alcalde, once owned by anthropologist Mary Cabot Wheelwright. As McBride wandered through the rooms of the old house, she was drawn to the quiet and the light. The tassels dangling from the bedspread play with the shadows.
“The headboard and footboard have (the Virgin of) Guadalupe on it,” she said. “And the light is almost angelic.”
“It just seemed like a very reflective place, a safe place for shelter,” she added. “It’s all about the light and the way the light hits. The longer you look at it, the more the photo speaks to you. Your eye keeps moving around, which is what every photographer wants.”
McBride works in color as well as black and white.
R. Dianne Stewart spent a career in state and federal social policy, leaving her love for art on the side.
Stewart was living near Washington, D.C. before the pandemic sparked a return to Santa Fe. She had attended St. John’s College as an undergraduate.
“I was one of those kids who walked around with a sketchbook everywhere,” she said. “I had always said someday I was going to pursue art.”
Now retired, she stumbled into an art class in Washington that continued virtually when she moved to Santa Fe.
“It was just magic,” she said, “because I stumbled upon this incredible instructor; someone who took my natural ability and gave me all the tools.”
She created her self-portrait “Self Smirk” using Conté crayon and gray paper. She uses the paper, be it black, white or gray, as part of her drawings.
“In a way, it was an expression of OK, after all these years I really can do this. It’s sort of self-satisfied, so it’s kind of a happy drawing for me.
“I have friends who said, ‘You don’t really look that old,’ ” she added with a laugh. “I wanted to explore who I am, not in a critical way, just this is who I am.”
Primarily an oil painter, Stewart also appreciates the sparseness of black and white.
“I love black and white,” she said. “It’s pure, it’s more difficult than oil. With paint you have the crutch of the color. It’s all about what you can do with light and dark; it has its own beauty.”
Stewart is preparing for a Southwestern series for a show in Washington, D.C.
“Right now I’m focusing on Utah,” she said, “because I love the rocks. I end up imbuing each rock with its own character.”