New this year, Local Treasures awards recognize accomplished N.M. artists for their body of work

New this year, Local Treasures awards recognize accomplished N.M. artists for their body of work

Sunday, August 31, 2008
By David Steinberg
Journal Staff Writer

Kevin Burgess, Joe Cajero Jr., Donna Loraine Contractor and Kathryne Cyman share several general identifiying attributes.

They are accomplished artists, they live in New Mexico and they are represented by galleries that are members of the Albuquerque Art Business Association. Next month Burgess, Cajero, Contractor and Cyman also will be sharing an honor with eight other artists: They will be recognized with the first-ever Local Treasures awards.

The association is honoring all 12 in a public ceremony at 2 p.m. Sept. 19 at the Albuquerque Museum. Some of the artists also will have receptions at galleries in the Friday, Sept. 5, ArtsCrawl, and many will have gallery exhibits during the month.

Plans for the award began last January when the association sought nominations from member galleries and arts organizations to recognize visual artists, according to Joan A. Fenicle, the association’s ArtCrawl coordinator.

“The only criteria was the nominee must be a New Mexico resident artist who has made a significant contribution to the arts community,” Fenicle wrote in an e-mail.

“The goal was to not only recognize the artists for their accomplishments but to represent the richness and diversity of Albuquerque’s art.”

Fairness, of course, was a key issue in the nominating process.

So a committee of gallery owners who are association members ? but who had not taken part in the nominating process ? selected the honorees after reviewing nomination forms and visual materials, Fenicle wrote.

From a list of several dozen nominees, the committee narrowed the number to 12 honored finalists.

These are the artists, the Albuquerque galleries that represent them, and a brief statement about their art:

  • Kevin Burgess (Sumner & Dene Gallery). An eighth-generation New Mexican, Burgess has been doing tinwork for 15 years.
    “I’ve branched out from traditional design and created my own style,” he said. “I still use traditional designs but I’ll alter them somehow. I might enlarge a rosette and use a portion of the rosette as a design element.”
    Burgess grew up in a military family, and because he’s traveled extensively, he’s been exposed to other cultures. As a result he’s also pulled into his tinwork designs that are Celtic, Victorian English and Middle Eastern.
  • Joe Cajero Jr. (Wright’s Indian Art). Raised at Jemez Pueblo, Cajero has been creating sculptures out of clay for 22 years and out of bronze for 15 years. He is building a studio and plans to return to painting at the encouragement of a Santa Fe gallery. “I’ve been on a 22-year hiatus from painting,” he said.
    Cajero studied two-dimensional art at the Institute of American Indian Arts, but in his last semester he took two classes in traditional pottery. “After I took those my mom furthered that. She pushed me into working with traditional Jemez clay,” he said.
  • Donna Loraine Contractor (Arts Alliance Gallery, Mariposa Gallery). September is a busy month for Contractor. She is in a group show called “Once Upon a Time … Again,” which opens Friday, Sept. 5, at the Arts Alliance Gallery. Most of Contractor’s art in the show will be mixed media ? using materials found at thrift stores ? but one of her pieces is a tapestry; she’s widely known for her tapestries.
    At the Local Treasures ceremony, Contractor said, she will show a tapestry, titled “Universal Language Series ? Pythagorean Proof,” which she is donating to the Albuquerque Museum Foundation collection. The same day Contractor’s art will be in two exhibit openings: She and five other female artists in the collective Studio She will have an opening at the Artichoke Cafe, and her work will be in an alumni art exhibit opening at St. John’s College, Santa Fe.
  • Kathryne J. Cyman (Weyrich Gallery). In 1988 Cyman took a class at the University of New Mexico in porcelain ceramics ? the 400-year-old Japanese pottery tradition known as Arita ? and it changed her life.  “I wanted to learn it as (professor Jim Srubek) had studied it in Japan. I thought I would innovate, do something better,” Cyman recalled. “As much as I tried to go outside the track of study, I found it was the way it was to be done.”
    Srubek, who retired from UNM in 2001, and Manji Inouye, a National Living Treasure in Japan, picked Cyman to continue the Arita pottery-making tradition at UNM, where she is a part-time instructor.
  • Charles “Bud” Edmundson (Framing Concepts Gallery). A native of Clayton, Edmundson works in pastel, oil and watercolors, which is his favorite medium.
  • Robert M. Ellis (Coleman Gallery Contemporary Art). Ellis, now in his 80s, is known for his abstract paintings. Besides being an artist, Ellis taught at UNM for many years and served as a director of the UNM Art Museum and Taos’ Harwood Museum.
  • Scott Krichau (Coleman Gallery Contemporary Art). Krichau creates metal sculptures. A Journal critique of Krichau’s art said, “His undeniable craftsmanship and attention to detail demand that these works be taken seriously no matter how funny, silly or scary they may seem.”
  • Steve Madsen (MoRo Gallery). Madsen came to making wood furniture and sculpture through his work in a shop that produced kitchen cabinets. He is now best known for his inlaid boxes with compartments and drawers made from different woods.
  • Frank McCulloch (Matrix Fine Art). McCulloch’s landscape paintings have been exhibited extensively in museums and galleries. A retired high school teacher, he has received numerous awards.
  • Carol Mullen (Our Summer House and Weyrich Gallery). Mullen, who does mixed-media painting, has been an active member of the Albuquerque community for 30 years as a student, an artist and a teacher.
  • B.C. Nowlin (Weems Galleries). Nowlin’s oil paintings reflect his many influences growing up a few miles from where he now lives in Alameda. But his art comes out of his imagination, and figures in his art are horses, for example they have a universal appeal.
  • Jeff Otis (Concetta D Gallery). The Rio Grande is a favorite subject in Otis’ oil paintings, which have been exhibited for more than two decades. Otis continually tries to capture New Mexico’s extraordinary light and its effect on the colors he sees in the landscape in his art.

For a list of events associated with Local Treasures, go to