Tech Club Macey to Host Acclaimed Artist Natasha Isenhour for Canvas & Cocktails
SOCORRO – Step into the home and arts studio of artist Natasha Isenhour – although all are essentially inseparable – and discover a light-filled sense of calm clutter in high ceilings, rooms bathed in sunshine, and the presence of the artist herself.
Everywhere are signs of her funneling newfound energy into an array of works ranging in size and subject, but each reflecting the growing awareness of Isenhour to the world she sees and experiences.
Tech Club Macey is offering a rare opportunity to attend a still-life workshop using pastels, led by Isenhour herself, through a special Tech Club Macey Canvas and Cocktails event at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 28 at N.M. Tech’s Macey Center.
The workshop precedes the Presidential Chamber Music Series concert at 7:30 p.m. that evening, offered through the University’s Performing Arts Series (PAS). While the concert is free to all, courtesy of N.M. Tech President Stephen G. Wells, the TCC event requires advance tickets of $30 for members and $40 for non-members.
On a cold but sunny January day, remnants of the recent snowfall everywhere, Isenhour pondered on where life had taken her since first moving to Socorro in July of 1997, after leaving her native North Carolina to further studies in geology at N.M. Tech.
“The light here is not like anywhere else,” Isenhour said. One of her new paintings captures what she saw when looking out a back window at the sun shining on common tumbleweeds covered in snow, reflecting soft but bright colors in blues, peaches and lavenders.
Her goal for the TCC workshop is to teach her students to see. “They can’t paint it if they can’t see it,” she said.
As such, Isenhour will have her charges paint an apple. As she explained, some see an apple as a primary-color image carried from childhood. However, an apple’s shape has nuances that, when light hits them, sparkle and shine in a myriad of colors.
It that awareness of how light impacts image she hopes to impart upon, and inspire, her students that evening. “Teaching has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done,” she said. “When I hear my words come out of the mouths of my students, I know they ‘get it’ – they understand.” So much can be done with just a few brush strokes, the artist continued. “Let the stroke live, without having to fuss it.”
She offers private and small-group classes, including one scheduled for Jan. 18-19 in beginning pastels at Artisan Arts Supply in Albuquerque. Isenhour also will lead “Painting Powerful Pastels,” an artist workshop in advanced pastels, March 2-3 at Sorrel Sky Gallery in Santa Fe.
Her life has changed dramatically since leaving the verdant valleys of North Carolina and studies in geology at Appalachian State University in Boone, for the geologically rich but barren deserts of New Mexico some two decades ago.
“I needed a change of scenery,” she said. But it wasn’t scenery she painted at the time, instead opting for a series of portals, stairs and alleys from memories of her travels as part of a geologic field camp in Italy, “still fresh in my head.”
What started as an avocation rose to a whole new level when Isenhour became more keenly aware of her personal relationship with both geology and art.
“It’s the whole life thing,” she said. “The whole fascination with geology presented itself through art. ...It was about connecting the dots, realizing that it’s all one thing.”
Life is dynamic, and as her own personal life changed, so did her art. In looking back to a more reflective period of her life, she recognizes the emptiness reflected in paintings from that time. It was then Isenhour began to paint birds and still-lives featuring the avian species; and, as often happens in life, when one door closed, another opened – including her marriage to Aspen three years ago.
“Before I met Aspen, I couldn’t keep doing this,” Isenhour said, surveying a roomful of paintings. “Her support changed everything” in what Natasha called energy in, energy out. “When you put the energy in, it’s like a marathon runner – you push through it,” she said.
While Isenhour has shown her work in Santa Fe galleries for the past 15 years, she serendipitously got her big break three years ago, when a gallery that had been showing her work closed.
Within 72 hours, she signed with Ventana Fine Art Gallery on historic Canyon Road in Santa Fe,an art lover’s stairway to heaven. The gallery, which enjoys a stellar reputation for 35 years of representing contemporary American artists, featured a dozen of Isenhour’s paintings as part of a dedicated group show.
And it was at Ventana where she discovered the lost landscapes of Irby Brown, and fell in love with the paintings of an artist Isenhour called a prolific and adored landscape artist with Ventana for many years before he died in 2016.
To shut off, as it were, the formulaic, leaving the door open to what the artist called “a more intuitive logic,” has and continues to be a challenge. In a sense, her paintings are self-portraits, not replicating a place so much as their emotional impact and with light as the conduit.
Many of her recent paintings reflect the effects of how light illuminates the area’s natural landscape, its bosque, birds and the river, in a growing array of critically acclaimed works. “She Will Have Her Way,” a 20-by-24-inch pastel in rich, burnished hues, was featured as part of a group article in Outdoor Painter, from the publishers of Plein Air Magazine, and Isenhour serves as vice-president of the Plein Air Painters of New Mexico for 2019.
A door opened through the plein air process. “It’s something I’d done over the past five years, but it’s really taken off over the past two,” she said, crediting outdoor painting exercises with fellow painter and friend Margie Lucena, as inspiration.
“She makes me pay attention to the gentle nuances of light just outside my back door – even on weeds,” she said. “It was a huge lesson.
And so we are back from where it all started – with light, and how the winter sun fell upon a cluster of dead, bulky brush and transformed it. The standout color is turquoise, a southwestern sunshine staple. What’s not to love? And, remember, it’s only weeds.