Category Archives: On the Creative Life

Art Show

Imaginary Pueblos, by Betsy James

One of the liabilities of an oversized right brain is less room for the left brain. In my busy multiverse of painting, writing, teaching, and hiking, that’s a real issue at times.

I have four paintings in the Albuquerque Museum’s annual ArtsThrive show and sale—this is my seventh year—and I should have sent you the links a couple of weeks ago:

https://albuquerquemuseumfoundation.org/artsthrive/

https://www.bidsquare.com/auctions/albuquerque-museum-foundation/artsthrive-art-exhibition-benefit-timed-auction-5450

Enter my name in the top right of the second link. And if you live in ‘Burque, the show’s up until November 8.

There! Whew.

Rain

After long heat, rain and chill at last. The little tinajas in the sandstone have sips of water now for birds, foxes, coyotes.

The sinuous watercourses are full of red mud. This collared lizard—male? female?—out and about before cold weather, was actually an outrageous neon chartreuse. With a muddy face.

Two Joys

Two-track and Red Star, Betsy James

One: two-tracks, the dusty, lonely roads that follow the contours of the West. The one above reminds me of a long-ago hike taken from the low road to Zuni.

Two: hiking high and wild, to beat the heat and get up where breathing is a pleasure. Lately that has meant the Jemez Mountains, raked over by wildfires but springing up green with the monsoon rains. We just missed the wild raspberries: the bears got there first.

Hot Chocolate

 

An illustration for Dr. Patricia Crown of the University of New Mexico, showing the technique presumably used a thousand years ago by the inhabitants of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, to froth a drink made from cacao traded up from Mexico.  Arguing the details with three archaeologists and four Pueblo consultants took six weeks and about fifty emails. Love this kind of dialogue!

And yes, the woman has six toes. A mutation that shows up archaeologically and may be associated with high status.

The story of chocolate in Chaco is fascinating. Here’s Dr. Crown’s brief introduction to it:

More of my favorite kind of illustration,  historical  recreation:

https://betsyjames.com/illustration/historical-illustration/history-and-prehistory/

 

Obsidian Ridge

Shining and blackest black: the obsidian of the Jemez Mountains at one of its prehistoric sources.

The closest road had been closed for years—at least since the Las Conchas fire in 2011—and was blocked  by the enormous trunks of dozens of burned and wind-fallen Ponderosas. We hiked the dusty three miles in.

For thousands of years, prehistoric miners knocked down big  cobbles of obsidian into pieces more easily carried to distant pueblos, where they would be knapped into knives, scrapers, projectile points. What is left is debitage; whole acres of mesa glitter with a pavement of black glass.

Corvid. Yes, you read that right.

A local group, “Art as Antibodies” asked for pieces about how we’re coping with the Covid lockdown. I sent a  painting of the wide and windy desert, which is how—and where—I cope. Not covidy enough, they said. So I sent a corvid.

Slot canyons are spooky, mysterious, intimate. Ravens nest along the rim. When you emerge from the dark strictures of a slot canyon you feel reborn.