The art of the farm

Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013 12:02 AM
Janae Garcia, a senior at Southwest Open School, points out her chalk drawing in the “Artists of Agri-culture” exhibit at the Cortez Cultural Center. The exhibit will run through Oct. 5.
Jan Heyl, with her sunflower painting, is one of the artists at the agricultural exhibit in the Cortez Cultural Center.
Cassie Rivas, a Southwest Open School student, has artwork in the agricultural art exhibit at the Cortez Cultural Center.

Flying pigs, statuesque chickens, wall-size oil paintings and beginner chalk-works and drawings all have a similar theme at the latest Cortez Cultural Center exhibit – “Artists of Agri-culture.”

“We wanted to honor our community roots by having our beloved local artists interpret agriculture,” said Cultural Center Director Anne Beach. “We had a great response, young and experienced. A lot of local talent, a lot of history.”

The exhibit kicked off with the obligatory wine and cheese, beer and nuts, and dips and chips. On cue, artists were fashionably late, stylishly dressed and eager to explain their works.

Janae Garcia, a budding artist and senior at Southwest Open School, shrugged off an attempt to mine the mysterious mind of an artist. Responding to the requisite inquiry of deeper meaning and symbolism of her hay-barn chalk piece, Garcia is casual, “I liked it. It’s peaceful.”

Fair enough. Agricultural art portrays that simplicity – a snapshot of a moment in rural Montezuma County we all recognize, but preserved forever in a work of art.

Beauty products assist in the final product for the young artists. Garcia uses hair spray to seal in the chalk. Her friend Cassie Rivas, a Southwest Open School junior, pulled black eyeliner from her purse to accentuate a nicely portrayed common farm bird winging away against a colorful sunset.

Some works go for the surreal, a more whimsical interpretation of everyday scenes. Enjoy Vivienne Kenyon’s pastel water-color of the county fairgrounds, a lively, off-kilter collage of the swirling events at a local carnival.

“I go for abstract. The county fair is always an important part of farm life. In my mind, this is how I see the amusement and fun of it,” she said. “It is a free-er technique mentally.”

Born in McElmo Canyon, Kenyon has deep local roots, and describes herself as a professional volunteer. Her artworks are viewed through a lens of stylized impressionism and have a professional avant-garde appeal.

“I’ve taken a lot of classes over the years. I love the process. It takes a lot of practice,” she said. It’s dedication that has brought public appreciation, the artist’s Holy Grail more than profit.

“I’ve had my art hanging in the state Capitol,” she proudly shares. “It’s a satisfying form of artistic expression, but they’re for sale, too!”

Local artist Jan Heyl forever preserves the portrait of a favorite black cow she has been watching grow up near her home. Looking at the viewer, it seems to mock our complicated lives as it contentedly chews on grasses after a snowstorm, tucked in one of those inviting mini-canyons bordered by crumbling cliffs and elevated steppes of piñon-juniper forests.

“He’s always digging for food. He’s always watching me, so I decided to watch him,” Heyl says of her furry bovine friend living on Road M. “Farm life is deep in my blood.”

She has an expert eye for light and shadow, giving her paintings a mesmerizing and vivid presence. A close-up painting of a sunflower reveals nature’s intricate details, an iridescent luster most dismiss, but Heyl forces us to more closely examine its beauty. Check out her website at

For Robert H. Blair, of Aztec, 50 years of oil painting, puts him squarely in the fine arts category. His works are larger-than-life, panoramic depictions of historic life on the farm and pioneer life.

A farmer steering a pair of horses pulling a dump rake is how Blair’s dad used to do it before tractors were common. The scene’s looming background bluffs could be somewhere in New Mexico, or Weber Canyon near Mancos, places familiar to Blair.

“Our relatives here could not afford tractors,” he said. “It’s a time when horses worked. That’s what they want to do.”

Blair was classically trained at the Chouinard Art Institute, was a commercial artist, and taught oil painting classes at San Juan College in Farmington. Visit his website at

The Agri-culture Art exhibit runs through Oct. 5 at the Cortez Cultural Center at 25 N. Market St. in Cortez. All works are for sale.