Review of 25 Years in Taos



The Taos News / TEMPO
Eyes wide open –
Reina celebrates 25 Years

Cover Story – May 27 - June 2, 2004

By Rick Romancito, Tempo editor

When Reina was little, she spent a lot of time in the woods around Austin, Texas. Playing in trees, running between houses, she was like a small animal finding her way in the world. With those big soulful eyes of hers, opened wide and questing, she saw the world in all its infinite possibilities. “My parents always encouraged all of us to do creative things. I just kind of took to art,” she said. Eventually, she made it to Taos and stayed. That was in 1979, 25 years ago, a milestone she and Morgan Gallery are celebrating with a retrospective of her work, which opens with a reception Saturday (May 29) from 4-7 p.m.
    That childlike approach to her environment is still a big part of her artwork. Executed in Prismacolor pencils, they sing with a kind of psychedelic vivacity. Her depictions of Southwestern landscapes, adobes and animals leap from the paper like a Carlos Casteñeda dream. They are surreal, and yet grounded in the artist’s sense of play.

Candy Canyon As for any professional artist, the struggle to get to this point has not been easy or without pain. Her childhood was full of art classes, awards at school art competitions and selling her artwork at local boutiques and art shows. But, when she was in high school, her mother suffered a brain aneurysm and became totally incapacitated. The following year, her father died. Eventually, her mother passed as well. So, by 1971-74, while she studied at the University of Texas in Austin, she needed a lot of healing. “I just couldn’t get my heart into traditional education at all,” she said.
    Reina then moved to Los Angeles to continue her art education at the Feminist Studio Workshop until 1977. The premise of this unique two-year art program, designed by Judy Chicago, was to take emotionally charged personal experiences and direct these feelings into finished works of art. “There were women from all walks of life in their 20s to 50s. It was amazing,” she said. “It was art therapy. In school.”
    The school provided a vast and creative melting pot that involved a variety of disciplines which collectively had a lasting effect on Reina and how she would approach not only her artwork, but her outlook on life itself. It helped her to work through a lot of personal issues, which came out initially as a series of dark, painful images. “The first image I did was this kind of round, moon-face. Very dark, kind of weepy eyes and this big gaping mouth with this abstracted nude body, laying dead. The next image was a self-portrait of myself... it was an angry angel. There were times when I would just feel so much that I didn't know what to do with these feelings.”
    Then, she said, it started getting lighter.
    Once, a group of students headed up to San Francisco, possibly to see Judy Chicago’s famous “Dinner Party” opening, and along the way Reina saw dozens of rainbows. And she started drawing them and kept at it, “I think because I was trying to ground.”

    Not long afterwards, Reina came to another of life’s crossroads and figured it was either going to be Northern California or Taos. Guess which one she chose?
    It was Cinco de Mayo the day she arrived here in 1979, a day of liberation in more ways than one. But, this being Taos where humility is measured by the amount of balance one can endure, it snowed five days later. “I thought, ‘Oh my god, what did I do? Where am I?,’” she said.
    Fear gave way to her sense of adventure. “It got in my blood,” she said. “This is home to me, much more than Austin.”
    Then, for many years, even after moving to Taos, she had to supplement her income with landscaping and construction work. But even in that, Reina developed an appreciation for working in the sun and using her body, something she misses nowadays after working for several hours in her studio.

    “I didn’t just get here and expect to get into a gallery and make a living at this. The first gallery I went to was Gallery West. Jim Parsons owned it (this was in the early 1980s). Later, I went over to the Variant Gallery and talked to Roy Johnson, and I brought him about three or four pieces. He said, ‘If you can bring me 10 more of these, I’ll take them.’ That’s motivation.”
    Then, she fell in with the Magic Mirror Players. “There was this community of crazy women and a few wonderful men,” she recalled. “And I thought, ‘My god,’ they were just so creative and so inspirational, it was so much fun. They were wild.”
Gateway    Having passed the big 5-0, there is a tendency among some to gather what’s left of one’s wits and start acting like an adult, become responsible. Get cranky, and own it. Has she grown up? “I’m starting to,” she said, that gleam sparkling in her eyes. “My body sometimes tells me I’m older than I care to even think about. But, you know what makes me feel grown up? It’s my career. It’s my art career. In the last couple of years, it’s become a bigger focus. And so, yeah, I’m feeling more grown up. Just having a show of 25 years of work. How can that not make me feel like I’ve evolved a little?”

Finishing up and getting ready to head back to Arroyo Hondo, where she lives and works, she adds, “People in the real world out there wouldn’t think I was very grown up.” But, somehow, one gets the sense there’s a tree house she’d still like to climb. A rainbow still yet to be drawn.
    Reina’s collectors live all over the United States and in Canada and Europe. Because of the growing demand for her work she has created a series of offset lithograph and giclee prints. They are signed and numbered by the artist and are available in a limited edition.
    In addition to works by Reina, the Morgan Gallery will be featuring artists Ed Morgan, Susan Kohl, Sharles, Robert Szucs and Sandie Witbeck. The gallery is located at 103A Bent Street. For more information, call 505-758-2599.

Reina was born and raised in Austin,Texas, but now calls Taos her home.










GALLERY REINA | PO Box 1563, Taos, NM 87571 | 575-770-7826
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