Taking Time Out (An edited version of this article ran in the Albuquerque Journal , May 7, 2004.)
Prints at El Zaguan deliver nourishment far beyond fashion
by Michael More
As the poet Paul Kane observed, we live in an era “when all the art proclaims itself as ‘fine.’” A good setting to ponder the implications of that might be the long veranda over the splendid garden at El Zaguan, 545 Canyon Road. Then go inside and look closely at the unpretentious prints by Teresa Neptune and Linda Hunsaker, two of the five artists in residence.
Neptune’s quiet photographs and Hunsaker’s intricate linoleum cuts exhibit an indifferent self-confidence. Both women have spent years improving technique, investigating materials, and ignoring fads. They are impatient with classifications, theories, and art-market cant. “Don’t be distracted by hype,” Hunsaker merrily scolds, shaking her finger. “Just see if you find any food there you can use. If so, fine. If you don’t, then that’s fine, too.
Here the ambience works in the viewer’s favor. Where we see a picture affects how we see it. It’s as though you walked into a friend’s funky old house and found new pictures on the wall.
There is no pressure on your eyes to gobble 50 complex paintings in an hour. No pressure to furrow your brow before an inscrutable muddle, as if you scowled long enough it would all become clear. No pressure to mumble the brisk perceptive aside just loud enough to be overheard by that smartly dressed stranger five feet away.
This is refined unpretentious work by two intelligent, talented people who have been successful long enough to be quite comfortable in their pictures’ own skins. This is something like the 41st exhibit to include Hunsaker’s work. Neptune’s virtuosity was apparent in her exhibition at El Zaguan earlier this year. Her rigorously composed, spontaneous studies of Paris street life invoked Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Doisneau and the traditions of French humanistic photography.
That both were accepted to live in the communal atmosphere of El Zaguan speaks for itself. For 150 years, its apartments have housed many of Santa Fe‘s most gifted artists. Slots rarely become available. As in prime-time, only a few survive the process.
Neptune’s Doorways of Perception
Teresa Neptune was born in “The People’s Republic of Berkeley,” where her father was a graduate student studying particle physics. Her mother, an artist who knew her physics, “taught me color theory and perspective as I was learning to read.” The family moved to Europe when Neptune was seven. She took art classes in Geneva from Ann Roosevelt, FDR’s grand-daughter. She learned black-and-white camera and darkroom basics in Paris. Her mother’s house was a virtual salon for American artists. Neptune “took to the streets to capture Paris on film.”
Her return to the U.S. was followed by more courses, critical recognition, and study at The Art Institute of Chicago. In 1977, she moved to Albuquerque to study intaglio printmaking, painting, and drawing at UNM.
Neptune married the next year. Her daughters were born in 1979 and 1984. While they were growing up, she discovered theater. After a brief stint acting and working in new play- and script- development, she started casting extras for feature films being shot in New Mexico. In 1992 she formed Rainbow Casting Service, an agency that hired thousands of extras and actors for such films as The Tao of Steve and All the Pretty Horses.
Since 1999, she has spent “every moment I could steal teaching myself digital ‘lightroom’ techniques and printmaking while still shooting 35mm film. I now use a digital SLR for almost everything.” She plans to continue to photograph the U.S. Southwest and Europe. (Like all good digerati, she has a website: <www.teresaneptune.com>.
Neptune remains unfazed that beauty has become a naughty word in many photographic circles. “Beauty as simple, complex and transient as life itself,” comes through her artists’ statement as a kind of mantra.
Neptune’s carefully composed black-and-white photographs all depict “Openings.” The portals, doorways, staircases, passages between stone formationstheir walls, archways, and shadowsare both tantalizing and foreboding. They beckon us to walk in, climb up, cross over, come through. But while the light is lovely, we can’t know where that black passage leads, or what might be in store at the top of the stairs.
For all their resemblance to prints by, say, Edward Weston, Eliot Porter, or Laura Gilpin, there is nothing derivative or romantic about these coolly conceived photographs. The sequence concludes with a last opening: a lavishly decorated child’s headstone lies overseen by three forlorn wooden crosses.
Hunsaker and Neptune prove it’s possible to be both modest and rich. In this setting, they seem as fine as anything in the neighborhood.
Prints by Neptune and Hunsaker will be
on display El Zaguan (545 Canyon Road) from May 10 to June 12. (extended until June 30)
Hours are Monday through Friday
(9:00 AM to 5:00 PM); Saturdays by appointment
Michael More lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and writes about photography for B & W and other publications. He can be reached at email@example.com.