Las Cruces Artists | Art Galleries in Las Cruces |

Who better to paint with words the art inspired by a Southern New Mexico summer than Greg Smith, executive director of the Doña Ana Arts Council (DAAC)? Greg notes that, “Everyone has a favorite season in our part of the world, and much like Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, there are fantastic works of art here to reflect the splendor of each. The favorite of some, summer, has arrived, and with it can come blistering temperatures but also amazing moments to inspire those who create art, especially in the visual arts.”

He continues, “There are the glittering and infinite heavens in the dark night, the golden rays of sunlight bursting through the craggy peaks of our majestic mountains at sunrise, the calm serenity of water flowing around the curves of the Rio Grande, the spots of brilliant color in comforting green fields as crops reach maturity, the high drama of our thunderous summer storms, and the wild swaths of impossible hues to the west at sunset.”

Greg’s words about a New Mexico sunrise might well have been about Scarlet Hills of Summer, painted by a Las Cruces artist he knows well. His mother, Jo-an Smith, has been a fixture in the local art scene since the early 1970s, and her art is motivated by the beautiful outer-space objects revealed by the Hubble Space Telescope. She also explores the insides of chile peppers. For many years she was featured at the now-closed Cutter Gallery, and she currently has her own gallery, Jo-an Smith Studios, 221 N. Main St. (just down the hall from Phillips Gallery) in Las Cruces. Her art can be found at Austin’s Fine Jewelry, 230 E. Idaho Ave., and MAS Art, 144 Wyatt Dr., both in Las Cruces. Jo-an can be contacted at [email protected].

If you have admired any of the 10 water-tank murals in Doña Ana and Sierra counties, you know the work of one-half of another mother-son duo whose love and talent for creating art is legend. Tony Pennock painted his first water-tank mural in 1973 while he was attending Mayfield High School in Las Cruces. This summer, he is working on life-size sculptures of Native Americans for the garden of the historic Hacienda del Camino Real Hotel in Radium Springs. The Old Griggs House, a plein air (outdoor on site) painting of a property west of Mesilla “is the most summer” of his recent creations. Tony can be reached at [email protected].

Tony’s mother, Carolyn Bunch, is a native of Iowa who came to Las Cruces in 1953. She has opened her own small gallery in the Mesilla Park home she shares with her husband, Henry. When I visited, her easel was still holding her most recent work of art, Ditch Bank House, Late Summer, which, like her son’s artwork, depicts an aging property in Mesilla. You can contact Carolyn at [email protected].

Another local favorite is Frank Peacock. His breathtaking Summer Shadows in the Orchard is one of his many paintings of a favorite subject: the pecan orchards of Doña Ana County. The son of a pioneer New Mexico family, Frank’s work shows at Mesilla Valley Fine Arts Gallery, 297 Calle de Guadalupe, on the historic plaza in Mesilla. Contact him at [email protected].

Dinah Swan is a playwright (she has a doctorate in theater) and artist who lived for many years in Las Cruces and now makes her home in Durango, Colorado. She’s still a frequent visitor to Las Cruces, with shows at Tombaugh Gallery (2017), New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum (2019), and, most recently, DAAC’s Arts and Cultural Center, 250 W. Amador Ave. Dinah’s seasonal contribution is Five Pelicans, which evokes thoughts of the sights and sounds of the sea. Contact Dinah at [email protected].

Las Cruces artist Jan Hampton painted Promise, saying she was inspired by the “blossom on our neighbors’ peach tree [that] promises a fruitful summer.” Her artwork is available at Jan’s Desert Sunrise Gallery, 537 N. Alameda Ave. in Las Cruces, which she opened in January 2019. Questions for Jan? Contact her at [email protected].
Beloved Las Cruces artist (and actor, playwright, singer, musician, and songwriter) Bob Diven’s inspiration for Roadrunner, Robledos was “a roadrunner paus[ing] in the summer heat along the side of the highway just north of Las Cruces.” This piece is on display at the Friends of the Organ Mountains–Desert Peaks gallery, 300 N. Main St. Reach out to Bob at [email protected].

Renee Short offers a “striking” summer photograph called Rattlesnake. A native of Brooklyn, New York, who now makes her home in Las Cruces, Renee also creates abstract contemporary art and writes poetry. Her work can be found at Agave Artist Studio, 2250 Calle de San Albino in historic Mesilla. Contact Renee at [email protected].
Summer “is my favorite season here in Las Cruces,” said artist Jan Minnow, “especially after slogging through the horrible winds and the nasty hay fever of spring.”

What makes her painting You Are My Sunshine and many of her other works of art invoke a summer feeling? “They are vibrant in color but also a little bit carefree in their subject matter,” Jan said. That also describes her style as an artist: “I most enjoy playing with the way the paint functions and moves and with the composition of the forms and lines on the paper.” Contact Jan at [email protected].

Long-time art educator and artist Lisa Carlson has produced an original creation for summer: earrings she calls “fish ears.” Now a full-time studio artist, Lisa designs and creates tile tables, clay beads, and silver and copper jewelry. Her work can be found at Agave Artist Gallery as well as Sol y Luna Homegirls, 339 N. Alameda Blvd. in Las Cruces. Contact Lisa at [email protected].

Barbara Williams has been creating wheel-thrown functional pottery since the early 1980s. She makes her own high-fire glazes and specializes in beautiful crystalline glazes. Her summer creation is titled Bright Stars in the Summer Sky. Her work is also available at Agave Artist Gallery. Contact Barbara at [email protected].

Leslie Toombs is another Agave artist (and tapestry weaver), whose message with Summer Bounty is that “art occurs through a series of connections: a place, a subject, an emotion evoked. By moving forward with color, texture, and composition, an artist visually expresses what is often difficult to describe in words. When the artist is successful, the viewer is welcomed into this connection and becomes a part of the artist’s experience.” Leslie can be reached at [email protected].

Greg concluded our conversation by noting that, “We are fortunate here to have both the [summer] moments that inspire and the talented artists to capture them!”


Written by Mike Cook

Originally published in Neighbors magazine

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