The exhibition brings photography and “black and white” drawings to life

“Safe Respite”, Lisa McBride, digital photograph, 11.5 x 17.5 inches. (Courtesy of the New Mexico Art League)

In an age where multiple screens dazzle a cascade of pixels, there’s something soothing about black and white.

The New Mexico Art League’s gallery and online exhibition “Black and White” revels in a quiet, sometimes haunting, sometimes witty sense of detail. One of the league’s most popular annual exhibits, it showcases artists living and working in New Mexico, with photographs as well as drawings.

Tijeras photographer Kathleen Rich was browsing a craft fair in New York when she spotted a woman spinning wool.

“I think maybe she was selling her yarn,” Rich said.

Rich was captivated by the movement, texture and wood of the spinning wheel.

“I’ve been doing it for a long time,” said Rich, who worked as an in-house photographer. “My interest in photography started when I was in my mid-teens. My brother was earning a Boy Scout badge and I watched him do contact prints. It blew my mind.

She received a camera when she graduated from high school. Later, she would take photography classes at Eastman Kodak and the New York School of Visual Arts. She moved to Albuquerque in 2007.

She has since returned to film after working in digital photography.

“There’s no such thing as black and white,” she said. “I like the grain; I like the process. It’s convenient, handling, lighting.

“I have all my own darkroom equipment,” Rich continued. “I have them printed on art paper. It has such an artistic feel.

Lisa McBride started learning photography when she realized she needed a creative outlet. She works as a program manager in cartography.

She sees a connection between the two activities as both require framing.

“In cartography, you frame an area on the ground. I hadn’t realized how creative my work was.

She shot “Safe Respite” during a photography intensive in Santa Fe in 2016 at Los Luceros Hacienda near Alcalde, once owned by anthropologist Mary Cabot Wheelwright. As McBride wandered through the rooms of the old house, she was drawn to the calm and the light. The pompoms hanging from the bedspread play with shadows.

“The headboard and the footboard have (the Virgin of) Guadalupe on it,” she said. “And the light is almost angelic.”

“It just seemed like a very reflective place, a safe place to take shelter,” she added. “It’s all about the light and how the light hits. The longer you look at it, the more the photo speaks to you. Your eye keeps moving, which is what every photographer wants.

McBride works in both color and black and white.

R. Dianne Stewart has spent a career in state and federal social policy, leaving aside her love of art.

Stewart lived near Washington, D.C. before the pandemic triggered a return to Santa Fe. She had attended St. John’s College as an undergraduate.

“I was one of those kids who walked around with a sketchbook everywhere,” she said. “I had always said that one day I was going to pursue art.”

Now retired, she stumbled upon an art class in Washington that continued virtually when she moved to Santa Fe.

“It was just magical,” she said, “because I came across this amazing instructor; someone who took my natural abilities and gave me all the tools.

She created her self-portrait “Self Smirk” using Conté crayon and gray paper. She uses paper, whether black, white or gray, as part of her drawings.

“In a way it was an expression of OK, after all these years I can really do it. It’s kind of self-gratifying, so it’s kind of a happy drawing for me.

“I have friends who said, ‘You don’t really look that old,'” she added with a laugh. “I wanted to explore who I am, not critically, it’s just who I am.”

First and foremost an oil painter, Stewart also appreciates the rarity of black and white.

“I love black and white,” she said. “It’s pure, it’s harder than oil. With the paint you have the crutch of the color. It’s about what you can do with light and dark; it has its own beauty.

Stewart is gearing up for a Southwestern Series for a show in Washington, D.C.

“Right now I’m focusing on Utah,” she says, “because I love the rocks. I end up giving each rock its own character.

Stewart C. Hartline