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Narratives from the Heart of New Mexico

September 19th, 2016

Blue Rain is pleased and proud to announce that two of our artists, David Bradley and Jim Vogel, have been honored with the New Mexico’s Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts for 2016. These exceptional artists have each taken risks in order to pursue their vision—Bradley by tackling controversial, often discomforting subject matter, Vogel by abandoning the stultifying security of the corporate world to dedicate his talent to celebrating New Mexico’s cultural depths. Both have embraced the challenge of reminding us of basic truths that are often forgotten or unappreciated, in the process telling the stories of the unsung heroism of ordinary people.

The trenchant quality of Bradley’s social commentary is softened somewhat by his whimsical, almost magical portrayal of Native Americans and their surroundings, but his bite is felt nonetheless. The Chippewa artist mocks the stereotypes of Native peoples, in the process providing us with glimpses of the rage, sorrow, and ambivalence that result from hundreds of years of misunderstanding. He balances all this with beauty and humor in paintings and bronze sculptures so rich in detail that one can spend years contemplating their intricacies. Some of his recent work eschews overt commentary in favor of pure beauty, abstracting iconic landscapes and situations and imbuing them with vivid colors and a sense of admiration for his subject matter.

Viewing Bradley’s work has become all the more poignant as he struggles against the ravages of his illness, ALS, and we’re reminded of how precious his artistic output is and of the resiliency of his spirit, which continues to offer us insights and inspiration despite the daunting challenges he faces. 

New Mexico native Jim Vogel’s affectionate depictions of rural New Mexican life are so full of charm and respect for his subjects that their appeal is irresistible. His narrative approach exalts the ordinary with a deceptive simplicity, focusing on details like work-worn hands, weather-ravaged skin, and beatific smiles that show us that a hard life can also be a fulfilling one. His newest body of work, a series he calls Ludlow: Labor, Liberty, and Loss, tells the story of the 1914 struggle of coal miners in southern Colorado to wrest sustenance and dignity from a company that thwarted their efforts to unionize by massacring the workers who strayed from the company line.

While this may seem like a departure from his usual subject matter of rural scenes and people, there is, in fact, a direct connection. “It’s tied into the idea of the invisible working class,” says Vogel. “It may seem like a departure, but it’s really a deeper look at the commonality of people working to improve their lives and ours. When we use electricity we don’t think of the miners who supply the coal, just like when we eat we don’t think of the farmers who supply the food. Often what they contribute is disparaged or denigrated. That’s why I chose to celebrate them.”

Vogel’s new work goes on display at the gallery on September 23, with a reception for the artist on September 30.


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