December 2017

Gallery Talk

by Myrna Zanetell

Menu of this month's listings, stories and columns

Magoffin Home’s halls decked for the holidays


If you are looking for a rewarding way to get into the spirit of Christmas, start a family tradition by visiting the historic Magoffin Home State Historic Site, 1120 Magoffin, during their Holiday Open House from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9. The family event features cookies, cocoa, live music, games and entertainment for all ages — not to mention El Paso’s most historic home decorated as it would have been from the 1880s to the 1930s.
This Territorial Style homestead was built in 1875 by Joseph Magoffin, the portly son of pioneer settler James Wiley Magoffin.
“Although past tours might have included discussions of the ‘spirits that occasionally make their presence known,’” said Site Manager Jeff Harris, “what we currently emphasize are history-based tours. Joseph played a very important role in the development of the city. He served four terms as mayor of El Paso, was a judge, and was also with the Customs Bureau. What I especially love when talking about the home’s history is that Joseph was the grandson of an Irish immigrant; his mother was a Mexican of Spanish descent, and they employed a Chinese gardener. This acceptance of a variety of ethnic cultures is really the story of El Paso, and if you change a few details, also the story of America, during this time period.
“Since I am new to the area,” Harris added, “another aspect that I found fascinating is that the population of El Paso was only 700 at the time when the home was built, but by the time Joseph died in 1923, it had grown to more than 70,000 people.”
Machelle Wood, the Educator and Public Events Coordinator for the site, shared, “In keeping with the holiday spirit, we will be decorating portions of the home to reflect the décor as it would have been during the 1880s, while other rooms have a more modern trend featuring the 1930s. We felt this was appropriate since this site was home to three generations of Magoffin family members.”
Wood reminds guests to take time to go across the street to the new Visitor’s Center and gift shop at 1117 Magoffin.
“You will find a great deal more information about the time period and the family, especially Joseph’s wife, Octavia, who was quite a force in her own right.”
If you can’t make the open house, you can still enjoy the home’s seasonal decorations on display beginning in early December through Jan. 6 (Epiphany). The Magoffin Home is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Guided tours are offered Tuesday and Saturday on the hour from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. Visitors are welcome take a self-guided tour at other times. Adult admission is $7, with reduced rates for children and seniors.
Harris added, “An additional perk to visiting during the Holiday Open House is we have reduced admission to $2 for adults and children 5 and under are free. What we hope to do with this event is create a really pleasant holiday atmosphere for all ages in this beautiful and historic setting.”

4 Diverse Women

Unique as always in her exhibitions, Pat Olchefski-Winston has scheduled “4 Diverse Women – A Star Studded Holiday Extravaganza” at her OM Gallery at Star City Studio, 120 W. Castellano. Opening with a reception from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9, the exhibition will showcase paintings by Estella Goldman and Lu Allen, and multi-media offerings by Vanessa Clark and Marie Livingston.
Talking about her inspiration for the holiday show, Olchefski-Winston said “I am looking forward to this particular exhibition because it highlights paintings by four ladies who have never shown their work together. In fact, they don’t often exhibit their work anywhere in El Paso. Each is very talented so I felt their creations deserve to be seen.”
Livingston is a long-time El Paso resident who earned a BFA from UTEP in 1983, focusing on ceramics and sculpture.
“I’m an ardent student of art history and my love of 20th century abstract artists is a major influence to my work,” she said. Ten years ago she was also introduced to process painting, explaining, “I am primarily interested in color patterns, just playing with color. Working in watercolor, I get the paper really wet and start with a single hue. Then I add another color and let it spread.
Although I may have an idea in mind when I start, most times the end result is very different. I love the discovery. Starting a painting with an end in mind might cramp my style so I prefer to just like to let things happen. Each painting is an adventure, and I particularly like very vibrant colors. This summer I was working in Naples yellow, rose and cerulean blue. As the weather has gotten cooler, I started playing around with burnt umber and indigo blues, and dark greens.”
Livingston also enjoys doing photography. “I choose to shoot things that are around me, while also looking for abstract shapes. I want people to look at the subject, and then challenge them to figure out what it is. Whenever a person asks me, “What is it? I simply tell them it is whatever you see in it.”
Goldman attended Parsons School of Design and earned a B.A. at UTEP. After spending 43 years as a studio potter, the vibrant 90-year-old has begun a new phase of her artistic career as a painter.
“I work in acrylics, often beginning with sketches done in charcoal,” Goldman said.
The life drawing classes she attends on a regular basis now provide her with a rich array of subject matter. “After class, I come home and dress up my figures in whatever clothing I want to put on them. I love the human body so I have a lot of fun using my imagination. When I get through with them you wouldn’t recognize their origin began as simple figures. I love color, design, and the repetition of things. It’s different on canvas, but the designs are similar to what I used to do on pottery.”
El Paso native Vanessa Clark earned a BFA at UTEP with a focus on graphic design and ceramics. A mother of two sons, ages 5 and 8, she also works for a firm downtown that does commercial screen printing and freelances from home.
“I just recently got back into painting after being on hiatus for a few years, so I have been creating a number of new paintings. I work in acrylics and my creations are inspired by nature in the local area as well as adventures I have had with my family. We lived overseas in Japan so I was able to take several classes while there. Right now I am using photos mixed with acrylic painting. Pat and I have known each other for about 15 years so I’m very excited that she asked me to be part of an exhibition with these other ladies.”
Allen, who also grew up in El Paso, is a painter who creates vibrant works in oils, pastels and encaustics.
“I started painting as a graduate student at UTEP. My really important mentor was Dr. Robert Massey and I also want to give credit to Barbara Brown. They taught me the really solid things you need to know such as composition and color, and a whole lot more like values, how to use shadows — things you can only learn from masters like these two. Without these elements, you just have stuff on a piece of paper that you can’t really call art.
“While I paint in many mediums, pan-pastels is really my favorite. These are powders which you apply with sponges. Although the colors are often soft, they can be more intense. These make beautiful landscapes and gorgeous portraits – especially women because of the skin tones. However, pastels need to be framed under glass, and have many other requirements to be done right, so I am currently working in acrylics and also doing some encaustics.
“As for subject matter, whatever grabs my imagination, that is what I paint. I am also considering charcoal at the moment.
“I am really emotional about what I paint; what I do has to come from inside myself.”

Myrna Zanetell is a freelance writer
specializing in the visual arts.

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