by Melissa Glarner ~ photos By Carville Bourg ~
After more than 40 years of calling Taos her home, artist Angie Coleman maintains a fond appreciation for crabapple blossoms, perfect cross-country ski terrain, and even the pesky magpies. She manages to joyfully embrace all parts of New Mexico’s unique landscape, and it shows in her work.
Coleman’s studio and gallery space at 140 Kit Carson Road is a lovely amalgamation of what she holds most dear; the large picture windows are an invitation to bask in the crisp desert light while working away at her printing press, and her grandchildren’s token drawings are a reminder of the unbridled part of creation that kids seem to understand best.
Growing up just south of Chicago, Coleman’s formative years were filled with art. She knew from an early age that she was meant to create. Drawing came naturally, and her many trips to the Art Institute of Chicago only strengthened her burgeoning interest. Add to that a healthy dose of beautifully illustrated children’s books and the loving support from her family, and it becomes obvious that Coleman would eventually turn her passion into a profession.
Almost from the moment she arrived in Taos, Coleman found herself with top-notch gallery representation and an entire community of supportive, like-minded individuals. As usual, Coleman didn’t hesitate to do her work. During this time she also witnessed her drawing and painting capacities growing steadily along with a serious interest in printmaking.
Coleman learned about the magic of the printing press prior to her landing in Taos, but it was here that she began to pursue print techniques in earnest. She discovered that woodcuts best suited her creative expression, and it’s been the main focus of her repertoire ever since.
Woodblock printing, like any finely executed art, appears deceptively simple. The basic steps in the process involve drawing an image on a thin plate of wood, and carving out the negative spaces with a mallet and assorted chisels. It requires many patient hours. Once the carving is complete, the design is inked up and put through the printing press. For Coleman, her love of saturation and hue means that she’ll often do 15 separate runs through the press, with maybe 45 colors in total.
As an outdoor enthusiast, Coleman’s prints are glimpses of places that she has been. Whether it’s Crestone, El Valle, the Pecos, or the San Juan Mountains, there is one truth: “I am not romantic about my work,” Coleman likes to emphasize, “but I go somewhere and I think, ‘how would I make the water look?’ or ‘how would I make the trees look?’”
Her nature scenes almost vibrate with light — it’s as if they were backlit by candles or the soft brightness of a full moon. Even with exaggerated color and luminosity, Coleman’s work still exudes an appreciation for honesty in interpreting nature’s beauty. It is the result of both her methodical attention to the printing process and a keen eye for observing things in the environment that others might fail to notice.
There are stories told within Coleman’s prints. Even if it’s unintentional, her sweeping meadows and reaching aspens invite the viewer to bring their own experiences to each piece. Much like the work of the late woodcut artist Gustave Baumann, Coleman creates atmosphere out of subtle gradation of color and an expert rendering of dimension.
Being compared to Baumann is a great honor for Coleman. His work is some of her favorite, and he, too, found his way to Northern New Mexico by way of the Midwest. Although more than a half century separate the two artists, the allure of high-desert living spans the arc of their divide.
“I like Taos,” says Coleman. “I like the mountains, the strong light, and the strong colors. And being a visual person, some other places where I lived were not what I wanted to see all the time.”
Indeed, Taos looks like no other place. The unparalleled landscape informed the art of the region’s earliest inhabitants, and continues to inspire generations of creative people who somehow find their way here. While Coleman doesn’t try to spout poetry about it, she knows on a deep level that Taos is her home.
As Coleman gazes out her studio window at Taos Mountain on a sun-filled spring day, she appears to be gathering her thoughts. Finally she says, “I’m not romantic about the place or the art … but this just feels like the right fit.”
Angie Coleman Studio / Gallery
140 Kit Carson Road, Taos
TAOS MAGAZINE | JULY 2016