A Call to Passion

While Taos has been welcoming a wave of new home owners, the art community has likewise opened its arms to four new galleries in town.

by dena miller

Toby Putnam – via Montana – opened his gallery LUN + ojo (111 Paseo del Pueblo Norte) in December 2020, and now, he’s “doing exactly what I want to do.”  Under the watchful eyes of a taxidermy bison head (“Hunted by bow and arrow 40 years ago”), Putnam and his canine buddy, Buck, welcome you to what he affectionately refers to as “curated chaos.”

LUN+ojo gallery opened December 2020. Courtesy Toby Putnam

Featuring his own extraordinarily detailed works of acrylic and acrylic inks on wood, Putnam is also representing a group of young masters in sculpture, ceramics, jewelry, leather, photography and printmaking.    

“There’s good energy attached to everything in here,” Putnam noted.

Lun + ojo successfully juxtaposes sleek, minimalist design with vintage-vibe accents.

Repurposed weathered wood from a ranch in Arroyo Hondo and salvaged from the flooring of old Santa Fe Railway cars is used for shelving, which lends a surprising warmth.

Large metal drums and scrap metal discarded and forgotten on the mesa, now nurture plants and succulents scattered throughout his space. Old school flat files, compliments of the U. S. Forest Service, serve as a centerpiece and home to the gallery’s selection of prints and lithographs.

A visit to LUN + ojo is a visual feast, you’re sure to find the perfect accent for your own home.

Artisanal whimsy

Around the corner you’ll find Ampersand Old & New (119 Bent Street) a whimsical emporium of vintage housewares and furnishings co-mingled with local artisanal items.

Ampersand Old & New, at 119 Bent Street. Courtesy Cara Evans

Owners Robin and Cara Evans, who moved here from Santa Fe, have spent years scouring estate sales and flea markets to find items that fit easily into anyone’s decor.

Filled here is the simplicity and functionality of mid-century; the funky charm of boho and shabby chic and lots of campy, retro fun, this lovingly curated shop is a treasure chest of one-of-a-kind, budget-savvy finds for every room. Plan on a leisurely browse. Let your imagination envision these cottage chic finds breathing new personality into your living space.

You’ll also find apparel – vintage cowboy boots, tee shirts by Jenni Earle Mantra, toiletries from Bison Star and Eastside Remedios, all sharing space with bedding and pillows, candles, books, journals and other giftable items.

The Evans also feature the limited-edition prints of artist Dolan Geiman, and the cult-favorite jewelry of Cynthia Jones whose “Saturn” ring is always a top seller. Or your New Mexico homegirl may prefer a “Hometown” necklace, a dainty state charm set with a sparkling diamond.

Whether old or new, “If you only buy things that you truly love, then you’ll find they all work together. Trust yourself and your instincts and you’ll make a cozy home,” Cara and Robin enthused.

‘Souvenir Garden,’ in the exhibition of Sarah Esme Harrison, at the new gallery The Valley, at 118 Camino de la Placita, Unit D. Courtesy Ari Myers

Emerging locals

On your way to Taos Plaza, do stop in The Valley (118 Camino de la Placita, Unit D) and visit with gallery owner Ari Myers, a welcome transplant to Taos from Colorado.

The talented young curator – educated in art history and focused upon emerging and “early career” artists – brings a fresh liveliness to the art scene, with emphasis on an interactive gallery experience.

Artist talks and regularly scheduled events are part of her paradigm in finding alternate models in which artists may share their work.

“There’s so many galleries in Taos who do regional art well, so I am hoping to add a different voice to the art scene here,” she mused, and it’s apparent she’s on the right track.

‘Journey Into The Cosmos,” encaustic wax, paint on wood, by Sundara Heart, featured in DAT Gallery, 822 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, Unit G2. Courtesy of the artist

‘Dope art’

Now, head to the north side of town, where artist Sundara Heart welcomes you to her contemporary art gallery, DAT (“Dope Artists Thrive”). The diminutive space, located at 822 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, Unit G2, is wide open with spirit and joy.

“Grab some lunch at Guadalajara Grill and come sit with me,” the artist/owner implores with a smile. And you’ll be very glad you did.

Watch Heart work while she regales you with the stories of life in northern England, before her move to the U.S. Witness her wizardry with mixed media – including oil, colored pencil, and gold leaf on wood. And keep an eye open for street-style celebrations of art and community, which Heart is planning throughout the warm weather.

“Here you can explore the human connection, alternate worlds and realities, and the magic of color through paint,” she said. And have a heck of a lovely time.’