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Just as you’d find in many towns and cities across America, there’s a picturesque, tree-lined street in Santa Fe that was once a rural, residential avenue but that has evolved to become a commercial district full of restaurants, boutiques, and other appealing shops. But this street in Santa Fe is like no other. This street is the world-famous Canyon Road, known for the approximately 100 art galleries and artists’ studios all clustered together in a single mile-long stretch. This mecca for art aficionados is the home of Ventana Fine Art.
Connie Axton, the gallery’s owner, opened the gallery in downtown Santa Fe in 1983, but she jumped at the chance to move Ventana Fine Art to Canyon Road when the 1906 brick schoolhouse became available in the mid 90s. “It needed a lot of renovation when we moved in, but we love it here,” notes Axton. She’s since added a beautiful sculpture garden around the structure, and inside the gallery, the smaller-sized rooms feel intimate and inviting. “You get to see and appreciate the art the way you would see it in your own home,” adds Wolfgang Mabry, Ventana’s Sales Director.
Ventana represents about 30 different artists, and the gallery prides itself on the fact that no two artists are alike, allowing collectors to discover new styles and to create unusual pairings and groupings of art. “Our mission is to show all different kinds of art,” says Axton, “as long as it’s the highest quality.” Here, collectors will find everything from nonrepresentational works by Martha Braun and Jennifer Davenport to figurative bronzes by Mark Yale Harris, Rebecca Tobey, and Michael Masse to classic landscapes by Doug Dawson and Rod Hubble. And, of course, the cornerstone of the gallery has always been John Nieto, who is one of the first living American artists to bring dramatic fauvist color with a contemporary edge to traditional Native imagery. His fresh spin on tradition parallels the transformation of the Santa Fe art scene itself, which has evolved over the last 30 to 40 years from a regional center for time-honored Southwestern art to an international hub featuring the full spectrum of contemporary art.
One of Ventana’s gallery artists who defies simple categorization would have to be nationally known painter Albert Handell, whose landscapes are a fascinating blend of traditional and modern. He paints the quintessential scenes of New Mexico, often including those architectural landmark adobe houses known throughout the region. Yet his approach to color, composition, and textured application of the pastel medium are thoroughly contemporary and exciting.
Axton and Mabry note that they’re also thrilled to represent the estate of Paul-Henri Bourguignon (1906-1988), and in fact, they’re about to host their fourth exhibition of works by this 20th-century Modernist master. “He’s a pretty fascinating fellow,” says Mabry. “He was born in Belgium, and he was an artist, writer, poet, and novelist. He traveled all over the world until he fell in love with and married an American woman, an anthropologist who taught at The Ohio State University. He then moved to Columbus and continued painting there for the rest of his life.” Selected by Bourguignon’s estate manager, Jane Hoffelt, to represent the artist’s estate after his death, Ventana Fine Art has held four annual exhibitions but this is the first retrospective. “It’s exciting because you can see a progression in degrees of abstraction in his works,” adds Mabry.
Listening to Axton and Mabry talk, it becomes clear that these gallerists have an abiding passion for the art within their gallery. “No one can predict which works of art will appreciate in value,” Mabry points out, “which is why we encourage people to purchase art purely for the aesthetic and emotional satisfaction they derive from it.” To learn more about Ventana Fine Art, and for details on the Bourguignon exhibition opening June 2 with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. and continuing through June 21, visit www.ventanafineart.com.
Jennifer King is a marketer, artist, writer, and entrepreneur. She currently provides art marketing services and coaching to visual artists through her company, Connect Artist Marketing. Learn more at www.connectartistmarketing.com.
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