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Per Fred’s invitation: “Enjoy.”

July 22, 2014

Fred Hubicki’s show of paintings in the library is titled “Nuestro Vecino Al Sur,” which Google Translate tells me means “Our Southern Neighbor.” Sometimes we’re humans, sometimes Americans, sometimes Coloradans (or Central Coloradans, or Salidans, or even downtowners).

In this case, we’re Coloradans and our neighbor is New Mexico—northern New Mexico—for which I have an ever-growing affection. I feel a great fondness for much I see in Fred’s paintings.

Take “Jemez Storm,” which you can see close up by the water cooler or from afar at the top of the stairs, where it keeps catching my eye day after day. It’s a dramatic painting, and it’s “plein air.” More on that.

I like “Venus” at the top of the stairs, too, and the attraction to a painting, as with a good poem, is often in the layers—not of paint but meaning and connection. The withered tree might be called half-dead, but can you be half alive? It’s alive, on a dry hill above beautiful water, a familiar contrast in the West.

I can make metaphors for life in The West or for the experience of much of humanity. There’s also an aesthetic about the old and imperfect that attracted some Western artists to Japanese art in the 19^th century.

I’ve known Fred for a while, but I didn’t know this: “I spent five years living and painting in and around Santa Fe, New Mexico. When I first arrived I lived in a tent for about eight months up towards the Santa Fe ski area and then up in Abique.”

“When it got too cold,” Fred says, “I moved into an old schoolhouse, with five other artists, owned by both the Cochiti Indians and the Catholic Church in Pena Blanca … many wonderful days were spent plain air painting in the Jemez Mountains and up on the high road to Taos.”

I know these places are not truly idyllic, despite some of the postcard images in my head. See Fred’s “Madrid, NM” for example. Along the high road to Taos or the back way to Santa Fe you can find such scenes.

But to live there, or to live there as an Anglo, will bring difficulties. The social fabric is frayed, strained. “Difficulties” is euphemistic, like “The Troubles” for Ireland. But there truly is something evocative in the landscape, air, and light. It’s the one place I’ve been where the stars were nearly still in the sky, barely twinkling.

I think I understand some of the attraction to artists. I watched a remarkable sunset over Santa Fe at eight-below, forgetting the cold, literally drenched in color. Fred makes an important point about these paintings:

“… Most are painted plein air on either canvas or board in oil. Sometimes, I will make minor touchups in the studio or create a larger version but for the most part plein air paintings are best left alone. They have a vitality that is very easy to kill with even the fewest brushstrokes.”

Which also sounds like the voice of experience. Painting is hard; I’ve tried it. And so I have a respect for this vitality, which is what keeps catching my eye, as in “La Bahada” when I turn the corner at the end of an aisle and see it across the room.

The Santa Fe market appears, and this might remind you of another Hubicki in the library’s collection—the first farmer’s market years ago in Alpine Park. It hangs over the copier.

Per Fred’s invitation: “Enjoy.”

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