Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

Added on by Jenn Dierdorf.

I was lucky enough to spend the better part of October and November in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico at the Starry Night Artists Retreat.  Here are some stories and photos from the desert. 

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The residency was four weeks and I spent my days drinking coffee in the courtyard, working in the studio, exploring the desert, reading in the hammock and practicing the ukulele.  

T or C is located in the flood plains below Elephant Butte and Turtleback Mountains.  The town was originally named after it's hot springs which is the tourist attraction that inflates the population from six to about ten thousand people during the months of October to April each year.  My favorite spot was La Paloma, a small hotel and hot spring that's more than eighty years old.  The large adobe baths were usually around 106 degrees and had river rocks in the bottom that the natural spring water bubbled up through and then flowed out into a canal.  

Since I was in the desert for Halloween I also took it upon myself to make a desert themed Halloween costume and then convinced Reed, the groundskeeper at the residency to ride bikes out into the desert for a photo shoot. 

 

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The landscape was something I'd never experienced before.  I eventually gave up photographing the sunsets simply because they were so incredible I wanted to think of nothing else while they occurred and just stand in it.  These twenty minute events would send us into hysterics.  A daily crescendo of neon pink and orange that, without climax, would segue in to a flawless gradient of blue, purple, gray with flat black mountains set in front of them.  

 

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After six years in New York City this kind of isolation was welcomed but jarring.  It took time to adjust to the small town, how polite everyone was, the quiet and the darkness.   Everything was immense.  Mountains by day and stars at night.

In addition to what I'd consider my normal studio work I also collected flat river rocks from the Rio Grande to paint miniature portraits on, my own, my sister and Patti Smith. This is sort of an ongoing practice I've been doing for years. 

Occasionally I got to travel outside of T or C for a little field trip.  One was to a farm in Monticello, a small mountain town where we went for a hike in the mountains, the same mountains where Geronimo stayed while evading American soldiers before his surrender in 1886.   It was a full moon that night and we ate curried goat that was cooked in an outdoor clay oven.  

The second trip was to an historic town called Cuchillo where we visited the hotel turned home of Josh Bond. On perhaps less than an acre of land sat what used to be a general store, bar, hotel and stage coach repair with stables.  Constructed in the 1850's it was a main stopping point for travelers and had seen the likes of Geronimo, Billy the Kidd and probably tons of other interesting people.  It's said to be extremely haunted and while Josh didnt want to talk about it much he did say that he's had at least ten different groups of "ghost hunters" on the premises who wanted to try to record paranormal activity.  This was such a great place, his renovations and preservations to the original buildings were fantastic.  I also got to take a few stones from under the floor boards in the general store, for miniature portraits of Billy the Kidd?

I got a ton of work done in these four weeks and now am taking time to go through it all and see what happened.  I made hundreds of drawings and sketches, some paintings on mylar and paper and an incomplete series of screen prints, still in progress.  There is even more visible cartoon influence in the work now, with legs, arms, hands, lips, hair, faces and other bodily references.  I hope these ridiculous concoctions of shapeshifting images will arouse something sweet but dark in the viewers subconscious.