After Teresa Toole and her artist/metalsmith husband Joseph Hall moved from Seattle to Abiquiu eight years ago, they immediately began meeting other artists in this charming, rural northern New Mexico community.
Doug Coffin lives close by. Married couple Debra Fritts and Frank Shelton live five minutes away. It’s only a 10-minute drive to Walter Nelson’s house.
Interested in bringing more attention to this accomplished group of seasoned professional artists, Toole founded the Abiquiu Art Project, a private guided tour of the artists’ four studios. Since launching the project last spring, dozens of visitors to the Abiquiu area have enjoyed the three-hour tour.
“We’re inviting people into the artists’ worlds,” explains Toole, who charges $25 per person for the tour and is currently the sole guide. “They’re all strong personalities who stimulate each other and me, as well.”
During the tour, participants spend 30 to 40 minutes in each of the first two studios before going out to the end of the mesa on which Toole and Hall live to enjoy a unique and magnificent view of the Abiquiu rock formations called Plaza Blanca. Visits to the final two studios complete the experience.
Stopping by Hall’s studio is an opportunity to learn about a variety of metals used in contemporary jewelry. Hall was an innovator in coloring titanium and uses titanium and other related metals in his work.
“I have also developed gold alloys whose colors range from whites to yellows, pinks, reds, greens, purples and blues,” says Hall. “These metals and alloys give me a large palate for creating new designs.”
Totems can be seen at Coffin’s studio. A former instructor at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, Coffin has created totems that are part of many public collections, including the Heard Museum in Phoenix.
“For me, the spiritual in art is essential,” he says. “Spiritual art, especially power objects from Native peoples, are my main inspiration.”
A ceramicist who specializes in capturing human emotions in her figures, Fritts has been a lecturer at the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and has shown her work in galleries and museums throughout the country.
Paintings created with passion fill Shelton’s studio. There’s also a meditative feel in Shelton’s work, which uses a subtle color palette and feature minimalist line and form gestures.
Nelson says his work, which spans 45 years, is a constant journey into the unknown. He started his artistic life as a photographer and later branched out into painting and sculpture.
“The goal of the Abiquiu Art Project is to broaden understanding of the artists and the work they do and to establish an intimacy that helps people feel connected to them,” Toole adds.