Some of us spend our entire lives in search of our passion, that thing we can enjoy obsessing over that sustains us with its rewards and a unique sense of gratification. Since the age of three, when she drew her first horse image, native New Mexican Barbara Meikle has known what fuels her fire, and her works of art demonstrate it beautifully. She never lost sight of her goal to be an artist. Since her first display of work in a gallery a little over thirteen years ago, she has gathered a worldwide following of clients and collectors of her unique works. Now she has her own gallery on Delgado Street, just off historic Canyon Road.
Barbara is one of seven children and the only artist in her family. Her brothers and sisters – including two sets of twins – cover the spectrum of professions of doctor, lawyer, scientist, engineer, teacher and public health professional. Barbara grew up with a love of all animals, and she drew them as soon as she could hold a pencil. As the only artist in the family, Barbara remembers being assigned the job of creating the family holiday and celebration cards. “I think that’s probably the biggest reason I never make cards anymore,” she laughs.
Barbara’s personality and colorful perspective shows through in her effervescent art. (She’s often in her gallery on Fridays and weekends, painting a new piece.) Her media include oil on canvas and bronze sculptures. Her works are less about imitating reality and more about capturing the essence of the feelings she experiences from her subjects. She says, “I express what I like best about a place or subject through color.”
Looking at her work, you can feel how much she loves what she’s doing, and her heartfelt connection to the subjects she chooses. There’s often a sense of nostalgia in Barbara’s work. Most everything she paints has an organic, curvaceous appeal. Even her paintings of inanimate objects elicit empathy, as if they were living beings telling their secrets from the past.
Of the old trucks, she says, “They wear their hearts on their sleeves. You can see everything they’ve gone through. The peeling paint, scratches, rust and dents are worn like badges of honor. They are so loved by their owners, many have brought pictures to the gallery and commissioned portraits of them.”
New Mexico’s unique landscapes and casts of light are also brought to life through her vivacious expression of energetic color. “I aim to capture the spirit of a subject and the essence of a moment.”
Hers is a “Fauvish,” Expressionist, Impressionist painting style that brings a smile and lightness of heart to its audience. When I see her work, I feel as if she’s liberated her subjects from the confines of their earthly limits with her unorthodox color-play.
I always enjoy visiting her gallery — images of animals, birds, landscapes, adobe buildings, and the ever-iconic old New Mexican trucks appear to almost vibrate off the walls. Her works in bronze also portray the vibrance of nature. Here is one of Barbara’s favorite shaggy donkeys, with a blue bird issuing orders from the back seat.
Her love for animals developed early. She grew up in Albuquerque and spent as much time as she could along the Rio Grande River Valley riding horses, working in the stables in exchange for rides, visiting the zoo and painting her muses. She went to the University of Denver for her degree in painting and printmaking. She studied watercolor at Cambridge University in England, and later worked in galleries in Chicago and New York City, while all the time practicing her own art. She now lives her childhood dream to be an artist. Her home and studio is in Tesuque, just north of Santa Fe – another dream she had since childhood. “I visited Tesuque when I was very young, and I just knew there was no other place for me to be.” The quaint, historic area is full of painting opportunities.
“I like to paint my neighborhood,” she says, “I live behind the old San Ysidro church that I’ve painted many times and it always feels different.” San Ysidro is the patron saint of farmers. Tesuque was once a flourishing farming village.
There’s also no shortage of animal models to paint. In addition her neighbors’ donkeys, llamas and mules, Barbara has two mules and two horses of her own.
Barbara’s involvement with animal rescue organizations gained strong momentum about 13 years ago, when she began donating proceeds from her painting sales to animal sanctuaries. The New Mexico Wildlife Center is one of the wonderful organizations in the region that help wounded animals. Among their patients are injured eagles, hawks, owls, bobcats, and bears.
Many of these creatures, whose injuries prevent them from returning to the wild, have become educators. They are taken to schools and lectures around the country to teach of their beauty and their value to the natural ecology.
Three to four times a year, Barbara holds a live model painting session at her gallery to paint rescued animals and raise funds for the sanctuaries.
In October I stopped by as she was painting these two adorable fuzzies, Raphael (age 14) and Cobweb (age 30).
In 2009, Barbara published two books, “Donkey Diaries,” and “Horse Power,” featuring her artwork accompanied by the animals’ stories.” Proceeds from the sale of these books, priced at $85 and $135 respectively, go to the Longhopes Donkey Rescue (Longhopes.org), and The Equine Protection Fund of New Mexico (APNM.org).
If you’re in the neighborhood, I recommend stopping by anytime to experience the passionate colors and vibrant energy of Barbara and her work. I know it’ll bring a smile.
Barbara Meikle Fine Art Gallery is open daily 10am – 5pm, Sunday 11am – 5pm. (505) 992-0400.
April 25th, 2015 – Live painting session of Eagles, Hawks and Owls. 11am – 3pm.
For more information on Barbara Meikle Fine Art Gallery, please go to: http://santafeselection.com/galleries/meikle-fine-art
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