Holly Sievers picked me up in the Ranchos Plaza as night fell one recent evening.
Holly was one of the featured Banner artists in Taos earlier this year and I’ve long been a fan of her work.
I was joining her and her husband, Robert Cafazzo at their home for dinner. They’d kindly invited me so I could both interview Holly and see the space she works in – “The tiniest studio in Taos,” Robert had informed me when they’d extended the invitation.
“Robert will make us dinner, and we can talk,” Holly had suggested after I had to reschedule twice due to car issues. And now I was getting into her truck, leaving my still not fixed, barely running car in the Plaza outside Two Graces, the couple’s gallery. I didn’t feel safe driving it out to their home, off the main roads in case it broke down on my way home. I figured if it died on the main drag, I’d at least be able to hitch a ride!
We chatted as we drove, the light fading fast and with darkness falling, the temperature dropped, but it didn’t take too long to arrive at the house she and Robert own; a sweet Territorial style cottage with a guesthouse they rent out on Airbnb.
Robert was in the kitchen, busy with whatever was filling the open living area with aromas that promised a delightful dinner – and I handed him the bottle of wine I’d brought. He opened it and poured us each a glass as Holly invited me to sit down at the table.
I looked around as I took a sip of my wine. The home they share is small but feels much larger due to its pitched ceilings, and the clever use of space. There, above us, in a small loft, I spied Holly’s studio. Art everywhere, spilling out of the entry, pinned to the walls inside the tiny space, and out. Charcoal drawings so magical, so masterful, the absence of color was not even a consideration.
We talked about their lives before Taos – the couple came here from Boston – and before too long, Robert was serving us the meal he’d been busy cooking when i’d arrived. A sublime chicken dish with roasted purple cauliflower, followed by a cheese plate with assorted olives and sliced fennel. There were dates, figs and nuts and as we ate, we kept talking while time flew by. The conversation was as delightful as the meal.
I asked Holly if they ate this way every day?
“I’m a lucky woman,” she smiled.
By the time Robert returned me to my car, I felt as if I’d known them both forever.
Last week I emailed Holly a few questions, going over the things we’d discussed that evening.
1) You and Robert own a very special gallery in Ranchos that I’ve featured twice now on the blog, can you please tell my readers a little about yourself and how you both wound up here in Taos?
HS) When I moved to Boston MA from the Chicago area in my early 20s I did everything I could to be involved in music (punk rock clubs), dance (the ‘pogo’), cuisine (working for the best and most notable chefs in Boston and Cambridge), and literature (I read everything I could by female novelists). I took evening painting classes at Massachusetts College of Art, eventually enrolling full time and earning a BFA.
I met Robert, a kindred soul, at The Rat (the rock and roll haven of the 80s where I worked), eventually we got married. Robert had spent some time in Taos and brought me here on our honeymoon and I loved it. Taos is clear and peaceful, deep and challenging and it has suited us well.
2) You make rather extraordinary art in a very tiny space – can you let us peek in to that space and your process please?
HS) I like the idea of spirals as a metaphor for the mind, and plants generally dry in spirals, so I started making large drawings of them in charcoal, trying to simplify as much as possible. One day I found a dead butterfly and saw its color and simple shape and began to make small studies of all kinds of bugs. In my studio I pin the plants or the bugs to my drawing board and light them well enough to see them and go from there. The studio is so small I started having to get outdoors to look at trees—it’s a good thing to do the opposite of what I can do in the studio: looking at things in a very large space and sorting out just what it is I’m trying to see.
3) I recently spent a delightful evening in your company—your husband cooked us a gourmet meal while we chatted about art and life – are evenings at your house always that civilized?
HS) That evening was actually high energy for us—we flake out pretty early! I don’t know if I’d describe our evenings as civilized, but we do mostly have “gourmet” dinners prepared by Robert. I feel like the luckiest person in the world.
4) If you were granted one big wish for Christmas, what would it be?
HS) Sure-fire cures for cancer and dementia, and enough income to travel.
Thank you Holly! May all your wishes come true.
For more on Holly Sievers and Robert Cafazzo and the beautiful gallery they own, please visit the site linked below this post.
All photographs thanks to Two Graces