“It’s my last show as President of the Board.” Margo Beutler-Gins noted.
The New Masters of Taos series, which she spearheaded at the Blumenschein Museum, continues with a show of photography that celebrates the South West with a nod to the great photographers who first captured the region. Apropos of these early November days – when it is said, the spirits of the departed,once again, walk the land.
“I look forward to continuing working to preserve and reinvigorate the heritage of the Taos Historic Museums, in a new capacity.” She told me when we talked recently. “Mainly raising money via grants and philanthropic donations.” In her time as President of the museums, Margo (who happens to be the great-granddaughter of Taos Society of Artists co-founder, Bert Phillips), has poured the funds she has raised into the buildings themselves; fixing foundations destroyed by prairie dogs, mudding the walls in the traditional style, restoring furnishings – the list goes on. But she has also spent considerable energy on making certain the cultural history of Taos, continues beyond the present.
Art is the arena she has chosen to focus on, because like myself (and the reason I started this blog, five years ago this month), she knows that Taos’ international reputation as an Art Colony is what sets it apart from other outdoorsy, mountain towns with ski resorts. To see Taos through the narrow lens of a tourist destination, not only perpetuates a false and unsustainable economy, but it ignores the hundreds of artists who choose to live and work here, decade after decade, gifting us with not only the fruits of their labour, but also their vision and voice. Always swimming ahead of the current, artists traverse unknown territory long before the rest of us.
Their farsighted vision is why Taos is unique and not just another place to go see a concert. Art on lamp posts doesn’t count. There needs to be far more energy directed at making certain our galleries and museums are front and foremost in promoting Taos as a place worth coming to, so we don’t see long-established businesses like the Michael McCormick Gallery, struggle to keep their doors open. Thanks to (conservationist, philanthropist and hedge fund manager), Louis Bacon’s continuing investment in Taos Ski Valley since purchasing it, Taos Air has made it easier to get here, and because of his personal reputation, Taos is finally getting some love! Instead of trying to ride on the coat tails of other resorts, Taos needs to use this opportunity to continue to set itself apart. With Art.
Steven Bundy’s work is a paean to the place we live in; this Land of Enchantment like no other. This borderland between us and “them”. This region that is more a part of Latin America than not, with Meso- American roots that stretch way back, before the Conquest, before the influx of Outlaws, fortune hunters, and modern artists. Because people have always made art here. The light itself demands it, and in that regard too, Steven Bundy’s inclusion in this series is right. Of all the arts, photography perhaps relies on light, the most.
Steven Bundy’s photographs take on disparate subject matter – from rodeos to the Santuario in Chimayo – but all of it unique to the region.
1) Hi Steve, please tell my readers a little about yourself and how you came to be here in Taos?
SB: Born in Indiana in 1954. My parents moved the family to the San Diego area in 1963 where I lived until I retired from my civil engineering business in 2012. My interest in photography started in 1973 when my girlfriend at the time (and soon to become my wife) Christie started a college class in photography. I tagged along for some of her assignments. Her interest waned but mine grew to the point of where photography eventually became my second career.
Our coming to Taos story is a lot like many people here in town. In 2006 we were driving through town from Chama on the way to Santa Fe for our first time in the area. We had breakfast at Michael’s Kitchen. Went to the Pueblo and drove around town exploring the area. We were in town for maybe 4-5 hours before we headed south to Santa Fe. This was a day in late July of that year. About a month later, I asked my wife what she thought of Taos. She said she felt at home there, as I explained I did too. By November of that year we had purchased a brand new condo as out vacation home. As the years passed we were spending all of our vacation time in Taos. At both of our jobs we listened to KTAO radio every day on our work computers. In doing so we both had a sense of disappointment at the end of each work day of going outside to find that we were still in California. When I finally retired from my business, we packed up the belongings and moved to Taos permanently.
2)How did this show at the Blumenschein – being included in Margo’s New Masters of Taos series – come about?
SB: In 2017, Margo asked my wife Christie to be the first artist in her “New Masters of Taos” series to present her work in oil and watercolor painting to Taos. Her exhibition titled “Oil and Water” at the museum in December of 2017 was a great success. After that showing, Margo asked if I would be interested in doing an exhibit of my photography eventually. I agreed. We started the planning for it in 2018 and finally nailed down the dates for a showing this November. Interestingly, I will be the last artist in her series since she is stepping down at the end of the year from her president’s title with the museum association. I believe I am the only photographer that was included in the series. So I am very honored to be part of this very talented group of Taos artists.
3)Talk a little about your process; what inspires and motivates you?
SB:I wake each morning inspired, with my eye trained for the first image of the day. Sometimes I actually have dream of certain images and then head out later that day to try to physically capture that image. What I am saying is…. I live for photography. Our move from California was meant to give us both the inspiration to expand on our arts and to reinvent ourselves from our past lives into the artist lives we had always wanted. We both have succeeded.
As the images in the exhibit show, my subject matter to photograph is varied. I don’t label myself a particular type of photographer (ie: landscape, portrait, wedding, etc and I will NEVER do wedding photography). My images are inspired by the feeling I have at the time of shutter click and then again in my post process of the image. I am my own worst critic. If I am not pleased by the final product, no one will ever see that image. As for my process, I state in my bio:
“Photographer Steven Bundy attempts to blend his 36-year background in civil engineering and its associated “Left-Brain” analytical thinking with his 18 years of Fine Art Photography experience and its “Right-Brain” creativity into all of his photographic images. His civil engineering background has influenced his sense of composition as he finds his eye naturally drawn to the geometric designs that exist in nature and the manmade forms all around us”.
4)Please tell us a little about the images in this exhibition of your work.
SB: Even though I photograph all of my images in color, I am primarily known as a black & white photographer. Most of my collected images and what are in my two galleries are black & white images. I converted all of this exhibition’s images in post process to the gray tones you see. I included these images from many separate locations and times from the last 10 years. They are varied in subject matter for a reason, to not bore the viewers with just a different view of a similar scene in every image. The only central theme to the show is my attempt to control the light and contract in each image the same in an attempt to adhere to the Ansel Adams & Fred Archer “Zone System” method for standardizing exposure in an image. The method is where the title of the exhibit was derived.
Most of these images were spontaneous with few of them actually planned ahead of time. I rarely choose a subject to shoot myself……they kind of just find me. My best images are often the ones that just present themselves and are a more spontaneous representation of that very quick moment in time. I do plan a few images such as my “Moonrise Black Mesa” image which is an homage’ to the Ansel Adams “Moonrise Hernandez” image. That one was planned almost a month in advance knowing when and where the full moonrise would be in relation to the San Ildefonso chapel, south of Espanola. I do love old architecture, especially old adobe churches and abandoned relics. I can usually get a good moody shot from them.
Another example is my image titled “Tiwa Pride”. That was photographed during one of my photo tours with a client from Columbia. He was posing the pueblo models in front of a bright orange screen even though we had the beautiful pueblo landscape and mountains all around us. I snapped away during the shoot anyway not knowing what all would become of any of the images. Once I turned my color images into black & white, they came to life for me. So much so, I included it in this show.
10 Degrees of Gray opens tomorrow November 2nd at the Blumenschein Museum with a reception for the artist from 5-7pm. For more information please visit the site linked below.
All images thanks to Steven Bundy