Gene Kloss with David Witt

Art historian David Witt shares how one of America’s greatest printmakers Gene Kloss told stories through Etching and Brush.

AIRED: October 23, 2021 | 0:26:55

Frederick Hammersley Foundation...

New Mexico PBS Great Southwestern Arts & Education

Endowment Fund at the Albuquerque Community Foundation

...and Viewers Like You.













(Hum of Traffic)

>>David Witt: Years after Gene came to New Mexico,

she remembered her first time in Taos.

We traveled through old world Santa Fe up to Taos,

climbing the narrow road of the Rio Grande Gorge.

The first sight of the vast Taos plateau left us

breathless and still does.

Two weeks camping in Taos Canyon revealed the

endless subject matter for an artist as

it has to many artists before us.

Artists are storytellers.

Sometimes the story is not a linear one or even a one

with a lot of detail, if it's abstract enough.

Sometimes as in the case of Gene it's very detailed

and very exacting and she may give us at the inner

best work a chance to be in that moment with her.

>>David Witt: I met Gene a few times and I came to

know her because I did a show with her at the Harwood museum.

The last one-person show which she would have during her

And I think the thing that really came across about her was

that she was just one of the most lovely people I ever met.

I got to observe her a little bit with her and

her husband Phillips he was not in particularly

good shape by the time I met them but she was just

so kind and gentle with him in his extreme old age.

Gene seemed to have a certain humility about herself.

You probably wouldn't have guessed that she was as

popular as she was, in fact there would have been

no way to know that because she didn't make

any big deal of that at all.

She did her work, she was proud of the work.

Gene did something very interesting.

I'd never seen it before with any artist.

She purposely priced her work under market value.

She wanted to make it accessible to as many people as possible.

>>David Witt: So the role of the artist is

to depict whatever they feel it represents - truth.

Gene depicted the life of the people as she saw it

at the time, centering this in the 1930's.

So pre-World War II, the economy in New Mexico was very

different than it was afterward and in some ways she was

capturing something that had been around for centuries.

What she saw and what she recorded in her own memory

she then has passed down to us something that we

can't know firsthand and yet in looking in detail

at some of these scenes, people in front of the

Saint Francis church in Ranchos or Native American

people in the fields working.

Things that were very contemporary to her.

She was able to convey to us the beauty and honor of

a particular time in New Mexico's history.

>>David Witt: One of the things that happened when

these Anglo artists moved into New Mexico

is that they discovered light.

Here it's the contrast of dark and light, the stark

contrast, which so stands out in Gene's work and

that of many of the other artists from that time.

When I see certain scenes in the mountains, in certain

moments of light, it makes me think of a particular artist

and how that artist depicted light in the same way.

So in some of Gene's work when I see these beams of

light coming through, right away I know that

I've seen that scene before.

Not that exact tree or that person but that

quality of light that she's captured is

something that's familiar to me and familiar to

anybody else who's lived here for very long.

>>David Witt: We see not just nostalgic past

but also certain conditions of light and weather that

are very much still part of our experience of this place.

>>David Witt: Gene is really a master of perspective.

You get a sense of the distance receding away

from you which is very important in her work.

Sometimes it's people receding into light.

Sometimes it's mountains receding into darkness.

But perspective is really a vital part of what she

was up to as an artist.

>>David Witt: Taos, for all the other reasons

that it was an interesting place and still is,

has always been a place where women, who happen to be artists,

got more attention than other places.

Taos was a place where talent was really, artistic talent,

really was appreciated and there were some disputes

between the modernists and the representational artists.

They didn't always recognize each other's

work as as good as it was, so it was that.

But maybe less, but more bias in that way than

there was over gender, so that Gene was recognized

as a significant artist in her own time in Taos.

Oftentimes there's no way to connect to the past or

no real visceral way of connecting to the past

other than through the images that the artists

have be quested to us really and uh Gene is one

of those artists that gives us a connection to

that past in New Mexico that continues to be, it's

very important that we understand it.

Some of it comes from ancient buildings

or the eternal landscape.

Some of it comes from the creative imagination of

artists including Gene, who also had that sense of

history and who knows how to convey it, I believe.


This is the first gallery at the Norton Museum of

Art that is dedicated to the permanent collection.

As a curator, one of the things I always look to is,

how do my objects relate to the rest of the museum.

You want to have the collections speak to one another.

In this case it speaks across centuries.

I decided that for the first six years I would

follow the great questions of journalism.

So this year there'll be three rotations of "who",

a short history of photography through portraiture.

Each one in n this case, addressing how we look at

them as a contemporary audience with contemporary eyes.

And that's important

We start with the very

beginnings of photography.

We start with daguerreotypes 1839,

and we end with the 21st century.

We really do brush against the major artistic

currents of both America and Europe.

The funny thing about early photography is that

it went through so many incarnations.

The real big deal was to figure out how am I going

to make this negative so that it's as crisp and

clear an image as it was when it was a daguerreotype.

Somebody comes up with the idea that they are going

to use glass plates.

So that once it's set it's clear and you got as in this

portrait of Lincoln by Hessler, you get incredible detail.

You see the wrinkles, you see the moles, you see

everything, how the hair lays, which was something

that prior to this it was difficult to do because

they were using paper negatives We always see

him with a beard.

He's supposed to have a beard.

But here it has pre-beard, which I rather like.

The other thing that's on this wall and the reason I put

these two together, this is an image by Julia Margaret Cameron.

And I have to tell you that Julia Margaret Cameron

was an anomaly in the, in the whole photo world.

And, and I say that because, a) she's a woman

and it was a guy's world.

This is Sir John Herschel.

And Herschel is important not only for being a polymath,

but being incredibly brilliant.

But he's also the one that coins the term photography.

And the reason I put them together, as you can see,

they're so different.

She's really looking at it as an art.

This is really a political statement.

We think they're so simple and yet they're really,

really complex little objects

From the 19th century to the 30's, cameras change.

They get more sophisticated and more than that,

they get smaller.

Photographers can roam the streets and, and nobody

really knows they're taking pictures.

So they're not reacting as if they're having their photograph

In the 19th century there was this, when people had leisure

people would walk around the streets of primarily Paris,

the metropolitan areas.

They were just looking at other people.

They were called the flâneurs.

Cartier-Bresson was probably the mid century's

most important photographic flâneur.

He was that that amazing talent that was able to

anticipate when all of the stars would align,

and take the picture just as everything was coalescing

into what he called the decisive moment.

He really is the, the godfather of street photography.

The really great thing about this piece is that

a, it is a joyful piece.

It is postwar.

So here you have, you're in the streets of Paris,

postwar, post occupation.

Cartier-Bresson playing with his camera,

with the depth of field.

So you can see that he's like completely in focus.

He's really vignetted that, that one moment of

pride of place, pride of adulthood for this little kid

Arne Svenson found a collector and the

collector was really amazing insofar as he had

hundreds and hundreds of sock monkeys and yet each

sock monkey had its own personality.

And so Arne goes through and takes these very

formal portraits of sock monkeys.

It would never happen in the 19th century, wouldn't

have happened in the middle of the 20th century.

But by the time you get to the end of the 20th century,

all of these ideas are playing through

and all the photographers are thinking about not

only what kind of pictures do I take,

but what happens when I take them.

And that's a key for the end of the 20th century.

Moving into the 21st.

If you are looking at contemporary art right now,

you'll see, oh my God, everything's really

big and really colorful.

That's the period we're in.

And if we have anyone to blame for that, it is the

German photographers in this case, Thomas Roof,

but also Thomas Struth, Andreas Gursky.

It's completely neutralized.

There's no expression, there's no emotion.

It's really about this head as an object, as a

thing that we have unlimited access to

Avedon once said that portraits are just the surface.

You can get nothing more and nothing less.

It's only the surface.

Whereas we are led to believe from the time

we're tiny that through a great photograph you can

see into the person's soul.

Take your pick.

The Germans don't think so.


When it comes to the artwork of Stephanie Cole,

here you will find her pieces.

"I found that building things and making things

was what was really I was meant to do."

Within these wooden frames are bits of everything the

artist has been collecting for more than 70 years.

Shards and shells, windows and words -even Cole's DNA

is embedded within these assemblages.

"Are you thinking of the Royal Reliquary Window?

Probably in other places, too.

I think there's some of my hair in the getting there.

Temples to the artist's tenacity, these sculptures

now on view at the Fuller Craft Museum represent how

Cole has looked at herself, her grief and the world.

[Grief Piece]

From the pain of losing a beloved cat

[Domestic Goddess]

to the euphoria of turning 60.

"The one thing that is more joy than

anything else is my self-portrait.

Domestic goddess.

It was supposed to be a self portrait at age 60.

But there was so many things going on it wasn't done till

// It's called domestic goddess because I was

really happy with everything that I had accomplished."

An artist for as long as she can recall-

and well documented here when she was four,

Cole first learned from her artist father then at

She later became an art teacher, raised a family

and with her husband, restored an antique home

where she's excavated many an artifact now found in her work.

And it's here where she's had the luxury of working

in a filled-to-the-brim studio...

only since she was in her 60s.

You just get deep into it.

And I've had to learn to be able to portion it out

because I'm I still I'm a grandma.

I'm a mom.

I'm a wife.

There are still responsibilities.

That's my first priority.

But I'm able to do it in bits and pieces, and I'll

tell them I'm going out in the studio and they're

pretty good about letting me be.

"To hear about an artist that was only creating for

herself to make sense of the world around her, to

chart her own history, it's really compelling to me."

Elements of the show bring us deep in Cole's life and

We find a radiant rendering of her husband Jim or my golden man

And a frank assessment of her own aging.

The work is so personal...

Cole never intended to sell or even really share it.

Until curators like Beth McLaughlin took notice.

"She has this very deep understanding of objects

and this very intuitive connection to material culture.

And she has a respect for the histories of these

objects and for the embedded stories that come with them."

It was Cole's daughters who urged her

to put the work out in the world.

Art is the family business, by the way.

"I don't want to wait for or lives to be over."

Her daughter Paula Cole is the Grammy-winning singer

and achieve champion.

Seeing her work in a museum leaves Stephanie Cole

both delighted and slightly perplexed.

"How do you go from being private to a museum?

That takes chutzpah, doesn't it?

So it was my daughters' chutzpah, not mine.

(And how do you feel about them being out now?)

I love it.

I love it.

And what I love especially is people's reaction to it.

That's what I love.

Both Cole and McLaughlin say women in particular are drawn

to her work-finding pieces of themselves among hers.

"I see an artist who is juggling the demands of family.

She also has very overtly feminist work, such as

Don't Wake the Tiger, which is a gorgeous mosaic

piece that was created after the 2016 election

that is speaking directly to the oppression of women and

how we do need to rise up and to fight for equality."

"It's mostly women that talk to me about their feelings

They've said things like, I feel brave now.

I think I'm going to do things that I have not

allowed myself to do or they identify with moments,

moments of grief or joy or materials lying around.

because alot of people collect things.

Because we are the sum of our parts.

Or pieces.


We hope that we can give artists like their dream project

because we can defy gravity and we don't necessarily

have to have performers or lights or anything.

It's a person walking up with their phone.

My name is Jen Clay.

I'm a co-founder of Interactive Initiative.

Hi, I'm Samuel Lopez de Victoria.

And I'm the founder of Interactive Initiative.

We started Interactive Initiative because Sam is

a very altruistic person.

He really wants to teach.

And we think about artists who maybe are frustrated

or maybe at a dead end in their practice, or even

like catch-22s where you need to have work already

made to do an open call.

Sometimes that happens with like public art or like video work.

We saw an opportunity in a primarily in

South Florida there wasn't really a facilitator for

artists to be able to make interactive artwork.

And there are so many opportunities to be able

So, we kind of wanted to step in and be kind of a

helping hand for artists to be able to get there.

We also really love video art and we're like you too can be a


Like with digital art, like a big opportunity

there that even like kind of goes beyond the

technology itself is interaction.

If they paint, then that can be a stop motion animation.

And then that can be in a video and then you can

project it on a building and it can also be

included in a, in a video game.

We primarily try to mentor them and show, kind of

show them how to use tools in an intuitive way.

So that it's like more a part of their practice rather than

like this obtuse thing that like they have to learn.

When we were telling artists like what they can

do in the, in the augmented reality space,

you're not limited by the physical world, the rules,

and they can kind of set their own rules.

So something can be grounded or it can be floating.

So right now, Sam's created this AR app called Tropi.

The app is free.

Sam worked with 12 artists for the Hollywood area,

mostly centered around Arts Park.

He's made over a hundred virtual works in the app.

So it's similar to kind of like Pokemon Go where you

interact with the work.

You can collect the work on the app and learn about the artist.

So you can come out here Hollywood and pick up artwork.

And then what you can do with like the artwork that you've

collected so far, you can actually place it around you.

So here, I'm just going to choose like this artist,

Alyssa Alfonzo, who's a local artist.

I can also place, um, a different art piece.

If I wanted to place like these little palm trees

put a little like flamingo over here.

If you're looking at artists and you want to

find out more about that artist, you can choose one

of the artworks and press this button.

And it actually has like a little info card.

When you don't own an artwork, but you want to

like get a specific one you can search for it in

the menu here and then click on it.

It'll show you where you can actually pick up that

or a work and kind of make your own like little

gallery space of like work you've collected and just

kind of be your own curator.

We actually worked with local artists to create their work,

but digitally and most of these artists don't work digitally.

So we have like sculptors, we have,

illustrators, painters, fiber artists, musicians.

We have poets also

we've helped them translate

their work into three-dimensional

interactive piece that is publicly available to

anybody to, to interact with.

We're hoping that we can expand the app from

Hollywood to Miami, Miami beach.

Even like, like Pompano.

Just getting feedback from the local community and

actually hearing what it is that they're looking for.

And then we can create that programming for them

either be remote or, uh, when like doable, like in-person.


New Mexico PBS dot org and look for COLORES under

What We Do and Local Productions.



Funding for COLORES was provided in part by:

Frederick Hammersley Foundation...

New Mexico PBS Great Southwestern Arts & Education

Endowment Fund at the Albuquerque Community Foundation

...and Viewers Like You.



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