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Santa Fe Art Lives at the Nedra Matteucci Galleries

By S. Mathur

The quality of the light, the mystical desert landscape, and the vibrant and living Native American culture with its distinctive art, crafts and architecture have made Santa Fe a center for art and artists. It has also become a magnet for art lovers, and the 3/4th-mile stretch of Canyon Road that runs through the downtown is home to over one hundred art galleries. Just a couple blocks over on Paseo de Peralta, the Nedra Matteucci Galleries stand out with a collection that encompasses the historic past as well as the work of leading contemporary artists.

The gallery's collection, says Director Dustin Belyeu, represents the famous Santa Fe and Taos schools of art as well as other styles: "The gallery specializes in paintings by members of the Taos Society of Artists as well as the early Santa Fe Art Colony. It also shows important American art by artists such as Georgia O'keeffe, Frederic Remington, and Frank Tenney Johnson just to name a few. We also represent thirty living artists who are established painters and sculptors." The collection also includes the works of artists of the American West and of American Modernism and Impressionism.

Russian paintings, by artists who lived in nearby Taos and brought European styles of painting to local subjects, are a major draw, according to Belyeu: "Some of the favorites among visitors are paintings by two Russian artists who lived in Taos starting in the late 1910's and early 1920's. Their names are Nicolai Fechin and Leon Gaspard." Works by contemporary artists include landscapes, wildlife and local plant life, figurative work, Southwestern style paintings and work by Native American artists.

The Galleries also have an impressive collection of Native American pottery, artifacts and jewelry. Special exhibits highlight the work of historic and contemporary artists and the changing seasons. The buildings that house the galleries, offices and residences are historic and aesthetic landmarks in their own right. Designed in traditional Pueblo style, the setting enhances the exhibits and gives them meaning.

Another visitor favorite is the sculpture garden, which is described as a peaceful sanctuary. Both the gallery and the garden are child-friendly. The sculptures, which include whimsical animals like elephants, bears and rabbits, and life-size human figures, encourage visitors to get close and become part of the tableau. This peaceful retreat was originally a private space, Belyeu explains: "The sculpture garden is just about one acre in size. There is a very nice pond with two waterfalls. The garden features approximately 20 monumental sculptures. It was originally created as the backyard by the original owner. When Nedra purchased the gallery in 1988, she opened the space to the public."

Equally welcoming to buyers and browsers, the Galleries have developed something of a reputation as a museum, and as a must-see item on every visitor's list. For owner Nedra Matteucci, it's about the continuity from the early artist colonies to the present day: "Seeing artists like Nicolai Fechin and Georgia O'Keeffe, who have transcended regional and national interest, leads me to hope for even greater potential for artists living and working here today."

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