Donna Clair

Southwest Contemporary Artist

How I Came to New Mexico and learned about Art and Life


How did I get here? It felt as though I had been transported to an alien planet!    It all started with a phone call from the mother of one of my husband’s students which gave us no choice but to move far, far away from our little house in Homewood. He taught at a small Catholic college in East Chicago.  It was his understanding that he faced dire consequences if he decided to stay.    Frantic phone calls to our best friend, Ernie, a sculptor and high school teacher living in Santa Fe.  He presented a solution to our dilemma by offering to help us find a house and my husband a teaching job, possibly at the school where he worked. 

I had two weeks to pack up the house and all the baby things.  Still exhausted from having the twins and only rare moments of sleep, I must have been running on fumes.   So relieved to be out of the chaos in Chicago, it was about a week after we arrived in Santa Fe I really assessed my situation.  My husband had made a big mess and it was obvious I could no longer trust him.  I had three babies in diapers who needed their mother healthy and whole – I had to “buck up”.  It helped that our friend found us the place on Alegre Street – right across from his little house/studio-garage. It was a great comfort to know he could be relied upon when needed. 

The house was a very old adobe – bad plumbing, floor furnaces and no washing machine.  First things first, find a diaper service! Expecting a warm climate, I was surprised that at this time of year there was a “monsoon season” with a rainstorm every afternoon like clockwork.  The rain cleared in an hour or two, but the air became very chilly, almost cold toward evening.  We ordered a cord of wood for the small fireplace in the living room. The kitchen was the size of a small closet – still managed somehow.  In spite of its age, the house felt warm and  cozy.  The babies and I were beginning to adjust. They took their naps every afternoon and soon it felt right to set up a small painting table under the window in the living room. I began to make my first New Mexico paintings – an empty-handed leap into the Unknown!