Donna Clair

Southwest Contemporary Artist

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


Drove through Truchas two weeks ago and it brought back so many memories of the first time I moved to the horse ranch on Llano Quemado next to the Land Grant from the King of Spain.  I have alway referred to it as “suburban Truchas”! We drove up from Santa Fe on September 17th, 1982.  The first wild snowstorm swirled around Truchas Peaks that day.  It was raining at the ranch when we arrived.  We were situated so near the mountains they were almost touchable.  Seventeen people lived on the Llano – isolated – quiet, peaceful.  
Our first visitor was Cosme Romero, Mayordomo of Truchas.  (The painting above is his pride and joy – a beautiful stand of scrub oaks at the back of his property). A Mayordomo is the official elected to maintain the irrigation system known as the Acequia Madre — centuries old “Mother Ditches” that bring water from the mountains to the villages here in northern New Mexico. He oversees the spring cleaning of the ditches (as seen in the painting) and manages control of the water to ranches and fields.   Mr. Romero wanted to introduce himself; in reality he was  checking us out.  A few days later he came calling again – this time he brought his wife, Carmelita, and his daughter, Susie.   Thus began a new and amazing chapter of my life.  Again I felt that some power I did not understand picked me up bodily and plunked me down to where I needed to be – no ifs, ands, or buts.  From the distance of years now, I have the feeling there was something unseen at work that led me to this place, I just had not been let in on all the secrets.
Am writing this now because just passing their house (The little blue roof to the right of the road) two weeks ago made the whole family real to me again.  It is impossible to describe my relationship to Truchas without including the Romero family.  In some strange way, – even though it wasn’t official, they adopted me as one of their own .  They were a real family – all seven of them!  I never really understood how this closeness came to be – was it because of my paintings?  Did it help that the Pope and I were Polish?  I’ll never know.  What I do know is that  once again I was being helped, cared for by some wonderful new friends.  Through my work and in many other ways, I tried to give back in kind. Eventually this wonderful family and the old church would conspire to save my life.  Am trying to keep these stories in context.  Obviously this recent day trip triggered memories which need to be written now!   It was no accident that I landed  on that horse ranch on that snowy September day so long ago. Am hoping the full story will come later…Stay tuned.
Meeting Cosme Romero was the beginning of my Truchas life He was a kind and gracious man with a wonderful sense of
MAYORDOMO – Original Oil by Donna Clair – in honor of my friend and neighbor, Cosme Romero, Mayordomo of Truchas, New Mexico.