Donna Clair

Southwest Contemporary Artist

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

WORD PAINTINGS #56 (Taos – 1/26/19) – CEREMONY


Before I dive into more memories of the past, just one more post in the present tense.  Once the decision was made to focus more on my art life, I discovered a whole new perspective – clarity.  This is certainly a surprising adventure!  At the beginning of each New Year I begin my daily practice of writing morning thoughts in a new journal.  Usually I give it a title.  In the past my favorite labels have been “rebirth”, “renaissance” or “new beginnings”.  In my mind I was always struggling to overcome some obstacle – caring for my children, shortage of funds, relationships, recognition for my work.  Rarely did I give myself credit for any progress.  Usually God got all the kudos for the good stuff and I took responsibility for my “mistakes”. The other day I read that life expectancy now is 71 – I will be 80 this September.  Time to consciously begin what I hope is my “long walk home”.  Thinking of my mortality, I realized that there had to be another word for this New Year.

When I began telling the story of my first marriage it focused on the betrayal and abuse.  The truth is that the dark parts led me away from my old life in Chicago to the high desert of northern New Mexico.  In Chicago, due to family resistance, there was no possible way for me to fulfill my dream of becoming an artist.  With one fateful phone call from the mother of our pregnant babysitter, my little world shifted on its axis.  Just like Dorothy and that wicked tornado, I was on my way to my own personal Land of Oz….a dream come true.

There are definitely dark chapters in my life and it is my hope that I can tell them without any hint of victimhood.  The unbreakable thread of my life has been my work.  As recently as last September, still mourning the loss of my son, I had the strong urge to give away my art supplies and just wait quietly to go to that Big Easel in the Sky.  One day I had the urge to call my old buddy, Geraint Smith, and book what I believed would be my “last trip” to all my heart places.  Two hundred photos later led to thirty small studies from those photos.  The studies have led to ideas for larger paintings.  Am planning to begin sketching some those canvases next week.  No overthinking.  Believe I am experiencing a true renewal of my Spirit! Another awakening?  A rebirth,  A time to celebrate!

Then the word for this time appeared – CEREMONY!  This is my celebration of life.  Am free of all the competition, the striving.  If I have any regrets they will be revealed in further posts about struggles for recognition as a woman artist in the heyday of Cowboys and Indians of the Great Southwest.  My ideal has always been to “paint for the sake of painting” hoping that out in that huge world there is someone who will be enriched by my effort….I call that a Divine Appointment!

Just painting for the sake of painting is the ideal.  My autobiography has been written in the paintings I’ve made in the past 52 years…the early works were learning exercises.  Gradually my love for this place overtook my need to “fit in”.  What I celebrate today are all the backroads – those unexpected moments of joy….the mysterious path unknown.

Walking home requires a ritual – an acknowledgment of all that brought me to this moment – a  ceremony….just one more blank canvas….