Donna Clair

Southwest Contemporary Artist

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


7 June 2020 – Llano Quemado, N.M. – Caught up in all the drama and chaos of these past three months – have been self-isolating since the beginning of March.  Relearning how to live on my own….laundry, mopping and the damned dishes!  Can’t comprehend the scope of the death from the virus and the destruction of civility due to the protests.  Wondering if no one ever read the book or seen the movie Serpico?  Wasn’t anyone filled with fear for our country during the protests in Ferguson when the police showed up in full military gear sitting on top of tanks with machine guns aimed at the protestors?  Why were people shocked to see “spare” tanks from the Pentagon rolling down streets of Washington?   Now we have a “secret police force”!!! Question: Where do we go from here?  Life in America is forever changed!
“I have an idea that some men are born out of their due place.
Accident has cast them amid certain surroundings, but they have always a
nostalgia for a home they know not. They are Strangers in their
birthplace. Sometimes a man hits upon a place to which he feels he
mysteriously belongs. Here is the home he sought, and he will settle
among scenes that he has never seen before, among men he has never
known, as though they were familiar to him from his birth. Here at last
he finds rest.”
– W. Somerset Maugham THE MOON AND SIXPENCE
17 September 1982 – Truchas, New Mexico – The first snow on Truchas Peaks.  We arrived at the horse ranch late afternoon –  the small Hansel and Gretel cottage, an enormous horse barn, a mobile home and a gypsy wagon on 20 acres. At the end of the property was a gate leading to the land grant from the King of Spain. .  This place was called Llano Quemado – “suburban” Truchas with a population of about seventeen stalwart souls. The snow clouds shifted and swirled with the strong winds. All the moving boxes were piled up in the horse barn. There were two huge sliding doors which opened onto a dirt road and the deep arroyo that separated us from our nearest neighbor.  I sat on a ledge and watched the mountain, knowing that no matter what circumstances brought me here – this place is where I needed to be!
Life is a mystery, isn’t it?  Only when one can look through the long lens of many years can we begin to pick up some of the puzzle pieces and put them where they belong.  I don’t believe in accidents!  Prior to this move, I tried  all the New Age movement had to offer – right down to the Course in Miracles. Magical thinking. Am not dismissing any of it, but nowhere did I get the hint that not drinking might be the answer to my many problems.  Instead I found a new partner who eagerly encouraged my fantasies of leaving Santa Fe and living in a small village in the mountains.  AAers call this  a “geographic” – moving to greener pastures – problems solved.  Tell God your plans… 
Once the cartons were unpacked some of my city confusion began to lift.  The ranch was for sale and we agreed to clean it up.  We gathered and burned brush and cut back the scrub oak.  My painting studio was set up in the office of the barn.  Mayordomo Cosme Romero, his wife Carmelita and daughter Susie arrived one afternoon to introduce themselves….the first of many visitors to see the new Truchas paintings.  My Santa Fe gallery wasn’t the least bit enthused – there were no cowboys or Indians!  Was fully expecting them to recognize my genius in this new work. My painting sales were the only income expected to keep this fragile enterprise afloat! Oh, don’t worry, tomorrow is a new day – have another drink and let’s watch the bills pile up!
Adventures major and minor…trips to Santa Fe or Taos for groceries and supplies. We adopted an ancient wild mustang from Los Alamos – his teeth were bad and he was rib cage skinny. Used to roaming free he took great umbrage at being penned. To show his disapproval one morning, he bit Mr. Wonderful in the balls and knocked him to the ground. He didn’t get much attention from the man of the house after that humiliating wounding.   The famous pink mustang died not long afterward – I was alone at the ranch on the morning he went to those big open spaces in the sky.  Did not know what to do with a dead horse!  Called my across the arroyo neighbor and asked him if he had a back hoe to dig a grave. He was too polite to laugh, said he would bring his truck and pull him down the road to the Land Grant – a form of Tibetan “sky burial”.- I loved that old horse!
That winter we were stranded on the ranch over the Christmas holidays – 3 feet of snow and the plows  only came through when the schools reopened. Reading by the little fireplace in the cottage, painting in the barn – a quiet time.   Big mountain lion paw prints in the snow and black bear tracks down by the pond.  This ranch life was definitely an adventure!  Another toast to Good Times!