Donna Clair

Southwest Contemporary Artist

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



It wasn’t difficult for me to adjust to life on the horse ranch.  In the beginning I felt caught between two very alien planets.  Santa Fe’s over the top social scene, the intense competition in a newly developing art market, trying to earn a living from making and selling paintings was stressful.  Two ex-husbands in the same town were definitely adding to my confusion.  Truchas was an entirely new planet!  The sudden silence of this country life was indeed a New Beginning; an important first step in trying to save my own life. Prayed with all my heart that this move would cure me of the need to anesthetize myself with scotch!  I still believed in miracles.

in the little Hansel and Gretel house was strange at first.  In the
middle of autumn, with the first snow on the peaks, it was necessary to
settle in and prepare for winter.  Several cords of wood, we filled up
the freezer, tuned up the old Ford station wagon.  Around four every
afternoon, we toasted our success. The ranch was for sale although no potential buyers
came that winter.  It was easy to imagine that the ranch had been abandoned and was ours to keep!  Oh,
Magical Thinking! 

My work began to take on a new sense of “connection”.  Until this time I was painting to sell; trying to fit in, develop a recognizable style and paint that way forever and ever – the same painting a thousand times – soul-killing commercial success to pay the bills.  Once I settled into my new studio in the horse barn, memories of my last trip to the Art Institute to see the magnificent Wyeth work began to surface.  Finally I understood his fierce vision and his self-imposed geographical limits.  He simply painted the life he knew to his core….a very narrow range of inspiration which give his viewers intimate glimpses of simplicity – peace, tranquility, magnificent light and shadow; a rock-solid knowing of his subject matter.  He knew who he was as an artist and his vision never wavered.
My Art Gods were challenging me to create in a new way – give up the dream of being the next art world wunderkind.  Now was the time to travel some unfamiliar roads.  It was becoming clear that this was my opportunity to explore – open myself to a new way of being.  CHANGE in all capital letters became my new mantra.  Deep quiet all around – the first time I heard the sound of birds’ wings in the air as they flew past.  I felt sheltered and protected by the surrounding mountains and saw the brilliant sky with a new sense of wonder.  There was a tepee platform in front of the mobile home.  The sun warmed my bones; I would lie down, stretch out my arms and just watch the clouds.  It wasn’t obvious to me then but I was in a place of no return. Perhaps I could let go of the high heeled shoes and make-up and just get REAL! 

That spring the man of the house returned from one of his mysterious trips to Santa Fe and announced that we would be boarding six Arabian horses – three were about to foal.  Eloy the Western Union guy needed a safe place to pasture his animals and in an effort to earn some income a deal was made on a handshake. We would feed and exercise the horses in exchange for boarding fees and purchase of hay from local ranchers.  We bought a book on “how to foal horses”!