Donna Clair

Southwest Contemporary Artist

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


July 2023 (Llano Quemado, New Mexico)  As I approached the bedroom
window this morning my little red fox streaked by in her hurry to go
places! A huge layer of dark storm clouds hung over the distant
mountains called Tres Orejas.  Across West Romero Road my neighbor
released his flock of doves for their morning flyover! 
Their wings shone silver against the dark blue sky.  They flock together and reconnect on a roof nearby……sunrise! Another fine day on the Llano !! 

August 2023 (Llano Quemado) – Yes, the heat wave flattened me! Now I
know why old people die during a prolonged period of intense hot
weather. No air conditioning, just fans. No breezes, just unbearably hot
air.   Unable to cook, didn’t eat much – forgot to pay bills. Painting
was out of the question. Finished “Cloud People” on 22 June – no time at
the easel since.  Tried, but gave up. Finally a small shower enough to
cool the gasping earth. Then one good rainstorm – no fans, windows open
to the cool breezes – Aaaah!  Yesterday was  the best day. Tended to
much needed  personal upkeep – a great night’s sleep and here I am all
over again! Revived!  Ready, set go!!!



As a young child I had an ever constant urge to run away….disappear, become invisible. My
safe place was in pages of many, many books. My first library card was
the very best day of my young life!! At least five books a week – every
evening after dinner interesting people became my friends escaped into
distant places and exotic cultures
course there is always “something” that holds one’s dreams hostage. At
an early age I was beginning my inner adventure with agoraphobia and
severe panic attacks. Those conditions were never diagnosed and my family
described me as “extremely shy”.  Thanks to those wonderful Walter
Foster art books, I was learning to draw!  Basic shapes, shadows,
composition – books, drawing, painting -I disappeared into my own kind of happiness….

forward to my junior year at Pulaski High in Milwaukee. I began to open

up and let the sun shine in….one friend, one class at a time. Mr.
Calabrese sat me in the front row of his Biology class – called on me
often. Answered all questions and fostered in me a surprising glimpse
of  self-confidence. He ignored the fact that I skipped two days of
school when
the class dissected frogs! Still love him for understanding.

Fernald taught World Literature and introduced me to Henrik Ibsen, the
Brontes and
Thomas Hardy. I experienced the absolute joy of reading deep and complex
stories. My confidence in my own abilities began to grow. She
taught me the beauty of WORDS! and was the first teacher that truly “got
me!”  Believe she remembered herself at the age of 15.
Always available to suggest a new book, play or author – she opened my
world in unimaginable ways. Named one of my twins “Sarah”.

Hero – Mr. Dodge (alias Mr. Peepers to his students) art teacher
extraordinaire!  A wiry middle-aged man with the appearance of a
startled chicken due to a thin shock of hair that stood straight up in
the center of his head!  He encouraged beyond all others in the class;
gave me special assignments and urged me to enter two local contests
which I won! I can still picture him coming to my desk with curiosity
and excitement over the day’s lesson.

Ole! Here come the Spanish Queens of the Foreign Language Department –
The Misses Flynn and Schaefer!!! What a Dynamic Duo!  Ms. Flynn was a
short, plump and very jolly Irish lady with bright red hair.  Ms.
Schaefer was  usually quite straight-laced and serious when she taught
my Beginning Spanish Class. Every Spring Break they packed their bags
and headed to somewhere in Latin America!  In 1956 they spent their
whole vacation in Guatemala – Easter Sunday in Chichicastenango – and
returned to my class to excitedly share their adventures.  In my mind I
was transported to that strange and exotic place. That sunny spring day  in Milwaukee, Wisconsin I promised my young self that I would spend  some
future Easter Sunday in Chichicastenango, Guatemala.  It only took me
40 years……To Be Continued.