Gene Kloss at Sangre, and in my head



I'll admit, I didn't know who Gene Kloss was before Monday afternoon. But now I do, and I can't believe I went for so long without knowing this artist's work.

The subject of an upcoming exhibit at the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center, Kloss was a painter and printmaker who made New Mexico her part-time home and muse after honeymooning there in 1925. The result of her long career was hundreds of prints detailing the state's beautiful landscape and Native Americans.

I spent some time hunting down some of Kloss' work online, attracted first by Kloss' interesting illustrative techniques and painterly print work. But then I came upon the image below, "Indian Summer," and I was deeply moved.

This place, somehow I'd been there. Likely only in a junction of imagination and memory, but so striking in its intimacy. Everything about it is familiar, I can smell the hot air scented with the grass, feel the warm breeze rumpling the landscape, hear distant crows. I can even identify the time of day, recognizing the pattern of the clouds to mean an afternoon softened with late summer cloud cover.

Indian Summer, etching on paper, 1943
  • The Owings Gallery
  • "Indian Summer," etching on paper, 1943

The Owings Gallery in Santa Fe has a great online gallery to view Kloss' works, as well as a bio with this tidbit that speaks to the way I respond to this print:

One critic called her a "landscape mythic," another a "portrait psychologist," but perhaps the highest praise came from a Taos Indian who said on looking at one of her etchings of a pueblo interior, "Yes, that is the way it was that night at our house."

I don't often have big, gushy moments like this, but I sure am glad when they happen. And happily, Sangre's Kloss works go on display soon, starting Feb. 2 for Legendary Landscape: Gene Kloss. What's more, according to Sangre, it possesses "the largest and most comprehensive collection of her works in the world," which it draws upon for the show.

Which makes the fact that "Indian Summer" may not be in this exhibit something I can live with. That, taken with these two images that definitely will:

Canyon Clearing from Thunderstorm

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