Archive » March 3, 2011
IN LOS ALAMOS, SEE THE C GALLERY
By SaraLloyd Truax, Staff Writer
She’s a retired artist and educator who is unable to leave either behind, and if you’re a Valley resident, that’s a good thing. Connie Rohde Stanchfield (Rohde) now runs The C Gallery of contemporary art in Los Alamos, but it is so much more than a gallery full of wildly imaginative fine art, often done by local artists. It’s a place to take classes, listen to fine music, meet local talent and, perhaps, even do a little shopping.
“I think it is the natural outgrowth from everything I’ve done before,” she says, explaining how she started teaching at Santa Ynez High School after first being associated with the Family School. “I’ve worked with some very talented young people. Each student at the high school had their own individual show.” As a result, in her 17-plus years of teaching, she’s hung a lot of shows.
“She’s like a firecracker,” says Rosanna Dude, a former student. Rohde, says Dude, is the responsible party for making her fall in love with art history.
“Connie made all the kids have their own show and complete all aspects of it,” says Patricia Eubank, whose work is presently on display at the gallery. “It was such a great experience for them. They learned so much, and it was wonderful for the people who would come and see the shows.”
Some of those shows have been displayed on the sidewalks of Santa Ynez High. Rohde founded the ever-admired Chalk Festival. And while it has become popular for students and the community, it began as a way to keep the art department funded without dipping into the limited pool of funds available for the rest of the school. What the chalk festival didn’t earn, Rohde made up for by writing grants.
Dude participated in the first chalk festival at the high school. She picked a piece by Marc Chagall “because I liked all the colors in it. I wanted to do a really vibrant one.” She remembers people wandering around uncertainly that first year, and how much enthusiasm for the event there suddenly was the next.
“At the end of the day, you’re tired, dirty and your fingers really hurt. It was like a celebration at the end,” says Dude. She was surprised what a good learning experience it turned out to be. “It was a really good way to study a painting. You really notice every little detail as you transfer it from paper to the sidewalk.” It changes how you look at art ever after.
Now living in New Hampshire, Dude started a chalk festival at the library where she works, where participants copy their favorite book jacket instead of a piece of fine art. It’s not surprising that Rohde ideas are rippling out across the county. She has always been good about taking out into the greater community what is good and right about what is happening where she is. That is both how and why she founded Arts Outreach, she says.
“Last year we celebrated our 30th anniversary. It was Connie who saw the need to put artists in the schools, and she did it. She’s just such a powerhouse,” says Catherine Affolter, Executive Director of Art’s Outreach.
“I worked with Art’s Outreach for 15 years, and during that time I did a lot of events,” Rohde says. Now she holds events at the C- Gallery. And although fully retired from the foundation, Rohde still takes an interest in what members do.
“One of the first things I did when I took over the job was to go and pick Connie’s brains. She was very gracious and generous with her time,” says Affolter, who says that despite Rohde’ retirement and new position as owner of a fledgling business in hard economic times, she continues to make financial donations to Arts Outreach.
The next event at the gallery is “Sing to Me,” scheduled for 8 p.m. Sat., March 12, presented by the Misty Isles Consort. For $20, one can enjoy an evening of Celtic music on the harp, flute, drums, bagpipes, whistles, guitars and vocals. While there, enjoy the art, backyard bonfire and complimentary champagne. “I think of the gallery as my retirement playpen,” says Rohde. She likes seeing other people come and play there, too.
Rohde enjoys collecting all the wonderful art opportunities that exist in this area, and making them accessible through her gallery. But when she first retired, she thought she might sell tamales or spend her time visiting senior citizens and polish their nails for them. But her daughter would have nothing to do with that. She encouraged Rohde to pursue her strengths instead (not that she can’t paint a mean toenail).
In August of 2008, Rohde and daughter Nina Rohde Brown, opened the gallery as a family endeavor. The bold C embodied in the name stands for many things from Connie’s name to, as she says, “issues of ultimate life importance: compassion, community, continuity, clarity, convergence, courage and commitment – and let’s not forget chocolate.” Rohde handles the gallery and events, Brown handles the promotion and the other nitty-gritty business things artists aren’t good at and her husband, Lee Stanchfield, does the website and, she says with a smile, other things as well.
“At all the rough points in the process Nina would just say ‘Mom, just weather the storm. You’re good at all this,” she recalls. Rohde is ever thankful for the support her husband and daughter have showered on her, though still a little reticent to believe it’s all coming together.
“People like what’s happening here. The town is beginning its renaissance and I’m just glad to be a part of it,” says Rohde.
Presently on the walls is Paw Prints on the Page, which features original paintings from the pages of the books written and illustrated by Patricia Eubank. Eubank’s watercolors are layered in vibrant colors, full of detail and draw you into their warmth and coziness, says Rohde.
“I’m so thankful she asked me to have the show,” says Eubank. “I would never have even thought about a show.”
Right on cue, Rohde offered a water painting class. What better place than a bright airy room surrounded by the extraordinary work of Eubank to explore all the opportunities the medium has to offer. “The great thing about watercolor is that it, well, just sometimes it does amazing things all on its own. I try to capitalize on that,” says Eubank, who happened to be readying things for her show during one of Rohde classes, and couldn’t help listening in a bit. “Connie is beautifully articulate when she talks about art, whether it is layering, lighting, composition, all of the things I no longer think about.
I was impressed she could see so many things in one little piece,” says Eubank a bit embarrassed. Mostly she thinks about putting in a myriad of details in her book illustrations. “I like to put a lot of things into my illustrations so it’s worth a second look.”
Also on exhibit is Karen Browdy, who has done a bit of teaching herself. Browdy is an assemblage artist; in other words, she does collages (including 3-D) that are considerably detailed. Like Eubank’s work, Browdy’s pieces are worth a second and even a third look. Even the bottoms of Browdy’s pieces are strikingly detailed.
At the opening, Browdy tenderly picks up a piece, showing all six sides to visitors. She points out little aspects not immediately noticeable, and tells of buying a box of old letters. How she read them all before incorporating them into her work. Each bit and piece of what makes its way into her art has an extrinsic meaning of its own.
Browdy’s favorite letter was from an adult son to his mother, telling her off-handedly that he had gotten married, and describing his wife.
Both Eubank and Browdy will tell you there are no errors in art. “When mistakes happen, I just try to work with it rather than restarting the piece,” says Eubank. But it would be a mistake not easily correctible to miss what’s happening at the gallery.
The C Gallery for contemporary art is located at 466 Bell St., Los Alamos, 13 miles north of the Santa Ynez Valley just off U.S Highway 101 and immediately across from the post office.
Rohde suggests that while in the Old West township of Los Alamos, visitors experience a stopover at the Cafe Quackenbush (where they will find sophisticated art, antiques, and notable food offerings), Charlie’s Café or the Full of Life Flatbread Restaurant. Then again, while there, why not drop in at one of the many other galleries including Morley-Bryant & Co., The Gentleman Farmer, and terramonary stoneware and porcelain?
You just can’t come into Rohde world, so it seems, without her sending you out in pursuit of knowledge and the love of art.