The Lady Minimalists Tea Society,* a group of six New Mexico women artists working separately in their studios, mostly rural, have been meeting together monthly for eight years to discuss art making and the art world. We review each others’ work, give feedback, and collaborate on projects and exhibitions while each pursuing an individual art career. Over time, we have created an environment of support we can depend on.
We are together in that our individual processes rely on systems of incremental building and layering, some painstakingly slow, others quick and deliberate. Our approaches are improvisational and intuitive in varying degrees. Danielle Shelley stitches intimate abstract visual spaces; Shaun Gilmore crafts calligraphic/organic paper mache sculpture and collage drawings; Dara Mark creates fields of fluid watercolor shapes; Signe Stuart structures paper into drawing/sculpture hybrids; Janice Wall layers mixed-media monoprints; Jill Christian paints fields of colors and shapes born of repeated gestures. All our work is abstract and open to multiple interpretations.
We are together in our common aesthetic concerns and minimalist influences, our investigations of materials and concepts and our commitment to our work. As we each develop along our singular path, we carry our practices into our own idiosyncratic territories.
* A wry comment from one of our sons gave the Lady Minimalists our name. He noticed that his mother was feeling isolated in her studio practice and suggested she hold a tea party for “your lady minimalist friends.” So she did. Intended as a joke for its prim and prissy connotations, the name belies our self-concept as creative, independent-minded explorers.
About the Artists
Jill Christian is a visual artist working in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Having spent time on the water growing up in Massachusetts, she finds parallels between the ocean and the great expanses of distance and sky in New Mexico. Her work has been published in New American Paintings West (2014) and has been shown in a number of group exhibitions, including 516 ARTS’ New Mexico Showcase and Art on the Edge 2015 at the New Mexico Museum of Art. She holds an MFA from Lesley University College of Art and Design (Boston) as well as a BFA from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and an MBA from the University of New Mexico.
Shaun Gilmore works in mixed media and has spent a significant portion of her life as an artist in the world of motion and modern dance. From 1980-1991, she was based in Chicago and worked as a dancer, choreographer and assistant director of the Chicago Moving Company. Movement in space has become central to her work as an artist and she will be forever grateful for the unique perspectives that dance & performance have opened up to her.
Ms. Gilmore graduated with honors from the University of Michigan with a BFA in painting and photography. She has since studied Painting with Squeak Carnwath and Susan Rothenburg at the Santa Fe Art Institute and photography with Barbara Crane at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Her work has been represented & shown by EightModern and Linda Durham Contemporary art in New Mexico, Perimeter Gallery in Chicago, CFA Gallery in San Anselmo, CA, Chiaroscuro Gallery in AZ, and The New Mexico Museum of Art.
Dara Mark holds a degree from Yale College and a Master’s in ceramics from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her experience with the unpredictable fluidity of ceramic glazes continues to reverberate in her work with transparent watercolor. An affinity for unforced consequences has been further developed over decades of chi gong practice, an ancient Chinese art that engages with the vital flows in the body.
Growing up outside New York City with a father who was himself a watercolor painter, she enjoyed an early exposure to the arts, especially the abstract expressionist movement that was then current in the galleries. She was encouraged to explore many media, including textiles and fiber arts.
Mark has received artist grants from the California and Missouri state arts councils and served as a master artist for talented high schools students in Santa Barbara County. Her work is owned by several public and corporate collections, including Neiman Marcus Corporation, Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation and the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center. Since 1997 she has been painting full time in her studio near Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Danielle Shelley brings a varied background to her practice of fiber art. After receiving an undergraduate degree in economics, she did graduate work in law, African studies, Middle Eastern history, and library science. Shelley grew up in Houston and the Bay Area and later lived in upstate New York, Los Angeles, London, and Berkeley. She was a Peace Corps volunteer in Ghana, in West Africa, an experience that had a strong influence on her evolution as an artist. She settled in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 2006.
After many years as a freelance writer and editor, Shelley became an artist in 1993. For more than two decades her primary medium was oil paint, but about five years ago she began to work with needlework techniques such as cross stitch and Native American bead embroidery. Her stitch work recently received an award from Surface Design Magazine, a leading fiber arts publication.
Signe Stuart is an abstract painter, known for expressive explorations of materials including canvas, paper, tyvek and vacuuforms. Her work is rooted in minimalism, new physics and the study of consciousness. She has exhibited in galleries and museums across the United States since the early 1960s. Her works are in several museum collections: New Mexico Museum of Art, Joslyn Art Museum, Tacoma Art Museum, Sheldon Art Museum, North Dakota, South Dakota (Signe Stuart: Retrospective 1995) and Utah Museums of Art and others. Corporate collections include First Federal Reserve Bank and 3M Company of Minneapolis, IBM of Raleigh and others. Stuart has received an NEA Artist Fellowship, an NEA Art-in Public Places commission and several artist residencies, including those at Grinnell College and the U-Cross Foundation. Her works have been represented by galleries in Chicago, Minneapolis, Columbus, Omaha, and Santa Fe.
Janice Wall received a BFA from Mass Art (Massachusetts College of Art & Design) in the sixties when the art world was bursting with change. Along with traditional training, Mass Art embraced the groundbreaking work happening in the field and encouraged students to reach beyond the established norms in art. That influence has been at the core of Wall’s work to this day. In addition to her studio, Wall worked in fashion and graphic design. She returned to Mass Art for an MS in Art Education and moved to the Brickbottom Artists building in the early 90’s. These changes were pivotal in her experience of a cross germinating dual career; intensified studio work in a community of artists and teaching in the Brookline High School Visual Arts Department. Wall taught several different media which influences her mixed media work today.
Wall now works full time in her studio in Galisteo, New Mexico engaging in social, political, and environmental issues. Monoprinting factors heavily in her mixed media pieces. Her open approach has sparked using layered cut paper, embossing, dry pigment, paint, graphite, burns, and found object impressions. Most Recently her work has been shown at the Redline Gallery in Denver, the Art Complex Museum in Duxbury, Massachusetts, Smink Gallery in Dallas, Axle Contemporary in Santa Fe, and Axle Indoors at the Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe.
An exploration of the topologies of the natural world and our interior landscapes is the essence of the art made by the Lady Minimalist Tea Society (LMTS), a collaborative of six women artists living and working in Northern New Mexico. Jill Christian, Shaun Gilmore, Dara Mark, Danielle Shelley, Signe Stuart, and Janice Wall have shared their work and aesthetic concerns with one another since 2011. These women have developed a common sensibility that has brought forth a musical and poetic contemporary visual Minimalism, while nourishing and maintaining the unique vision of each artist.
The concept of impermanence, fragility and invisible forces permeates the work of three of the artists. Dara Mark’s Chi Gong practice and psychic awareness seem to awaken an Asian sensitivity to the intuitive flow and pooling of watercolor on translucent surfaces. These perceptive paintings express landscapes of memory, loss and the fleeting moments of our lives. They also become metaphors for the breath of life – the inhale and exhale of a meditative state.
Signe Stuart’s constructions on mulberry paper blend drawing and sculpture with an enduring grace. Folds, cuts and linear patterns create mysterious realms between visible and invisible, light and shadow. These atmospheric realms become intangible landscapes reminiscent of the mist in the mountains on a Chinese scroll. They also evoke allusions to the structure of the natural world, as well as technological systems developed by man.
Drawing on the geometric forms of industrial buildings, Janice Wall thoughtfully reminds us how everything goes back to the earth. Her layered monotypes explore textures through time — how the built environment deteriorates from man made particulates, wind, rain sandstorms, and age. Her work is not judgmental, but revealing. The monotypes celebrate impermanence, constant change, and the imperfection inherent in beauty.
A choreography of openness, connectedness and continuity of space dances through the papier-mache sculptures of Shaun Gilmore, who is also a dancer. Her calligraphic, yet organic forms evoke motion, emotion, humor and an unexpected playfulness. Her interest in map making takes three dimensional form with physical presence, bringing new trajectories to how we approach viewing spatial relationships throughout our internal and external landscapes.
Shape, line and color have a more formal expression in the work of Jill Christian and Danielle Shelley. Christian’s recent paintings, Approximate Affinities, expand the repetitive linear brushstrokes of her earlier work by creating rhythmic and repetitive grids of curvilinear forms. These forms suggest the ovoid bodies of stones in a pool or pebbles and shards scattered across the desert. As her figures float on fields of chromatic grey, they evoke a sensory experience of tension, speed or serenity. The thoughtful musicality of the relationship of shapes and patterns to their surrounding environment evokes a timeless song.
Danielle Shelley’s colorful stitched fiber abstractions exhibit the geometries and dimension of distance, area, volume and time. The artist’s use of geometry seems inspired by memories of her father as an architect and the poetic patterning of Donald Judd’s graceful grid of 100 aluminum boxes — each the same size, yet all unique — at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas. A sensitivity to language also inspires Shelley’s work. The word Geometry has two roots: Geo is earth, metry is measurement. The meditative quality of repetition and cadence of color in her stitching bring forth an immersion in the natural world and the vivid and often subtle hues that are found in the sanctuary of the Southwestern landscape.
— Susanna Carlisle, Santa Fe, New Mexico, July 2019
Image: Dara Mark, Lily/Heart/Memory, watercolor and thread on translucent Yupo paper, 41 x 54 in.