The Wooden Cow Gallery and Art Space slays the expectations set by its small, shopping-center setting. Works of art adorn the walls as a shifting mass of visitors admire acrylic and oil paintings, bronze sculpture, jewelry, photography and beckoning belly dancers. The gallery floor feels crowded—a reflection on the presentation of original works, the attending ArtsCrawlers and the ability to get large quantities of art into what appears tiny from the outside.
The grand opening celebration at The Wooden Cow Gallery took place on Oct. 17, following a soft opening in September. Art covers every square foot of the gallery and the layout emulates a retail showroom. The gallery is a democratic co-operative space owned by 25 local artists, all of whom have their works on display. The space also hosts 30 consigners for a total of 55 artists and is expected to add more. Nearly all of the founding members at The Wooden Cow work in multiple mediums, and the mission of the gallery reflects this enthusiasm for art in all of its forms.
Co-op president and Chinese brush painter Ren Adams and silversmith Ken Murikami came up with the idea for The Wooden Cow years ago, having seen a need for more art-community hubs in Albuquerque. They teamed up with like-minded partners like Fenton Ayres, a photographer and acrylic painter; Sharon Bloom, an abstract painter; Cindy Chavez, a jeweler and silk items specialist; and 20 other New Mexico artists.
Shop manager Caitlin Padilla, who joined the tentative circle in March of this year, lists printmaking and acrylic painting among her specialties, but, like the other founders, her passion for all types of art is reflected in the eclectic collection.
“Our members work in every medium from photography to jewelry to tile-making,” Padilla says. "We have textiles, silk bags, bronze sculptures, all kinds of found artwork, even Fabergé eggs.” At The Wooden Cow, no distinction is made between what Padilla refers to as “high art”—paintings, sculptures, etc.—and “low art”—textiles, beading, jewelry and anything else not typically well-represented at conventional galleries.
“There is an acceptance of art that is often overlooked or underrepresented by other galleries. Artists who are trained in and produce crafts are more than welcome to showcase their work at The Wooden Cow,” says Ayres, who photographs nudes. “Although I do fetish and erotic photography, I do not do porn. The Wooden Cow understands the difference and understands that there is skill, technique and planning involved in producing my images.”
Along with their art, the founders of The Wooden Cow brought their individual specialties to the fore in making the space a reality. Committees were created with the goal of cramming as much art as possible into the space. Co-op members will teach classes and workshops as well as host poetry readings and performance pieces. Their goal is to promote growth and support within Albuquerque's art community.
Consigners are given equal consideration, regardless of previous exhibition experience. “I think that it's a unique endeavor,” says Jeannette Lyle, one of the 25 originators. “Co-op members all get an equal say, and we embrace art in all of its forms.” An oil painter and self proclaimed “recycled-art jeweler,” Lyle has a fondness for old Scrabble tiles and other found objects. “We get to change what people see as art.”