Expression by Any Means
The Talking Fountain Gallery & Boutique
By John Bear
Artist Katie Calico first saw a “talking fountain” while visiting Rome. The fountains don’t speak on their own—for centuries, they’ve served as meeting places for people to express themselves. Calico says they were even used during the Fascist regime in Italy, a time when freedom of speech was curtailed.
“El Narco” by Sergio Sandoval
“It stayed afterward,” she says. “It never went away.”
Calico liked the idea: expressing yourself any way you can. She took it first to a zine she published with a friend during the early years of Dubya’s first term. (She remembers seeing a Roman fountain covered in graffiti with an anti-American bent; blame it on the times.)
Now she has an art gallery and production space that bears the name. Calico and Mike Gerdes opened The Talking Fountain Gallery & Boutique in May of 2009. They’ve steadily held shows, fundraisers for various causes and even a green chile cook-off, which begat funnel cake containing the New Mexico staple. (Gerdes, for his part, makes his own green-chile-berry ice cream, a devilish concoction that is equal parts first kiss and swift kick in the ass. I scoffed at first. Then I coughed. It was spicy.)
“Oh, Pisces” by Katie Calico
Calico says she’s been an artist since she was a child. After college she started selling her work to stores and galleries in Albuquerque, Tennessee and Wisconsin. She hopes to bring her experience to both sides of the artist / gallery owner relationship. Now raising a child of her own, she understands the challenges of making a living through art, so gallery participants are given a larger-than-usual cut for any work that’s sold. On the other hand, they’re also encouraged to offer less expensive prints of their paintings. That way, a person who can’t afford to spend thousands, or even hundreds, of dollars can be an art collector. Calico sells a lot of her own work this way. She and Gerdes are planning a fair in December that will offer art for less than $100 a pop.
They don’t know how many artists they’ve shown in the year and a half they’ve been open, but Gerdes bets they have work from 40 or 50 of them in the gallery right now. Paintings of every conceivable sort hang on the walls or lurk in a poster rack of prints.
Green-chile-berry ice cream, a devilish concoction that is equal parts first kiss and swift kick in the ass.
“El Narco” by Sergio Sandoval evokes the border villain / folk hero of narcocorridos standing next to a souped-up Ford Bronco; a real bad ass. On the flip side, women feature heavily into what’s displayed. Calico is painting a series of zodiac-based portraits with models who were born under each sign. First-time gallery participant and children’s book illustrator Leslee Houston has a collection of highly detailed pen drawings of women in various poses with mythical creatures. If there’s any theme that runs through Talking Fountain, it’s a solid representation of women, both artists and art.
The gallery has more than just paintings. One crafter fabricates her own chain-mail jewelry. There are locally made perfumes, body oils, even honey. Boy band action figures have their heads lopped off and placed on animal bodies. An Eagles record has been formed into a bowl, coins become jewelry and handbags are fashioned out of old neck ties. Recycled items are everywhere.
Handbag by Katie Calico
The gallery has a communal feel. People volunteer their time around the store. There’s been talk of holding art classes. They are speaking with the building’s owners about putting up murals on the outside walls and, ahem, creating a public art space (see Culture Shock, Nov. 4-10).
“We’d like to do more shows, help out artists,” Calico says.
The gallery sits in the middle of a massive construction project underway on Coal and Lead Avenues, which is causing some anxiety for the owners. Nevertheless, they’d like expand their onsite works. The Talking Fountain already churns out screen prints, and Calico has a heat press and a button maker—there’s a lot you can do with a button maker (I’m looking at you, magnetic bottle openers). She says she’d like to see The Talking Fountain transition into “an artistic epicenter” and nonprofit arts organization,
“People are always saying we run it like a nonprofit anyway,” she says. “I want to continue painting, support my daughter, help other people. If I can continue to do that, I consider it highly successful.”
The Talking Fountain
4207 Lead SE
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