The Small Engine Roars
Rogue road trip inspires 100-painting retrospective
By Chiquita Paschal
Sounds like the same old story: Yet another weary traveler, lured into the sandy valley of the Sandias, finds it impossible to leave. However, artist and Small Engine Gallery co-operator Lucas Hussack's new series, New Mexico in Five Years in a Hundred Pieces, explores how the land of entrapment provided the perfect backdrop for some of the most colorful experiences of his life.
Photo by Chiquita Paschal
Hussack hails from the keystone state, an Amish paradise called Lancaster, Penn. After spending five years gaining a formal art education in his hometown, he set off in his car for the Great American West. “Just driving out here I was blown away by the space,” Hussack says. “You can't even really comprehend it almost. You could pull the car over and get out and walk ... and maybe you would die?”
Inspired by the sublime landscape and the quirky people, Hussack did get out of his car, and stayed for a few years. He once found his way back to Lancaster in a fit of loyalty, only to pack his hooptie once more, bound for this hub of inspiration. “I wanted to come back,” he says. “I couldn’t stop thinking about it here. I had to come back. I road-tripped here twice and stuck around.”
Hussack says he figured out he’s an “artist for life” about five years ago. And it's a good thing he did. In the course of those five years, he befriended local artists Scott Williams, Raven Chacon, Mat Galindo and Melinda Thursz, with whom Hussack formed Small Engine Gallery. The artist collective rents the space next to The Normal Gallery on south Fourth Street, in Barelas.
“You can't even really comprehend it almost. You could pull the car over and get out and walk ... and maybe you would die?”
Excited to piece together his journey, Hussack began a painting frenzy—even though he lacked resources like money and materials. He collected and prepared found wood to make his canvases, and he limited his palette to all the free paint he could score. And sure, he got a few day jobs—including being a caregiver and flipping burgers—to support his artistry. “I think you can sell a painting for a dollar and be a professional artist,” he says. In that vein, Hussack says he hopes to continue to provide platforms for local artists to showcase work at his and other galleries.
The works in New Mexico in Five Years in a Hundred Pieces skip about in time and theme through paranoid windows of memory. Small panels and flat, graphic styling make the whole thing look like a wall-sized comic book. “Each one shows a story or a specific moment,” he says of the subjects. “Some are really personal, others are cliché New Mexico in a way. Like, you know, chile peppers or the mountains.” Portraits of plant life include cacti and marijuana. There are lightning bolts and rolling thunder, hairy legs riding a longboard, amorphous wrinkly blobs, and bloodshot eyes. Interspersed throughout the flashbacks are fragments of a calm, flat horizon. “Out here there's so much land,” says Hussack. “You can see into different time zones. You can see into the past, you can see into the future. Your periphery is huge.”
Photo by Chiquita Paschal
New Mexico in Five Hundred Years in a Hundred Pieces
Runs through May 31, by appointment only
Small Engine Gallery
1413 Fourth Street SW
Call Lucas Hussack: (717) 360-5078
Placitas Artists Series Visual Artists Reception at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church
Featuring works by Catherine Alleva (ceramics), Dorothy Bunny Bowen (wax resist paintings), Joe Anne Fredrikson (art quilts) and more.
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