Stranger Factory’s Made in New Mexico IV group exhibit, on display through Feb. 2, is full of the kind of high-caliber work from the stable of Stranger Factory artists that we have come to expect. Consistently, they have provided this city with a venue for art work that, for lack of a better term, is a bit creepy. Macabre? Eerie? Lurid? There are elements to much of the work in this exhibit that are reflected in these words, but this is not a horror show and to see it as such dismisses the elegance of craft displayed in so many of these works. One piece that reflects that elegance is a watercolor by Mario Romero titled “Dark Depths II.”
“Dark Depths II” emerges from the blank piece of paper lithely and seemingly unfinished, like Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of George Washington. It drips onto the page, resolving as a beautiful woman’s face and hands at the center, then tapering off at the edges into wisps, shadows and nothingness. Graceful and delicate lines blend with soft colors to render what becomes a tentacle embracing and/or becoming her hair. That is what takes this work out of the realm of humdrum watercolor portraiture and straight into the domain of the Stranger Factor. Strange, yes. But exquisitely so.
Watercolor is one of the more difficult and unruly of the arts. You must accept a degree of unpredictability, with paper absorbing color in whatever way it wants, with no way to change what you don’t like. It is a craft that embraces the unexpected and in “Dark Depths II” we can relish Romero’s success. The same can be said of the entire Made in New Mexico IV group show. It is a show full of talented New Mexicans whose work is sorely undervalued, both in terms of its place within the canon of art of the Southwest, and in the literal sense of being priced far lower than its quality would seem to dictate. With Stranger Factory’s Made in New Mexico IV group show, as with pretty much everything in New Mexico, if you enter with an open mind, ready to see the unexpected, you will be pleasantly rewarded.