The artistic peak of 2004
Four Corners ďart adventureĒ tops the list

by Jules Masterjohn

Artist Paul Petersonís yellow and white stretch limo bicycle sculpture./Photo by Linda Robinson

The adventure began at high noon on a Saturday in mid-November my traveling companion and I sprinted half a block to join the 20 other riders already onboard the nearly departing bus. Settled in and rolling westward into a flurry of snowflakes, I noticed feeling apprehensive about a potential blizzard ahead of us. After having a conversation with the bus driver, I was sufficiently convinced that he had no intention of risking his life for art, and I relaxed into the ride.

Shortly after getting under way, the first of our wonderful encounters began when Carol Martin, our on-board host, delivered our lunches. An artist herself, Carol had spent the night before embellishing the brown bags that held our sack lunches, with tempera paint, photocopied images from the related outsider art exhibit, and the words, "Outside the Box" written on each bag. This gesture of artful spontaneity set the tone for the upcoming journey.

At our first stop, the home and property of auto-body mechanic Paul Petersen near Totten Lake, we disembarked the bus with palpable excitement into a magical courtyard surrounded by concrete block and stucco-covered walls; free-standing metal sculptures; and gateways and coyote fences interspersed with herb and vegetable gardens. This was a place designed for discovery. My eyes came to rest on a most aesthetic composition, a yellow and white stretch limo bicycle sculpture leaning against the stucco wall of an uncompleted two-story tower. As my tour-mates and I got acclimated, we fanned out in groups of twos and threes around the property, strolling along paths through garden mazes, partially defined by stucco-covered concrete walls interrupted occasionally by casually crafted gates that led to other small garden spaces. I watched as my fellow trekkers, most of us wearing expressions of kid-like enthusiasm, excitedly gestured to one and other to investigate this or that. Half an hour later, the bus left Petersen's "Garden of Possibilities," as I called it, and warm feelings filled our already heated transport capsule, carrying us to our next destination.

While many of us were still in conversation about Petersen's imaginative environment, our bus pulled onto the road's shoulder north of Cortez on County Road P and quietly came to a halt. Parked next to a large outdoor sculpture garden filled with half-sized figures of people and animals engaged in delightful antics, subtle sounds of recognition and delight could be heard from inside the bus. This "Pipe People Theatre," a "community" of welded mufflers, pipes and machine parts combined with common tools such as metal pails and shovel blades all painted white, was born of the inventive and restless mind and hands of a newly retired Floyd Johnson, some years ago. Humor dominates throughout Johnson's vignettes, as does an uncanny use of rigid metal parts crafted into gestures of fluid, physical movement. While leading us through the sculpture park, Johnson was gregarious in a sort of Norwegian way. A sing-song cadence permeated the delivery of his humorous descriptions filled with enjoyable puns and playful stereotypes, as he led us through his park and right back to our mass transit vehicle. Another half of an hour had evaporated and it was time to move on to our final destination.

Kay Andersonís scared black cat./Photo by Linda Robinson

While many of us were still in conversation about Petersen's imaginative environment, our bus pulled onto the road's shoulder north of Cortez on County Road P and quietly came to a halt. Parked next to a large outdoor sculpture garden filled with half-sized figures of people and animals engaged in delightful antics, subtle sounds of recognition and delight could be heard from inside the bus. This "Pipe People Theatre," a "community" of welded mufflers, pipes and machine parts combined with common tools such as metal pails and shovel blades all painted white, was born of the inventive and restless mind and hands of a newly retired Floyd Johnson, some years ago. Humor dominates throughout Johnson's vignettes, as does an uncanny use of rigid metal parts crafted into gestures of fluid, physical movement. While leading us through the sculpture park, Johnson was gregarious in a sort of Norwegian way. A sing-song cadence permeated the delivery of his humorous descriptions filled with enjoyable puns and playful stereotypes, as he led us through his park and right back to our mass transit vehicle. Another half of an hour had evaporated and it was time to move on to our final destination.

Floyd Johnson’s hula Girl./ Photo by Linda Robinson

My sense of direction totally confused, I only knew we were traveling along gradually undulating expanses of fields covered in knee-high grasses somewhere above Yellowjacket Canyon. Arriving at the property of Kay Anderson, I had no idea what to expect, having been totally flabbergasted by the last two stops on the tour. Slowly, through the tall grass clumps near the road, large, brightly painted critters began appearing. Off the bus and walking along a dirt road led by Anderson, we began catching glimpses of creatures made of welded metal and machine parts visible in the landscape around the acreage. Like living animals, these imaginary creatures kept their distance from us, inhabiting the area just beyond the cleared pathways, partially hidden by the vegetation. When Anderson is not training horses, he is creating sculptures using machine parts and farm implements that are truly whimsical. My favorite is a sculpture of a terrified black cat, whose arched and spike-haired back was fabricated from a gear, a riveted stare coming from its eyes made of vintage auto turn signal fixtures. The 70 or so creatures, of which a few are life-sized human figures, offered a peek into the playful interior life that Anderson possesses, that I would have not guessed from simply meeting the man.

It is this unexpected aspect of the creative impulse that is so refreshing to me and serves to remind me that the "artful" runs deep within us human beings. This art adventure was proof to the saying, "ART HAPPENS!"

For a visit to Floyd Johnson's "Pipe People Theatre" take Highway 160 west to Highway 145 north, toward Dolores, left onto Road P and just past County Road 26. Johnson's fantastic field of figures is on the right!


 

 

 


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