Ari Myers, founder and curator of The Valley, a contemporary art gallery in Taos, New Mexico, is intentional about creating opportunities for Southwestern artists.
I step inside the contemporary art gallery The Valley and notice a double strand of yellow and orange marigolds hanging beside the doorway. The walls are off-white and the space smells like palo santo and smoke.
On the afternoon I visit, Trick Pony is up in the Taos, New Mexico gallery. The show is a collaboration between sculptor Eleanor Foy and painter Grace Kennison.
Foy’s ceramic objects rest on two low, white platforms in the center of the back room. Several pieces contain text—a brown heart encloses stud, two inverted triangles in the rough shape of an hourglass hold dust, a horse airbrushed in pastel gradient carries pony on one side and dog on the other.
Later, I think of what each of these words brings to mind—lust limited to a series of prescribed movements, the absence of water / wetness / desire, how easy it is to lose track of what you are when you’re treated like something smaller.
Most of Foy’s sculptures were made prior to the show and Kennison created an entirely new series of paintings “in conversation” with that body of work.
I walk to a painting in the front corner of the room and see a horse chained to a bed beneath a mountain. A pair of human hands encircle the mountain. Each slender finger ends in a long, pink fingernail filed to a point.
The title of the painting is How to Make a Dream.
I sit down at a long outdoor table with Ari Myers and Celeste Miles, founder and gallery manager of The Valley. Our three wooden chairs are beneath an apricot tree covered in tiny white blossoms and dozens of bees. Several people walk by, say hello.
I ask about The Valley’s next show.
The exhibition will be a collaboration with Maida Branch, founder of the collective Maida Goods, a platform for Indigenous and Indo-Hispano artists (such as Suzie Garcia, Camilla Trujillo, and Gino Antonio). The upcoming show will be The Valley’s first in three years to feature Taos artists. Ari explains that she wanted to be intentional about understanding the dynamics within the town’s small arts community before establishing working relationships with local artists.
“I’m excited the first Taos artists we show will be through and with Maida, because she is so aware of the dynamics here and so interested in educating people about the history and culture of Northern New Mexico,” says Myers, who was part of the founding team and the first chief curator at Union Hall in Denver but has since transitioned out of that role. “Partnering with her to bring those voices in feels right for how I like to approach things. I’d much rather listen to someone else’s voice who really is from here than just somebody making their best guess.”
Myers and Branch will co-curate A Place Above the Water, an exhibition scheduled to hang from June 3 through July 15, 2023, in the back room and set up a Maida Goods pop-up in front. Since Maida Goods does not currently have a brick-and-mortar location, the capsule shop will be an opportunity for people to see and engage with the artworks in Taos.
I look through some of the offerings on its website: a wool blanket dyed with cota flower, choke cherry, indigo, and cochineal, candlesticks modeled on designs from Spanish Colonial Missions, and a barbed wire choker necklace in sterling silver.
I pause over this last item. The barbs leave sharp shadows on the model’s neck.
While Ari, Celeste, and I talk, the topic of slowness comes up several times—how to become a part of an established community in a genuine and thoughtful way.
“I think moving slowly is a big thing. I don’t feel pressure to compete with anyone, or push anyone out of the way to make room for what I’m doing, or try to be the loudest person in the room… we haven’t advertised for The Valley yet,” says Myers. “I want the process to be organic, because that’s how to foster meaningful longevity in these relationships, through genuine interest in what we’re doing. Instead of some forceful thing.”
Moving forward, The Valley will continue concentrating on early career artists with a focus on magic and mysticism, craft practices, and connection to place.
“The whole picture is really important to me,” says Myers. “There are a couple of different metrics we’re trying to hit in a year. For one, at least 50 percent of the exhibitions need to be with artists in the Southwest region.”
By cultivating relationships and providing resources, Ari hopes to further the current practices and artistic development of emerging artists, particularly those in New Mexico. She also hopes showing their work at national and international art fairs will increase the visibility and opportunities available to artists throughout the Southwest.
“When you see what consistently selling work is able to do for someone’s life, to be able to monetize their work in a meaningful way, turn art into a real career instead of just a hobby, it makes a huge difference. With the growth of these artists also comes to the growth of the gallery. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. Their work is getting more well known, and through that, our space is becoming more well known. We’re growing together.”