Peggy McGivern’s retrospective at Taos Art Museum at Fechin Studio enters dreamscapes and everyday scenes, tracing forty years and more than seventy-five works by the Taos artist.
When I was Six I was a Horse: A Retrospective by Peggy McGivern
September 11–October 17, 2021
Taos Art Museum at Fechin Studio, Taos
A hanging sun-bleached chile ristra welcomes visitors to When I was Six I was a Horse, Peggy McGivern’s retrospective that spans forty years of the artist’s career across multiple media at the Taos Art Museum. The ristra, like McGivern’s work, surrounds visitors in color, abstraction, speculation, and imagination. The artist branched out from her home state of Colorado to embrace global travel and, especially, Taos, New Mexico, where she is based.
The exhibition is in a spacious adobe building at the Taos Art Museum at Fechin Studio, previously the studio of the late portrait artist Nicolai Fechin and adjacent to his house. The retrospective illustrates that McGivern has subscribed to a spectrum of styles and approaches throughout her career. Her media range across acrylic, oil, and watercolor as well as collage, multimedia, and found-object sculpture.
McGivern takes inspiration from the Taos landscape, its mesas, and its everyday scenes, whether its a splay of gossip between women outside adobe walls, the harvest season, or solitary figures framed against the empty land.
McGivern’s work is placed in a historical exhibition space, juxtaposing past and present—like Taos itself. Before entering the adobe abode, viewers see the painting that gives the exhibition its name. The title is noticeably painted across the top of the canvas. The whimsical words hang in the sky over white horses soaring above evaporating cloud forms. McGivern situates the viewer in the middle of a road amid rolling planes and autumnal trees. She casts the viewer under the shadow of a cloud while a girl is running in the distance. She holds onto the sunshine, avoiding the grasp of cooler degrees. The piece contemplates unknown lands beyond the vanishing point while considering a child’s mind and its creations.
The First Look is above the doorway. This seascape watercolor, cool yet welcoming, contrasts the range of media and genres to follow. In the painting Angel Chairs, McGivern places the viewer in a dreamscape, entranced by three warped wooden chairs, which have wings and hover over an endless night-time landscape.
McGivern’s retrospective reveals other genres and revisited themes: still lifes of kitchen stumblings; portraits of children and Pueblo peoples; horses and mules in carriage scenes or in the mountains; and figurative painting apt to abandoning realism.
The Burden is one of the artist’s more emotional works in the exhibition. McGivern presents a woman sitting in anguish with her arms clasped together. Perhaps alluding to her burdens, simple houses with red triangle roofs and white finishes line the woman’s naked spine. Her closed-eye gaze is tilted upward as the gentle fold of her hands resonates with callings of happier memories and ease.
Ultimately, McGivern’s retrospective asks the viewer to enter the dream world of changed perceptions by expanding and collapsing distances, her use of color, and her fantastical subject matter. This continues into her pictorial memoir, When I was Six I was a Horse, featuring works exhibited in her retrospective and more of her dreamscapes. McGivern’s style and subjects are bound with curiosities, churning viewers’ perspectives and perceptions of the visual details of daily life.
When I was Six I was a Horse is on view through October 17, 2021 at the Taos Art Museum at Fechin Studio, 227 Paseo del Pueblo Norte.