Artists explore dream states and outrage

Taos Fall Arts Festival exhibit highlights Norbert Voelkel and Alice van Buren

By Virginia L. Clark
Posted 9/18/19

The willingness to move forward despite uncertainty is a hallmark of a new exhibit titled "Allegories," featuring the works of Norbert Voelkel of Taos and Alice van Buren of Santa …

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Artists explore dream states and outrage

Taos Fall Arts Festival exhibit highlights Norbert Voelkel and Alice van Buren


The willingness to move forward despite uncertainty is a hallmark of a new exhibit titled "Allegories," featuring the works of Norbert Voelkel of Taos and Alice van Buren of Santa Fe. The show opens with a reception Saturday (Sept. 21) from 5 to 7 p.m., at Bareiss Gallery, 15 State Road 150 north of El Prado and next door to the KTAOS Solar Center. The artists plan a presentation at 6 p.m.

The pair chose the title "Allegories" to underscore how these mixed-media works ultimately reflect the heroic aspects of the artists' psyches - as shown in van Buren's exploration of the unconscious and dream states and Voelkel's outraged political-scapes.

"Notre Dame Burning" is Voelkel's response to the April 15, 2019 fire that threatened to reduce the legendary Paris cathedral to ashes. He zooms in on details like the roof and spire burning. "I made the biggest red flame the world has ever seen," he said about his haze of flames scorching the beloved rosette window he's covered with impasto dots. He includes an "evil face" and a dragon for sinister impact.

"I was totally shocked that this could happen," he said, adding that he feels it's another sign of the times - Catholic Church scandals, the world civilization crumbling, "like Game of Thrones, where everything is falling apart and burning."

Voelkel had his first solo exhibition at the Bareiss Gallery in Taos 20 years ago, titled "Words, Images, Books." He has had several exhibitions at the Bareiss Gallery since then, the last in December 2018, titled "Metamorphosis," where he showed with Taos artist Allan Packer.

In "Allegories," Voelkel said he transforms contemporary events that have been captured by photography and media releases into paintings. The events he transformed here are the war in Syria; the immigration wars to separate Mexico from the United States by "the most beautiful wall you have ever seen," as he quoted President Trump; Notre Dame Cathedral burning; and a stage set for the opera "Karl V" by Ernst Krenek, performed in February 2019 in Munich. Voelkel said the stage set inspired his pieces "Chronos" and "The End of Times."

"The Goya-esque approach of exaggeration and oversimplification intends to grab the viewer's attention - 'See - and be affected!' " Voelkel writes in the press release. "Allegory is a metaphor in which a character, place or event is used to deliver a broader message about real-world issues and occurrences."

While not knowing where a piece of art is going is the ultimate joy of original work, van Buren's specialty in dreamwork is fascinating. A longtime student of Carl G. Jung, she has a master's in creative writing and holds workshops in Santa Fe on the psyche and art. In her bio she notes she has taught drawing to adults and children, and taught writing at Harvard, Brown, M.I.T. and the Boston Museum School.

"Norbert invited me to be in this show last May - while I was trying to be a psychologist," she said with a hint of self-deprecation. "And I finally realized I really am a painter. So I've been painting hand-over-fist since May."

Actually, she reported her first solo show was in Paris in 1995 - a far cry from recently discovering she "really" is a painter. Her first solo show in America was in 2003, also at the Bareiss Gallery. The subject in 2003 was "Crusader Follies," she says, "an extended allegory in paint, to do with our oil wars and gasoline culture."

"That show in Paris was called 'Men, Beasts and Angels.' It had a lot of animals and sinister angels," she said, highlighting her penchant for appreciating the absurdity of human nature, even as she celebrates it. The works in the Paris exhibit were etchings and lithographs. She also showed artists books.

"Artists books, though small, are conceptually very big," she said. "People who make art books are making some of the most interesting stuff around." She finds the book-making process involves words, images, pages, narrative and suspense, all necessary as the book artist shows the work to a viewer - "a very different art experience than painting a picture," she noted.

Her current works are mixed-media on canvas. She said she goes "back and forth between drawing and painting on the same canvas, mostly chalk/conté crayon and acrylic."

She feels the title "Allegories" is basically "a license to paint, at least to a painter with an allegorical mind." She works from the unconscious, noting that her paintings "present themselves as riddles, as coded messages or dreams. They don't tell so much as suggest, an ambiguous story or paradox."

Her goose sequence started out with "Bird Boy," a boy struggling to encompass a huge goose nearly escaping his grasp. This was followed by "Wild Goose Chase" employing the same goose symbol flapping high overhead, in wild-eyed anger - a metaphor, she mused, for escape and freedom.

"The red dress paintings have to do with injury and reparations," van Buren noted. "The goose sequence, with the human longing for flight. Some of these works were inspired by dreams, others fetched out of the collective memory called History. The Amazonian centaurs, the circus folk on their day off, the fishermen fishing for trouble - these are archetypes of a sort: icons of the human condition."

Language works through metaphor and different metaphors can direct our thoughts about a single situation in many ways. This "Allegories" does admirably.

The show continues through Oct. 20. For more information, call (575) 776-2284 or email


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