Married to their art and each other

P.J. Garoutte and Don Brackett featured in October's First Saturday Art Walk at Wilder Nightingale

By Virginia L. Clark
Posted 10/2/19

By Virginia L. ClarkJoin Wilder Nightingale Fine Art Saturday (Oct. 5) as the gallery celebrates 29 years to the day of opening Oct. 5, 1990.To mark the anniversary, artist and gallerist Rob …

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Married to their art and each other

P.J. Garoutte and Don Brackett featured in October's First Saturday Art Walk at Wilder Nightingale


Join Wilder Nightingale Fine Art Saturday (Oct. 5) as the gallery celebrates 29 years to the day of opening Oct. 5, 1990.

To mark the anniversary, artist and gallerist Rob Nightingale decided to feature an exhibition and sale of longtime married Taos artists Phyllis "P.J." Garoutte and Don Brackett.

"I've honored many gallery artists over the years and I thought I'd honor them with a show - I don't think they've had one together here in Taos," Nightingale said in a phone interview Sept. 23. "P.J. is doing dreamlike landscapes that when you look at them, you can see so much more. Her work is not as liberal as Don's, but they're 'there,' they're Taos. There's a new dreaminess, a glow about them - while still retaining her vibrant impressionistic style. Don continues to deliver his signature impressionistic style and upping it even more with some confident, bold, almost abstract palette knife work."

A Meet the Artists reception is planned from 4 to 6 p.m. on Saturday (Oct. 5), which is also part of October's First Friday and Saturday Art Walk. Garoutte and Brackett will be presenting their work, talking to people and answering questions in the so-called living room of Wilder Nightingale Gallery, 119 Kit Carson Road.

"You just give in to the spirit," Garoutte said, emphasizing how on impulse about six years ago she picked up a palette knife and everything changed for her. She now does her oils exclusively with a palette knife, inspiring Brackett to also add palette knife to his brushwork.

"I never got serious till Phyllis started doing it and I said - 'Oh, I can do that,'" Brackett said about now employing brush and knife in his paintings.

Now in their 80s (Garoutte is 82 and Brackett is 87), these painting partners say their painting is what keeps them going forward. It is also what brought them together.

Garoutte moved from Missouri to southern New Mexico in 1963 where she raised her two daughters. Brackett was born in the Panhandle of Oklahoma but was raised in New Mexico since he was 1 year old. The pair met at an American Watercolor Society meeting in Albuquerque in 1970 and it was kismet - they married for love, life and art, moving to Taos in 1988.

Originally they were watercolorists for more than 25 years. In the late '50s Garoutte worked for Hallmark Cards in Kansas City, Missouri, and attended Kansas City Art Institute. She studied watercolor with Robert E. Wood, Millard Sheets, Charles Reid and Milford Zornes in the 1970s. Also a award-winning artist, Brackett earned a fine art degree from the University of New Mexico. His day job was as a professional sign painter. Garoutte said, however, "He's had a brush in his hand all his life."

In 1980 they both added oils to their painting, finding, as Brackett put it, "a whole new world. It was just more fun." The pair did watercolor and oils for about eight years before switching over to oils entirely in 1988. Their careers span more than 40 years, and includes raising four children, nine grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. They say it's the land, inside and out, that keeps them fresh, eagerly anticipating each moment before their canvases.

They have been dedicated plein air painters up until a couple years ago, when arthritis interfered with Garoutte's hikes into mountains and mesas. But given an easy access, a chair and poetic imagination, they continue to adventure inward, exploring sunlight and shadows, painting inspiring natural vistas created from within.

"Some artists can do the same thing over and over and over," Brackett said about the common trap artists can fall into, painting what they "know" instead of what they feel, deadening the artistic spirit with a production-line approach.

"The landscape changes here hour to hour," Garoutte said, pointing to the expanse of purple asters and yellow chamisa stretching for miles from their studio windows, eastward toward Taos Mountain. "I relate to the painting, to what's going on with the painting - and that way it's never boring, and never the same."

"Painting keeps us going," Brackett said about their artful life, now going on 42 years together.

"Everybody needs beauty to feed their soul or their spirit," Garoutte said. "Since using the palette knife, I'm loving painting more than ever before in my life."

"I feel the same way," Brackett concurred, adding how they adapt their work, being responsive in the moment to nuances of sensation and form. "We create a lot. We make good shapes, good color and values. And we're not a slave to what we're looking at."

The exhibit runs through Oct. 19. For more information, call (575) 758-3255 or visit


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