Category: New Mexico Arts News

April 11th, 2016 by sandyadmin
Rob DeWalt

Rob Dewalt, Prep school parking lot, 1984

In the fall of 1983, I was living a charmed life for a sprite of 13. I was the class President of the Middle School at Santa Fe Prep, my grades were good, and I enjoyed a popularity that extended beyond my years to some “cool kids” in the junior and senior classes. And in walked Rob Dewalt, a “new kid” in the freshman class, already a bright and sharp-dressed teenage hipster with an eye for fashion and a jumble of band buttons clustered on the lapels of his torn-up denim jacket.

The Clash was all that I recognized, but with names like The Buzzcocks, The Sex Pistols, and especially, The Dead Kennedys, (for real? Like…wow.) – and an oddly shaved hairstyle that was between a flat-top and a Mohawk suggested that the new kid was a lot cooler than the rest of us, maybe even a punk rocker, you know? And for awhile there, I not only wanted to know Rob Dewalt, I wanted to be him.

As much as I wanted to be Rob, I think he wanted to be me too – we had a mutual admiration club going on that began as teenagers and spread across 33 years, taking cues from each other as we traversed the difficult terrain of adolescence and early adulthood, and then further on as we became professional colleagues. On a lot of levels, Rob and I were cut from the same cloth – we liked anything current or cutting edge, particularly music, and we both dreamed of being artists – in our minds, actors first, then musicians, and then, writers.

Like others in our generation who grew up in Santa Fe, we wanted to write about the city we loved to have a hand in shaping it. By the miracle of persistence, and a willingness to accept the difficult trade-offs of writing here, we made our dreams come true – but at a price. In a city made famous by number one travel destination awards, Conde Nast spreads of beautiful homes and golf courses, and expensive rents, cocktails, hotel rooms, and health care costs often beyond our reach, we learned very early on that access to everything from art to concerts to restaurants to famous people traipsing through town didn’t always result in a “living wage,” and when I last saw Rob in 2013, he was just beginning to learn about the real rigors of the freelance game – and I would learn that it was taking its toll.

When I last saw Rob, in April of 2013, it was like a divine accident. I had four jobs – double-timing as a freelancer for two different sections of The New Mexican, salaried as the arts editor of The Weekly Alibi in Albuquerque and also selling ads for The Alibi (and still making less than $24K a year total.) For one of those gigs, (and certainly breaking the rules of one of the others) I was approached by the marketing director of a four-star hotel in Santa Fe and invited on a minor junket: a tour of the historic hotel, free drinks at the bar, dinner on the house, a comp room and free parking. As we were talking, I happened to mention that Rob Dewalt and I were old friends. Apparently, I was out of the loop on how influential the writer of The Fork (which at the time was a blog for which Dewalt was unpaid) had become, and her eyes lit up as if I’d said I was related to Anthony Bourdain.

“Do you think he’d like to join you?” she asked, almost innocently, but both of us knew better.
Nothing delights a food writer – or any writer, for that matter – then the prospect of a free meal and a gratis open bar. Surely I could share the wealth with my old pal – but never for a moment did it occur to me that this splendid happy meal would be the last I’d ever enjoy with my old comrade.

I was seated at the bar when he entered the room, dressed for success in an outfit that was nostalgically new wave and complete with one of his many hats. I observed with quiet alarm that my old friend with whom I’d smashed into in many a slam pit before the word “mosh” was even invented was grey around the temples and walking with a cane. Then, as now, even at 46, I so rarely have the opportunity to see myself as aging, but in my friend’s gait and in the lines in his face, I could see that he was aging even if I felt I was not. And still, it was so good to see my old lover of the mind and to recognize that both he and I had done exactly what we set out to do as youngsters. And where I was still the trouble maker – and he was the one with the better record collection – both together and apart we had devoted our lives to the city and state that we so loved – and applied our skills as writers to help shape it.

The marketing director hovered briefly over drinks, just long enough to seal the deal on a solid rolodex connection with my dear friend, now an influential food critic in a city built on the industries of Art & Lunch – before making a timely leave to allow us time with the bartender’s adroit mixing skills and a quiet dinner alone. The meal was no doubt fantastic, some well-presented stack of dainty vegetables and hearty meats on an expensive designer plate, but I have no memory of it, lost in the company of the man before my eyes whom I had known nearly all my life.

Culture writers lead strange but interesting lives. We may break new artists, but we don’t create them. We follows trends and personalities and try our best to shed light on what has value in our minds based on taste and experience and our impressions of the talent in front of us. And at some point, we retire, because we’ve seen every band, heard every DJ, eaten at every restaurant, and seen more art than we ever wanted to look at – and we’re tired that the bottom line doesn’t add up. The hard part is when we reach the end of the line but it’s really all we know to do to pay the rent – because after all, it was never about the money. It was about pulse, discovery, and promoting what you love. Stop loving it – and the music takes on a different tune, and the emptiness can be unbearable.

Somewhere in my archives, I have a letter from Rob written in his first year of college at University of Colorado at Greeley. He writes, “music is my love – but writing is my passion. I want to write and write and write until my hands bleed.” Both together and apart, we saw our dreams come true – writing for the city we loved, yet bleeding also, for what we believed in most of all.

Soon after this meal, Gregory Pleshaw publicly resigned from every NM media related job he had, and went into a recovery program in Colorado before moving to California. He now has plans to go back to graduate school to continue his studies in psychology and consciousness, to solidify years of research on the multiple mental health diagnoses and mystical experiences he has experienced for most of his adult life.

{editor’s note: there are many reasons why a person decides to take their own life, and no doubt a bevy of pressures on my friend Rob Dewalt when he chose to do so on April 5, 2016. Based on my most recent conversations with him before he died, I chose to focus on the economic issues of maintaining our chosen profession. I cannot claim to know his true reasons, and when I wrote this piece – for the New Mexican, who chose not to run it over word length issues – the issue of cause of death was being held to family and close friends. At this point, it seems an open secret, and I have chosen to run this piece here, but originally on my Facebook wall.}

Posted in New Mexico Arts News, Suicide Tagged with: , , , ,

August 26th, 2009 by sandyadmin

Monty Singer’s world class painting ignored at Indian Market.

So the word on the Street at Indian Market this year was that Monty Singer got robbed – that his spectacular pastel piece “The Long Walk” shoulda won *something*, probably shoulda won Best in Classification, but didn’t win nuthin’ at all because of the political content of the piece, which skewers, (and rightly so) casinos, which in a sad twist of fate has become THE sacred cow of the Native World.

I didn’t attend Indian Market this year, so I can’t really say for sure. I had planned to attend the show at Max’s Cafe that many said was the talk of the event, but didn’t because I got wind of a plan that artist America Meredith was going to have me *BARRED FROM THE VENUE* were I to show up. Tickled me pink to know I have that much impact even from far far away. I decided at the last minute to avoid the drama and do something else with my weekend, worked on my latest novella, cleaned my room, did my laundry, and spent time with my family. My phone rang non-stop from various artists and collectors who were sad not to see me, but sometimes you just have to assess how the wind is blowing and walk the other direction. Besides – sometimes you just don’t know what you mean to a society until you’ve got reason to say no to it. Perhaps next year. Perhaps not. There’s a lot else out there to write about, you know.

Posted in (Native) Arts Writing, Arts Writing, New Mexico Arts News

December 9th, 2008 by sandyadmin


This piece was meant to come out *before* the opening this afternoon and evening, but technical difficulties (Internet connection down) prevented that from happening. So you missed the opening because I didn’t post it soon enough. That’s okay. Lots of people were there.

So what does an M-70 firecracker on a bracelet and a ring with a razor blade have in common? They’re both part of “Dangerous to Wear” art show that opened tonight at the Cruz Gallery at 616 Canyon Road. Featuring the work of such artists as Daniel Werwath, Aldous Register, Jennifer Joseph, Cody Sanderson, Pat Pruitt and others, the theme of the show was to make something, well, dangerous, and these artists have certainly delivered.

In truth, however, though the art on the walls and in the cases was super fine quality stuff that you should drop by and check out, (including lots of spikey rings and bracelets, a torquoise-studded cap gun, and a spiked collar by Pat Pruitt that would look good on the most stylish of submissives) the best part of the opening was, well, the opening, which in typical Cruz style featured three rooms and a backyard packed floor to rafters with all kinds of crazy cool kooky people.

When was the last time you went to an art opening where they served posole? I’d have to say NEVER, but DJ Justin dutifully ladled up bowls of the stuff in the backyard as people warmed themselves near the outdoor fire pit. Inside, folks like the Sombrero Man, (dressed like Santa Claus but complete with his sombrero cape) and some gorgeous man in drag jostled with artists and onlookers past the display cases, which were filled to bursting with the main show’s pieces as well as Cruz’s usual stunning objets, and the walls featured paintings by Cruz owner Richard Campiglio and photos by Antonio Lopez.

All throughout the space, people were button-holing one another and giving out Xmas hugs. Conversations started, stopped, drifted, then picked up on some other side of the room as people moved with the flow of the crowd through the gallery. People stepped outside for cigarettes and then went back inside to escape the cold. In all, it was a long and eventful opening, one of the best I’ve been to in quite some time. Don’t miss the next Cruz opening – in addition to excellent art, you can generally gaurantee a damn fine time.

ps: I’ve *Never* reviewed an opening before. Is this even allowed???

Posted in Arts Writing, New Mexico Arts News

December 5th, 2008 by sandyadmin

SWAIA Executive Director Bruce Bernstein Announces Intention to Continue to Create New and Expanded Opportunities – Possibly Whole New Shows – for Contemporary and New Media Artists

What began as a rumor – that SWAIA might be looking into the possibility of creating a whole new show for contemporary and New Media artists – was confirmed Wednesday night via telephone interview with SWAIA executive director Bruce Bernstein.

Bernstein said he is interested in all ideas that would expand the horizons for what people consider to be viable Indian art. He said he’s sees the horizon in Santa Fe as potentially limitless in the kinds of art that can be brought to Indian Market.

“Why wouldn’t SWAIA at least want to have the discussion of having new venues for artists who work in mediums that don’t fit in a booth?” he said. “We’re interested in looking at the viability of showing performance, installation, and digital art to the people who normally convene each year for Indian Market.”

But he didn’t rule out the possibility that a contemporary or New Media show might have its own venue at a time other than the standard Indian Market festival which convenes each August in downtown Santa Fe.

““First thing I want everyone to know is that the presence of Santa Fe Indian Market on the Plaza in Santa Fe is immutable,” said Bernstein. “That having been said, I also want it known that as the director of SWAIA, I’m wholeheartedly invested in making sure that we continue to represent the artists that we are known to represent,” he said. “But what we’re also interested in is in making sure that all the art forms that Indian people engage in are shown. This may require a separate show for Indian arts that don’t fall in line with what we’re calling ‘the portable arts’ – i.e. work that can only fit in a booth.”

Bernstein said he was bothered by terms like ‘authentic’, ‘traditional’ and ‘contemporary’ and said that he was trying to steer clear of such terms because in the long run, they just don’t mean much when it comes to describing Native art forms.

“We know from the historical record that what was once ‘contemporary’ becomes ‘traditional’ later on,” he said. “There’s a sorry perception that all that Market does is churn out traditional work, but the fact of the matter is that what’s traditional and contemporary is always evolving as Market evolves. Indian Market is a living entity, one that balances contemporary and traditional and one that is now actively seeking to include all the art forms that Native artists are working in, regardless of portability.”

The announcement brought enthusiasm from two stalwarts of Native American contemporary art, 2008 poster artist & Cochiti painter Mateo Romero and award-winning Cherokee painter America Meredith.

“It’s important to recognize that what we’re talking about here isn’t so much a ghetto-ization of contemporary and New Media artists,” said Romero. “This is about taking artists to other venues outside the country and around the world.”

“I’m impressed by SWAIA’s vision insofar as looking to create new possibilities for Native arts,” said Meredith. “It seems that there a techtonic shift in Indian art these days and I’m impressed with their ambition in trying to address these changes through new shows and new approaches to showing art.”

The announcement comes on the eve of the Grand Opening of another SWAIA venture – that of the partnering with the Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino on the opening of a SWAIA retail store inside the casino, where the wares of SWAIA artists will be available for purchase year-round. Scheduled to run from 5-8 in front of the store on the second floor of BTR & C, the Grand Opening will feature a fashion show of coats made by Native artists, as well as a show of Christmas ornaments made by artists and their children.

ps: the above illustration is a new charcoal drawing by artist Monty Singer. If any artist is interested in showing their work on these pages, please feel free to send me images at

Posted in (Native) Arts Writing, Arts Writing, New Mexico Arts News