I was back at the Rail Yards Market in the Barelas neighborhood of downtown Albuquerque. After picking out a dry pint of heirloom tomatoes, I let myself enjoy the sounds of a jazz band at the back of the hall. I entertained some light conversation with a few strangers milling about in the hopes that I would find my next subject.
Originally, I had sought a particular woman with an interesting veneer. I decided not to ask for her participation after sensing that we lacked a conversational je ne sais quoi. Moving away from her, I walked along the line up of stalls that happened to be on the same side of the hall that gave me lighting issues for stranger No.50 several weeks earlier. You can bet I wanted to make an image to get that chip off my shoulder.
I came to a stall with some framed-up chicken wire on which there was a display of colorful and whimsical artwork. There were also spray painted lengths of rustic wood on which some art pieces were hanging. I moved in closer to consider the art.
There I met Autumn, the creative artist, and the subject who became stranger 64/100. I was certain about asking her to participate and she agreed immediately.
“From one artist to another I would be honored to participate in your project.” That was a good start.
Autumn is a zero-waste consumer who doesn’t throw out anything if she can help it. Everything that she creates is made from upcycled materials that could go into recycling or the garbage landfill. Autumn has had some commercial success selling various sized flowers made from carefully slashed up aluminum cans. She sprays the petals with an assortment of weather resistant colors. Some are designed to hang on a wall. Others are strung up like enormous beads, and designed to be hung like a dangling mobile sort of whimsy.
While we were speaking, a collector of her flowers came to purchase a dangler. It was, in fact, the same one I liked best of the lot. In the forthcoming post, I include a candid moment from when this customer was considering some pieces and Autumn was freeing them from the display to be examined at closer range. The customer told me she already owns a few of Autumn’s flowers. They were purchased in a gallery in Madrid (say MAD-rid), which is a quirky art village on the Turquoise Trail leading to/from Santa Fe. Customer hung her earlier pieces outside in her backyard and was excited to add to her collection.
When the customer paid and moved along, Autumn and I continued to speak. She told me she earned a graduate degree in arts education from Indiana University. She moved out west and loves the community and climate here. She bought a rundown church in Tijeras, NM and named it, “The Church.” Though it’s been a lot of work, she has converted it to a fine and folk art gallery and event space in the East Mountains. Recently she listed it on airbnb. Autumn takes her passion for found art creativity to all ages, but lucky are the students at East Mountain High School where by day, she is their art teacher!
Autumn told me of some big projects in the works for the upcoming 13th annual OFFCenter Folk art Festival to be held on Sunday, September 13th in Robinson Park. This is the same location as where the Downtown Growers Market is set up on Saturdays. If I see her there, she will no longer be a stranger.
I made a handful of shots of Autumn using her artwork as the background. It was mostly intentional that I broke the portrait rule about not having items in the background stick out of one’s subject’s head. In the main image, I liked how it looked that Autumn was struck through the head with the arrow of her own artwork.
I asked her to begin with a serious face, but as soon as I would capture that expression, she couldn’t hold it. Autumn burst into an indomitable smile, like the one shown here. When I finished making my photos, she hugged me and was overjoyed. That’s the first for me since embarking on this journey!