FARMINGTON — More than 40 years ago, four women sat down inside the First Presbyterian Church and began to paint.

Together, they formed an art group that would shape the future of art in the Farmington area. They called the group the Loose Ladies Art Group, and the members became known as LLs.

Throughout the month of October, Three Rivers Art Center will feature the art of the LLs during its Retrospective Show.

New Mexico Arts, a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, as well as the National Endowment for the Arts and the Connie Gotsch Arts Foundation are sponsoring the show.

Trudy Farrell and  Pam Wilson hang art for the Retrospective show on Tuesday at the Farmington Civic Center.
Trudy Farrell and Pam Wilson hang art for the Retrospective show on Tuesday at the Farmington Civic Center. (Augusta Liddic/The Daily Times)

The art of current LLs will be displayed at the art center. Starting Oct. 11, "Reflections: 40 Years of LLs -- Fine Artists of the Four Corners," a book detailing the history of the LLs, will also be sold at the art center.

The early work of the LLs is displayed at the Farmington Civic Center, while newer art will be at the art center during the Fall Art Walk on Oct. 12.

The Retrospective Show highlights the four founding members -- Laurita Laughter, Ielene Benally, Ann Kinyon and Jane Clayton. A banquet to honor the LLs will be held on Saturday at the Civic Center.

The art center chose to feature the LLs because of all they've done for the community, said Lee Russell, who is heading the project.

"They've really changed the landscape of art in the Four Corners," Russell said.

The LLs brought juried shows, Riverfest and various other art events to the community. They also started art associations, such as the Northwest New Mexico Arts Council.

"They've been a real force for art," Russell said.

Currently, there are 30 women in the club who still paint. Nine former members have died, including three of the four founding members. Jane Clayton is the only surviving of the four founders.

Paintings by Jane Clayton, the last living founder of the Loose Ladies Art Group, is displayed at the Farmington Civic Center.
Paintings by Jane Clayton, the last living founder of the Loose Ladies Art Group, is displayed at the Farmington Civic Center. (Daily Time photo)

For the show, organizers found art by all of the founding members, expect Kinyon. Instead, a collage of pictures of Kinyon will be displayed.

Mimi Benally, Ielene Benally's daughter, helped hang some of the art Monday morning. She described her mother as a lover of arts. While Ielene Benally wasn't a professional painter, she enjoyed art and learned a lot from the other club members, her daughter said.

Marilyn Campbell joined the LLs soon after moving to Farmington in 1975, although she began drawing while living in California. Her pottery teacher introduced her to the LLs.

Like many of the other ladies, Campbell took many art classes at the college.

"I lived at the college for years," Campbell said.

In the 1980s, Campbell got together with other LLs, including Clayton, and opened Gallery 20 on 20th Street, where they acquired work from well-known artists.

At 88, Campbell can no longer paint as often, but she still meets with the other LLs about once a month.

"The LL members -- we became a family," she said.

The LLs received their names almost as a joke, Campbell said.

A teacher at the college once gave the ladies some advice during a class. As Campbell recalls, he instructed them to "loosen up," adding that art isn't a paint by numbers kit.

Art by Ielene Benally is seen at the Farmington Civic Center
Art by Ielene Benally is seen at the Farmington Civic Center (Daily Times photo)

"We laughed and said, 'You mean we should be loose ladies,'" Campbell said.

IF YOU GO

Retrospective Show:Show runs through Oct. 31 at the Farmington Civic Center, 200 W. Arrington St.

Banquet to honor the LLs: 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday, at the Farmington Civic Center, 200 W. Arrington St. Tickets are $25. For tickets, call 505-716-7660.

Art show reception: 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11, at the Three Rivers Art Center, 109 N. Allen Ave., Farmington.

Book: “Reflections: 40 Years of LLs — Fine Artists of the Four Corners” goes on sale on Oct. 11 at the Three Rivers Art Center during the fall Art Walk.

Hannah Grover covers news, arts and religion for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and hgrover@daily-times.com. Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.