Aztec artist Taya Doro makes her home into a work of art

James Fenton The Daily Times
The Daily Times

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AZTEC — Armed with an adhesive gun, construction-grade glue and hundreds of boxes and shelves of supplies bought and collected over the years, artist Taya Doro aims to cover the walls of her east Aztec home.

Doro, 79, spent the better part of 2011 ornamenting the foyer walls and ceilings of the Aztec Theater, now home to Crash Music on Main Avenue in downtown Aztec. She rented the 8,000-square-foot historic theater as a studio space, but decided to move on at the end of 2011, leaving her artwork behind and opting for her current sunny, 7-acre home atop a mesa that overlooks U.S. Highway 550 and the Colorado mountains to the north.

"Buying this home, refinancing this place recently, has meant that it is mine, that I can call it mine, so that made me look at it differently," Doro said. "And now that it is colder, I can work inside for hours and hours."

Doro still ponders the possibility of returning to Aztec Theater to finish what she started, but she isn't sure.

"I think about it and think that is something I could do, would like to do," she said with a wry smile. "But I still have plenty going on around here to keep my hands in motion all the time."

With home ownership secured, Doro has started gluing, nailing, mounting and positioning thousands of items in mesmeric patterns throughout the walls and ceilings of the home she shares with her husband, Kurt Lohmeyer.

Layers of items -- wood fragments, tin cans, ornaments and jewelry, fasteners, clasps, sconces, discs, orbs, animal and religious figurines, abstract shapes affixed with glass beads, mirror fragments, miniature frames and hanging stars -- shimmer and sparkle like city lights.

"If you think about it, you won't do it," she said of her impulse to painstakingly assemble, create and then affix the objects.

Spanish artist Antonio Gaudi's mosaic walls, Egyptian hieroglyphics and the Byzantine interiors of Istanbul's Hagia Sophia mosque resound in Doro's work.

"I did some things when I was younger that you could see was the beginning of art, but it never occurred to me that I would be an artist, because I felt you were born an artist and I was always sorry I was not born an artist," she said. "But I was glad that I knew that I really could excel at something, but I no idea what that was. When I was younger I had no idea that was art. So I wandered through life for years knowing there was a genius out there that I couldn't find."

Doro now devotes herself full-time to her art.

Her studio is housed in a two-story outbuilding on her property, where she has many other projects, from restoring a 40-foot wall hanging made from steel wire and papier mâché to large-scale pen drawings on canvas, poster board and pottery.

Her paintings move from playful abstractions to the botanical and playful, on canvases layered up with beans, beads and other media she glues down before painting over them in bright colors evocative of the New Mexican landscape she chose after living in Oakland, Calif. There, she decorated the interior of a 1,500-square-foot home, which she has since sold.

Doro was born to a devout, lower-class Catholic family in Heemstede, a small town in the Netherlands. She made her way to the Bay Area, where she attended the San Francisco Art Institute and worked as a psychiatric nurse before moving to New Mexico a few years ago.

"Rather than be bored by doing nothing (at night while in nursing school), I would start simply, stringing macaroni, putting a bead in, and putting something else in between those, and then suddenly some people started to call me an artist, and I thought, 'So, what are you talking about?'" she said. "Well, I guess that made sense after a little while."

For now, Doro finds satisfaction with the creative process, especially "the wall stuff," as she calls her latest project.

"There are often insights -- Aha! Oh, man! Why didn't I see that before? -- I still have that experience, and I think, yeah, that's a great feeling," she said.

Though she had plans early in 2013 to organize a solo show of her body of work, today Doro is more interested in her current work.

"I don't make up my mind, I just put it on there," Doro said, admiring a freshly adorned hallway in her home. "Sometimes, I go around, and if I feel this corner needs something, I look around and see a spot where it just belongs. It's child's play. If I try to plan it out, organize it in a forced way, it could quickly be ruined. So I don't. Where is it coming from and where is it going to? Only God knows where I end up."

James Fenton covers Aztec and Bloomfield for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621 and Follow him @fentondt on Twitter.