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FARMINGTON — From the first year she and her friend and fellow artist Beth McClure organized what would become an annual art sale and studio tour on Crouch Mesa, Sarah Teofanov could see they were on to something.

“It made me realize how much people like seeing art made,” Teofanov said last week as she prepared for visitors in anticipation of this year’s event, which takes place at her studio. “You don’t get to see at (a normal) opening.”

Even so, Teofanov never dreamed the sale and tour would turn into something with such lasting appeal, as it is now in its 14th year.

“No, absolutely not,” she said. “It took a really different flavor when (local artists) Liz (Stannard) and Janet (Burns) got involved (several years ago). It opened it up tremendously.”

The marketing efforts of those two led the event to blossom, as it eventually included four studios. Neither Stannard nor Burns is taking part this year. Teofanov’s studio is the only one involved, but that shouldn’t be construed as a sign that the popularity of the event is flagging. Such fluctuations are normal, Teofanov said.

“It seems like it keeps evolving and keeps evolving and keeps changing,” she said. “Each year has not been like the year before.”

This year’s event will feature the work of six artists, all of whom will be present to speak with visitors and discuss their work. The list includes Teofanov with mixed-media work, McClure with gourds and mixed media, Lou Mancel with jewelry, Bev Todd with pottery, Janet Grenawalt with mosaics and mixed media, and Tory Teofanov with paintings.

Sarah Teofanov said she and McClure developed the idea for the tour one year after taking part in one of the many holiday craft fairs that are held in the Farmington area this time of year. Both felt an event dedicated solely to a handful of local artists set up in a studio environment would be much more successful.

“We met at a big art show at the (Farmington) Museum,” McClure said, recalling the birth of their friendship.

Both artists were new in town — McClure, a Los Angeles native, had just moved here from Las Vegas, Nev., and Teofanova had come here from Seattle — and were having trouble navigating the local arts scene. McClure was happy to hear her name announced as the winner of an honorable mention citation in that show at the Farmington Museum, and as her new friend Teofanov was congratulating her, they were both thrilled to hear the latter’s name called out as the Best of Show winner.

“She almost feel off her chair,” McClure said, laughing.

The two not only enjoyed each other’s company, they responded to each other’s work, she said.

“Her piece just stopped you in your tracks,” McClure said of the striking, large-scale work Teofanov entered in that show. “We both walked around that show (looking at the work of the other artists), and we clicked a little bit. Then we double clicked because we were both not native New Mexicans.”

McClure was as surprised as anybody when the first studio tour they organized brought out a good crowd of art lovers and buyers. She credits the event for helping establish her reputation in the local art community.

“People were starting to meet and greet me as I was setting my art out,” she said of that inaugural experience. “I became known pretty quickly.”

McClure will be showing two pieces that earned second-place recognition in the past two years at the New Mexico State Fair in Albuquerque. The first is “Sister Take My Hand,” a three-dimensional multi-media piece that is based on her relationship with her sister Katie, an Aztec city commissioner. The second is “El Conquistador,” an embellished skull done in a Spanish Colonial style.

McClure said the piece took on a life of its own.

“I used a lot of recycled metal and tin, and a lot of painting,” she said. “I just kept adding these pieces, and as I did, it just wound up looking very Spanish. I didn’t have that in mind at all. It just kind of evolved.”

Sometimes, that happens with her work, she said.
“It’s 50/50,” she said. “Some of my stuff is very calculated. I do sketches, like an outline. And 50 percent of the time, it works out, and the other 50 percent, I’ll take a different path. … That’s kind of cool. I like it when it does that.”

McClure said Teofanov often works in the same way, and she speculated that that may be why the two have established a bond.

“When I met Sarah, she was doing a lot of paintings, and she has switched over to 3D,” McClure said. “A lot of the work she does is like an altar. It has its own meaning to it. They’re more like tributes, but not in a religious way. Her stuff is hard to explain, but it’s unique and different.”

Teofanov was more eager to talk about the art of her son, who will be taking part in the show, than her own work. Tory Tefanov spent much of 2015 struggling with an illness, but recovered in time to join the list of that year’s artists. He’s back this year feeling even better.

“It’s been affirming watching him go through the process of putting himself on the line,” Sarah said. “He did it last year when he came in after dialysis. This year, he’s got all this energy, and he’s doing really well.”

That energy appears to be contagious. Sarah said her recent work has been characterized by the use of a great deal of new color and technique, as well as found objects.

“My work is much lighter and brighter, and I think that’s because things have gone well with my son,” she said.

Teofanov said the first day of the annual event is usually the busier day of the two, but McClure said that doesn’t mean Sunday is a bust.

“There have been years when we’ve been absolutely standing on top of each other on Saturdays, with 60 to 130 people,” she said. “It’s less on Sunday, but a lot of people come back for a second time.”

Teofanov said she’s learned better than to worry about attendance because so much of it depends on things she can’t control. She recalled one year recently when a snowstorm hit on Saturday morning, and she feared no one would show up. But as soon as the tour opened that day, her parking lot was full.

Those surprises are part of what makes the event special, she said, along with the changing nature of the work that is featured.

“It’s a gift you offer to the universe ... and see who shows up,” she said. “The art itself keeps changing, and people show up with their different stuff, and that’s really neat.”

Mike Easterling is the A&E editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.

If you go

What: Annual Crouch Mesa art sale and studio tour

When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5 and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6

Where: Sarah Teofanov’s studio, 30 Road 3773 on Crouch Mesa

For more information: Call 505-860-6996

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