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FARMINGTON — Way back in 2005, owner Bev Taylor of the Artifacts Gallery staged a Christmas-themed show that involved toys. Taylor likes to encourage the artists who take part in her shows to think freely, so participants were free to interpret the exhibition's title of "The Secret Life of Toys" however they wished.

But there was one rule they were asked to follow. In addition to the work they submitted, the participating artists were asked to bring the first childhood toy or gift they had been given and provide an explanation of its significance.

Taylor was delighted with how the show turned out — so much that she compiled a book documenting it. And with 11 years having passed since she mounted that exhibition, Taylor figures it was time to revisit that subject this year. So the gallery at 302 E. Main St. will play host to the “Toy Stories” show this weekend as part of the holiday art walk that will include numerous galleries throughout downtown.

"The toy didn’t have to relate to their artwork, but they did have to tell a story," Taylor said, recalling how that first show unfolded. "So I took pictures and made a book. That made me think about doing something similar this year."

The most memorable toy that year accompanied the work of watercolor artist Dwight Lawing, Taylor said. It was a teddy bear he had received when he was just a child in 1934 and was almost three-quarters of a century old then.

Taylor was overwhelmed at what a success the idea was and how meaningful the gifts still were to their recipients. One artist brought a 1962 Barbie doll, while another submitted a German-made hand puppet that had been made in 1952. Bev Taylor’s husband, Tom, even submitted his beloved stuffed elephant that he had chewed the ear off of when he was child.

"And my son had a truck that’s been through the war, it was played with so hard," she said, laughing.

Taylor said she gets excited to see how artists interpret her ideas for every show, but she can’t be blamed for being a little more excited about this one.

"Some people interpret it literally, and some go out on a limb," she said. "I’m always for that going out on a limb thing. But maybe I shouldn’t say that, because sometimes the obvious interpretation can be safe and beautiful. … I’m willing to see it all."

Much of the art featured in the art walk is likely to reflect a holiday theme. Sue Johnson, president of the nonprofit Three Rivers Art Center at 123 W. Main St., said the gallery will feature the work of its members during the event, with a new collection of stained-glass pieces by Kay Duncan serving as the highlight.

"We’ll have quite a bit of new jewelry and plenty of new pottery," she said. "We’ll also have pencil drawings by Erin Gilligan."

Naturally, the gallery also will have a Christmas tree with new handmade ornaments designed by members.

At the Wal-Art Gallery, 422 W. Main St., wearable art by Farmington’s Terry Munter will be featured. Munter's elaborate, hand-crafted pieces are designed to be worn on the wrist, and they have been known to include up to 150 elements that she has salvaged from a variety of sources.

Munter labors over her work, spending up to 25 hours on each piece, and she prides herself on their durability and whimsical nature. Some even have moving parts, and she occasionally does commissioned pieces for clients that are designed to evoke memories and emotions.

Also showing his work at Wal-Art will be ceramics artist John Bintz. Wines of the San Juan will be hand with a sampling of its products.

At Studio 116, the work of Andrea Landon, Crystal Hazen and owners Patrick Hazen and Karen Ellsbury will be featured. Ellsbury said the focus will be on gifts that cost less than $100.

"We’re asking people to shop small," she said, noting the art walk’s connection with the annual nationwide Small Business Saturday event that focuses on locally owned businesses. "We’re keeping it kind of simple."

Patrick Hazen’s landscape photography features many of the region’s better-known landmarks, and he will have a handful of new work that focuses on the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness area and fall colors, Ellsbury said.

Crystal Hazen, Patrick’s sister, produces colorful, three-dimensional pop art that runs the gamut from a Pac-Man-inspired piece and papier-maché dolls to colorful hot air balloons.

Ellsbury herself has produced new small paintings of aspen groves, as well as hand-crafted journals, day planners and, her specialty, boxes.

The acrylic paintings of Landon, Ellsbury’s assistant at the gallery, will reflect Landon’s fondness for wildlife.

"Andrea is an animal lover, and you can really tell in her artwork," Ellsbury said.

Landon, a board member for the San Juan Animal League, said she took up painting in a serious way only last year.

"I painted in high school and college, and then life took over," she said.

Landson said she was inspired to return to painting when she began working for Ellsbury at the gallery and started spending her days around creative people. She also was influenced strongly by her mother, a Montana oil painter well known for her realist portrayals of landscapes and wildlife.

"My heart is certainly with animal culture," she said. "And I’ve found I can extend that through my artwork."

Landon herself has three dogs, all rescued from local shelters, and one of her paintings produced for this show relies on one of them for a subject, a Chihuahua mix.

But Ellsbury’s favorite Landon piece is a painting called "Anticipation" of a deer rubbing its new antlers in the brush.

"I call him my happy buck," Landon said.

Ellsbury considers Landon an integral part of what has made her gallery a success and said she was pleased to see her assistant exploring her creative side.

"Her art reflects how fun she is," she said.

Landon worried that her work, which she said rarely takes a realist approach, would not go over well locally, but she said she’s been pleasantly surprised at how open minded people have been toward her paintings.

“I just enjoy it so much,” she said. “It really keeps me grounded, that a person can express herself this way."

Maps featuring all the venues participating in the art walk can be picked up at any of the venues.

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

If you go

What: Holiday art walk in conjunction with Small Business Saturday

When: 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26

Where: Several galleries in downtown Farmington

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