Retrospective of works by artist K.K. Walling opens at San Juan College gallery

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — From the frigid, northernmost tip of North America to the sun-splashed Caribbean and numerous points in between, Farmington artist K.K. Walling has painted some of the most varied landscapes imaginable over the last seven decades.

This weekend, that lifetime of work will be brought together in one place as a Walling retrospective opens at the San Juan College Art Gallery. Walling said the show will feature approximately 65 pieces and includes work in various media, including watercolors, etchings, weavings, block prints, dyed silk and drawings, although the majority of the pieces were done in her preferred medium — oils.

The collection includes some of her earliest work, including one piece she completed when she was 9 and another one she did at age 11 that captured a first-place award at the Nebraska State Fair.

But the most interesting works from the retrospective are likely to be the ones she painted during her extended visits over the course of her career to an Inuit village above the Arctic Circle in Alaska, to the tropical climes of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas and even to the pastoral landscapes of rural New England.

Walling said a retrospective of her work is something she has wanted to put together for a long time. She was as eager as anyone to see many of the works, since the show consists of several pieces that were sold many years ago to private collectors, and she hasn't laid eyes on them since then.

"Blues in the Davis Mountains" by K.K. Walling is part of a retrospective of the artist's work going on display this weekend at the San Juan College art gallery.

One painting in particular, which Walling hadn't seen since she sold it more than a half century ago, took her by surprise, she said.

"When they brought it back, it wasn't like my memory said it was," she said. "They bought it the first time it was shown, so I hadn't seen it since 1968."

Walling has had a long and distinguished career not just as an artist, but as an art educator and professional. She once served as the coordinator of the very gallery where this show will take place, and she still serves as an adjunct member of the art faculty at the college.

"Terlingua Church" by K.K. Walling is part of a retrospective of the artist's work going on display this weekend at San Juan College.

After leaving her native Nebraska as a young woman, she studied art at Cottey College in Nevada, Missouri, later settling in the Four Corners area. But Walling said she never passed up an opportunity to learn how to improve her work, mixing art workshops with chances to set up her easel and paint in a plein air setting.

"It's just an important part of my life," she said. "There were always new places to go, new techniques and new mediums to learn."

An opening reception for Walling's retrospective takes place at 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7 at the gallery in the Henderson Fine Arts Center on the college campus, 4601 College Blvd. in Farmington. The show will remain on display through Oct. 28. Call 505-566-3464.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or Support local journalism with a digital subscription: