Text for Vol. 116, no. 1 (Spring 2011)

              58 E l P a l a c i o
A Passionate Light
The Polaroids of H. Joe Waldrum
By mary anne redding
On Exhibit
There is a beautiful place in the United States of America. It
is in northern New Mexico between two mountain ranges.
This place is called “The Cradle.” Its people, the land, and
its elements are special and peculiar. I find the genius of this
place reflected in the churches. . . . [However,] My paintings
of the Churches of northern New Mexico have nothing to do
with my religious convictions. The churches were there, they
made wonderful shadows, and they represent the collective
aspirations of a devout and wonderful group of people.
  —H. Joe Waldrum (1934–2003)
H. Joe Waldrum’s breakthrough decision to focus on the sacred
adobe structures of the high desert was the critical turning
point in his artwork. For Waldrum, a painter and clas-sically
trained musician, the adobe churches were a tangible
representation of the spiritual beliefs of the Hispanic people of
New Mexico. Each church was the focus of a community’s deep
faith and a part of their everyday lives. He wrote: “The people of
this area have focused their collective thought on their churches.
As an artist it is my job to distill that focus until it communicates.”
Waldrum became obsessed with the churches, their windows
and doors, soft angles, and the play of light and shadow across
rough adobe walls. He abstracted surfaces into bold compositions
that swell with pulsating color. He used ground mineral pigments
in a clear acrylic binder, often adding metallic powders that
infused his canvases with an unearthly luminosity. His method
of adding color brushed on in layers of contrasting hues and his
propensity for leaving the thinnest of outlines of the under-colors
at the edges of his massive shapes electrified his compositions.
His abstract studies of windows testify to the influence of his
contemporary, New York artist Mark Rothko. The paintings of
these two artists share a metaphysical resonance.
By the early 1970s, when Waldrum began painting in New
Mexico, Saint Francis of Assisi Mission Church at Ranchos de
Taos and many other adobe churches in northern New Mexico
Harold Joe Waldrum. Photograph by Herbert Lotz.
Courtesy Palace of the Governors Photo Archives
(NMHM/DCA), Neg. No. HP.2008.26.               

Vol. 116, no. 1 (Spring 2011)

70 total pages