By Kelly Koepke
For artist Cassandra Gordon-Harris, the Land of Enchantment has become the Land of Entrapment. In a good way. She lived in the Sedillo Hill area for 16 years during the 1980s and early 1990s. Family affairs took her away until 2007, when she joined the long list of members of the “leave and come back” club.
“I’ve always loved New Mexico,” says the striking, flame-haired woman, whose homestead outside Edgewood now includes two standard poodles, her husband, and her studio.
Gordon-Harris’ compositions defy categorization. They are neither abstract, though she has done some abstract paintings, nor are they representational. She calls them whimsical. They are full of light and raw feeling, with a boldness that appeals to the eye and the mind. “I paint mostly women, but I don’t paint women per se. I paint women when they go to a place where men can’t go. It’s a concept of emotion.”
An advocate for arts education, Gordon-Harris has taught art classes and held art camps where children can explore techniques, materials, and their own burgeoning talent. She knows how valuable it is to nurture young people’s abilities, because she was actively discouraged from drawing or painting when she was a child.
“I was beaten when I drew because art, according to my family, was ‘bad karma,’” she says, of her pre-adolescent years in New Orleans before her family moved to Ecuador. When she left Ecuador to study art in college in Switzerland, she was told she had no talent because she could not copy the techniques of the teachers.
“I would take the assignment and do my own version of it. I guess you’d call me a free spirit,” she says. That same unconventional spirit took her on an 18-month cruise around the world in a concrete sailboat after college in the late 1960s. During this time she began sketching and drawing what she saw around her. But she would not make painting and sketching her focus for many years after that.
I paint women when they go to a place where men can’t go. It’s a concept of emotion.”
She began concentrating on painting after she got married in 1979. “Now I paint for myself, and do fun drawings like chickens with robot legs. It’s part of a book for children. Drawing and even coloring have been proven to create new neural connections in the brain, which is why it is so vital for children to be creative in this way,” she says.
Perhaps this creativity is what keeps Gordon-Harris vital, too. Or perhaps it is her artistic success, which includes too many awards, juried shows, and accolades to list. Or perhaps it is the gumption that saw her become the first female drive time disc jockey on New Orleans radio in the mid-1970s. Or perhaps it was the work teaching art to underserved children and incarcerated adults in Florida, where she lived for 10 years prior to returning to New Mexico.
Whatever the cause of her radiating energy and vitality, Gordon-Harris continues to create her own unique style of paintings, sketches, and drawings, offering her pieces through galleries and shows around the country. As part of the Mirca Art Group, a 78-member art collective, she has contributed to the book “Freedom and Art” that will be published in September.
Gordon-Harris is also a member of the National Association of Women Artists, the oldest and most prestigious artist organizations for women, and has been listed in Who’s Who of American Women as an art curator and educator since 2001.
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