Exhibition El Zaguán Celia Owens: Puzzles

Courtesy photo

HSFF News:

Historic Santa Fe Foundation (HSFF) is hosting the Exhibition El Zaguán Celia Owens: Puzzles with works by HSFF’s El Zaguán resident artist Celia Owens.

The exhibition runs through Aug. 28 in HSFF’s El Zaguán sala at 545 Canyon Road, Suite 2 in Santa Fe. The exhibition is open by appointment only and online at historicsantafe.org soon. 


These small works seem to be the opposite of heroic monuments erected to commemorate public events, that are attracting so much controversy today. Instead of singling out one ‘winner’ and leaving out all the complications, ambiguity, discomforts, and multiple players, including the unintended ones, these paintings refer to the inherent risks, poignant efforts, lost and found predicaments in life. They are autobiographical, and an autobiography of life on earth. It is often hard to know what is right or wrong. There is nothing wrong, in spite of there being awkward relationships.

There is a hierarchy of the senses, and of sensory input. Therefore, the words on the frames of these small paintings are rendered less vivid, so that they will not dominate the image. The narrative of the image is conflated and confusing, so as not to dominate the puzzle patterns of the colors. In this way, disappointment and enchantment, danger and comfort, friend and foe are harmonizing in a delicate balance. The cheerful colors belie tales of tentative connections, and struggles.

The box forms of the substrate for the paintings emerge off the wall and impose themselves into our space. They beckon to be picked up and handled. The phrases, when we do focus on them, sometimes contain made up words, altered spelling, and enigmatic propositions that challenge, comfort and tickle us.

“I wanted to please myself, even amuse myself, in the way that Inuit art and Bill Traylor amuse me – seemingly simple, but embodied with insight into creature nature. I was absorbed by the necessity of tolerating uncertainty and contradiction, and how that is an aspect of peace-making – the paradox of struggle and affection, love and conflict. One cannot insist on blotting out essential elements, or favoring a single rendition of events, such as the Israeli-Palestininan conflict.”

The artist, Celia Owens, found herself mired in these paintings for a decade and a half. They would not be completed, nor would they let her abandon them. She felt she was having to become in order for them to be able to become. Finally, for this show at El Zaguán’s gallery at 545 Canyon Road, they have evolved to their present and surely final expression.


Celia Owens was born in Paducah, Kentucky, and grew up in the other Atomic City, Oak Ridge, Tenn. She began to paint seriously in Provincetown, MA in the mid 1970’s, then moved to New York City where she lived for most of 30 years. There she studied at the New York Studio School for Drawing, Painting and Sculpture. Later she took her BA at Hunter College, CUNY, in STORY: Narrative in Literature, Theatre and Visual Arts. She earned her MA in Peace and Conflict Studies in Istanbul, Turkey, at Hacetteppe University, where her thesis was about how ART can offer transformative experiences in negative peace, and conflict environments.

Celia’s relationship with New Mexico began in the late 1980s. She moved to Santa Fe in 1990, and became a hospice volunteer. She has also lived in Ojo Caliente, Tesuque, Abiquiu, and Galisteo. She is a Santa Fe Connects Navigator and Volunteer Coordinator at Coming Home Connection, and a caregiver at Casa Cielo End of Life Residence.

Celia has exhibited her paintings in Santa Fe, New York City, Louisville, KY, Rome, and in the Valle di Comino at Alvito, Sora, San Donato, and Atina. She has painted murals for The Body Shop International Corporate Headquarters in Littlehampton, England, Daruma Assets Management, NYC, and in schools and homes. She is available to collaborate in socially engaged art, and has designed interactive art experiences called Black Box Series.

The Artist Residency at El Zaguan on Canyon Road has been a blessed opportunity to complete the PUZZLE series, and to reconnect with other themes that have been brewing (to come). On Canyon Road, the building and grounds, the staff, the residents, and the community are among the most felicitous in what has already been and continues to be an unexpectedly gratifying and surprising life.  

Questions about the exhibition or setting up and appointment, email melanie@historicsantafe.org.


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