Love Affair Brings Artist Richard LaBelle To New Mexico

Artist Richard LaBelle in his El Rancho studio. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

El Rancho studio of artist Richard LaBelle. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

Los Alamos

A native of Wisconsin, Richard LaBelle spent more than 30 years teaching art in the public schools. A long-time love affair with New Mexico, and Santa Fe in particular, was his inspiration for a yearly pilgrimage to the region.

“Planning our annual summer trip to New Mexico kept us occupied during the long cold Wisconsin winters,” LaBelle said.

On those visits to the Southwest LaBelle and his partner, Al Miller, explored galleries and Pueblos, spent time with other artists, and always returned home with new artwork and new friends in the art world.

It was a natural progression that when they retired, they moved West. They found their ideal home nestled among the cottonwoods in El Rancho near the base of Black Mesa. Inspired by the stunning landscapes LaBelle is enjoying his second career as an artist.

“It also helps that I have an entire room dedicated as a studio,” LaBelle said. “I have been painting in oil since moving to Santa Fe five years ago. Working with oil is highly meditative, it puts me in a very relaxed state of mind, and time just disappears.”

LaBelle prefers oil to acrylic for two reasons. He is more of a traditionalist, and oil dries much more slowly, giving him more time to work the paint.

“I am never in a hurry when I paint,” he said.

LaBelle is one of 28 artists at 15 sites featured on the 25th Annual Pojoaque River Art Tour. The tour showcases a wide variety of quality art and craft by Native American, Hispanic and Anglo artists. The tour is offered 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 15-16. The route is designed to be completed in a single day.

Beautiful Rancho Jacona is the central artist exhibition area. It is the venue for the 25th Anniversary Celebration 5:30-8:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15.

The Pojoaque River Art Tour was created in 1992 by artists William Preston and Marianne Hornbuckle as a vehicle for exposure of artwork independent of the gallery system, and for creation of community among the artists and artisans living in the Pojoaque River Valley.

The business communities of both Los Alamos and Pojoaque have enthusiastically supported the tour with funding for the past 22 years. The tour’s proximity to Santa Fe and its compact nature appeal to the art-lover who has only one day to spend and is seeking a more adventuresome experience and personal contact with artists than the gallery tour scene.

A sampling of the work created by artist Richard LaBelle. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

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