Las Vegas NM Newspaper "The Optic"
Friday November 24, 2023
For the most part, they are the unseen, the ones who don’t appear in the chronicles of history. They are not front and center.
But they are the ones Las Vegas-based artist Lucy Finch finds fascinating: the resilient women of northeastern New Mexico.
“I want to celebrate the women who are doing amazing work and give them a chance to be seen and heard,” Finch said of her latest project, Rattlesnakes.
“I’m drawn to women who have lived full lives–ones rich with loves, losses, grief, joy, pain and everything in between,” Finch said. She’s particularly interested in mature women who have wisdom to share after surviving heartbreak, betrayal, medical issues, discrimination, and more. “Beauty exists in all ages and shines brightest in women who have found their way back to happiness after tragedy.”
Rattlesnakes is an ongoing series of soft pastel portraits of women born and raised in northeastern New Mexico. The series’ title was taken from an excerpt from a PBS Nature episode on the venomous snake: “Rattlesnakes have long struck terror in many people — the unfortunate result of this fear is that some people routinely kill any rattlesnake they encounter, even those that pose no threat.”
“I replaced the word ‘rattlesnake’ in the article with ‘strong women’ and voila, it read the same. It was an experiment to see if strong women have any relationship to how rattlesnakes are seen and managed in society, and they do,” Finch said.
“The women in the series are easy going until they’re stepped on and then they stand up for themselves and rattle,” Finch said adding, “and that’s when you need to take a step back.”
In the past year and a half Finch has completed seven paintings in the series and an eighth is almost finished. One painting takes approximately a month to complete. Each painting’s subject, including a retired police officer, an educator, a past town councilwoman, and animal welfare advocate, address the viewer with a confident, knowing gaze. In unflinching honesty, each shoulder-length portrait is bare, reflecting an inner strength unprejudiced by clothing or jewelry.
“To me one of the greatest gifts you can give another person is to take the time to see, hear, and understand them,” Finch said.
Finch plays upon the asymmetrical nature of the human face, painting a different emotion on each half, using the interaction of the two to create a more complete story of the person.
“I see someone who has survived difficult circumstances and tap into the women’s whole experience, and not just who they are today,” Finch said.
For Rattlesnakes Finch spends time with each woman, face to face in her studio studying their faces and expressions as they talk as she digs deep to explore their unique story. She paints as they talk and takes a few reference photos to use if the model can’t return for several days or weeks. Trained to work from observation and memory, Finch uses the photos to fill in the gaps but the primary work comes from painting with the model in person.
“I love doing this style of art because it forces me to slow down and see the world around me, appreciating the details,” Finch said. “To me, in a photograph, the camera has already done the work of compressing three dimensions into two. It can miss a lot of the details seen by the human eye.”
Finch said she hopes to complete three to five more paintings for the series and then exhibit them in Las Vegas with a large opening reception party to celebrate the women in the portraits.
“This project started with a desire to celebrate the strong women in this community, and I can’t think of a better way to do that than holding a show in town where the models’ friends and relatives have an opportunity to recognize the accomplishments of these women,” Finch said. “Many of the women I’ve painted think they haven’t done anything extraordinary, but I see them as resilient survivors who have done something incredibly challenging: they have held onto their ability to be kind and show compassion to their families and community through strikingly difficult times. Not everyone can do that.”
Finch’s work has been included in several exhibitions, including the New Mexico Painters’ Exhibition at New Mexico Highlands, the National Pastel Painting Exhibition in Taos, and at the Los Alamos Arts Council. Her artwork is online at www.mosstudiocr.com. Women born and raised in Las Vegas / Mora who are over 40 and are willing to pose for a portrait can contact Finch at firstname.lastname@example.org.