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Robert Drummond: Sense Column II, 2017, LED light interactive, acrylic diffuser tube, ultrasonic ping sensor, pi microprocessor

Robert Drummond: Sense Column II, 2017, LED light interactive, acrylic diffuser tube, ultrasonic ping sensor, pi microprocessor

Over time, the building at 203 Canyon Road has seen a lot of changes. In recent years, the address has served as the site for Crossroads Contemporary, Contemporary Southwest Galleries, and the Charles Azbell Gallery. Located at the corner of Canyon and Paseo de Peralta, it’s the first art space visitors pass along the “arts and crafts” road, and it has just received a makeover. The new gallery, OTA Contemporary, owned and operated by artist Kiyomi Baird, is built for new media, wired for multiple electronics, and installed with DMX lighting. Baird is hitting the ground running with a series of exhibits and events planned for the coming season.

“It’s been a big push just getting all the inspections done in time for our opening,” Baird told Pasatiempo. “We’re keeping the Territorial style but updating it, giving it a more modern look. My whole vision of the gallery that I want is to create a space where people from outside can come in and get connected to their inspiration, their passion, and grow. The artists that I show are on that same path.”

OTA Contemporary’s first exhibition, appropriately titled Beginnings, opens on Friday, May 12, and includes works by Robert Drummond, Bob Hill, Somers Randolph, and Baird. Drummond, a new-media artist, is showing two pieces that have their premiere in Beginnings, called Sense Column 1 and Sense Column 2. “We’re taking them down the first week in July, and they will go to a museum in Taiwan,” Baird said. Drummond’s works have light-diffusing acrylic tubes lit by LEDs, which respond to a visitor’s body temperature and use an ultrasonic ping sensor to detect movement in the gallery. Hill is a sculptor based in Connecticut and New Jersey who works in several mediums including steel, terra cotta, and bronze. The gallery is showing his large-scale works in stainless steel. The sculptures are reductive, flowing forms that express a sense of balance and harmony. Randolph, who is originally from the East Coast and now lives in Santa Fe, works in stone. Five of his large works, all carved from a single piece of Carrara marble, are arranged outside the gallery, which also has a courtyard that serves as a sculpture garden. Randolph’s sculptures are interrelated and can be arranged in a progression. The first stone is minimally worked and rectangular. Each of the others have more carving and the progression shows the emergence of an s-shaped form that is fully realized in the final sculpture. “This is a five-piece statement,” Baird said. “It’s the process of the student who enters college as a blank slate — tabula rasa — then slowly, over the years, he’s full of potential.”

In addition, Baird is including a series of her prints as well as her paintings. “I’m working on a series called Beginning Dream, and these are all digital works, because I don’t have a studio right now,” she said. “They’re still building it. But it’s from images taken from the construction site.” Baird takes the construction-site photographs and manipulates them into fluid, gestural abstractions. In her paintings, she explores texture and pattern, building up the paint. Her compositions draw on abstract shapes and forms from nature. She studied at Berlin’s Academy of Arts before returning to the U.S. and opening the first OTA gallery on Union Street in San Francisco. OTA is a Baird family name, but it is also an acronym for “organization for total art.” Eventually, Baird made her way to New York City, where she was involved in experimental and improvisational theater while continuing to paint. She arrived in Santa Fe with her husband last year after an extended trip to Japan. “We lived in Tokyo,” Baird, a third-generation Japanese American, said. “It was really shocking for me. I didn’t speak any Japanese. I look Japanese, so I can pass, but if I open my mouth, of course, it’s obvious. But I learn languages very quickly. I decided that instead of just hanging out with the Americans I was going to make Japanese friends and join Japanese clubs and eventually I learned the language. I was very fortunate because some of the people I met sort of adopted me and wanted to teach me.”

Her stay overseas influenced the direction of her work, in which she creates stylistic representations of the natural world using Japanese-influenced aesthetics. She employs circular forms in several paintings that resemble orbiting planets. The paintings have a tactile quality to the built-up surfaces, which, combined with muted colors, have an earthy feel but also imply a movement, perhaps from one state of being to another, with the suggestion of celestial spheres in transit. “The circle is a symbol for no ending and no beginning,” she said. “It’s forever. I’ve always been fascinated by infinity, since I was a child. When I was in college, I worked for a metallurgist, and I looked at a tiny speck of metal through the electron microscope that they used and it was like looking at a whole enormous world. I got so excited, and then my paintings started to become more about light and space. The infinite isn’t just outside. If you could go inside, there’s an enormous universe there you can keep discovering. For me, there is no ending.”

Light Guide Acrylic Rod

OTA Contemporary’s second show, Surfaces, opens in June and features works by Pasquale Cuppari and Wayne Charles Roth. Symbols opens in July with art from Carlos Frias and Raul Villarreal. The first in what Baird hopes will be a series of public discussions called “Conversations,” each one led by a different member of the community, takes place on May 24 with morning and evening sessions. The talk, by biofeedback clinician and psychotherapist Rikko Varjan, is called “Finding Your Muse.” At 3 p.m. on June 11, OTA hosts a Chocolate Slam in which participants are invited to give 30-second responses to the exhibit using words, music, and movement. Kakawa Chocolate House is providing the chocolate for the slam. These events are free but space is limited (reservations at The Conversations and other events are a way to connect with the local community and with professionals who are not necessarily artists but employ a measure of creativity in their work, something Baird seeks to help nurture. “I believe all humans have a creative part to them and that we all express it and use it in different ways. All humans are connected. If I can just touch some people through this art space and give them that opportunity, it might trigger new steps.”

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