Alazan

Alazan artist Anne Spier (left) shows a visitor one of her pieces at a past Desert Lights art show at the 150 Sunset event center.

For the first time in their nine years as a creative team, the Alazan Artists will have a nearly month-long exhibit at the International Museum of Art. Their exhibit opens with a reception this Saturday, Oct. 7 at 1 p.m.

“Our art is going to be everything from black and white to more contemporary to impressionism to realism,” Alazan member Margaret Heath said. “It’s unusual for us to be able to continue as the years go by even though we don’t physically paint together. We are still a cohesive, congenial group.”

The group’s name was inspired by an excursion they embarked on more than 10 years ago to a friend’s ranch near the Alazan Hills by Big Bend National Park. There, they took workshops with longtime artist Nina Cobb. The awe-inspiring scenic backdrop and fun conversations led to their official formation, and they’ve been having exhibits practically ever since.

For some members, art was always an interest of theirs, but it was the inception of the group that led them to foster their talents and let them come to fruition.

“Everybody had that smoldering goal – that spark, that love,” Heath said. “And so everybody was careful not to ever let that extinguish.”

Their artistic pursuits inspired younger family members, proving that you can begin a creative journey later in life. For Heath’s husband, Wiley, it was a matter of reinvigorating a talent that was always there.

“I’m very proud of him for being able to do this,” Heath said about her husband, a longtime veterinarian who owns Americas Animal Clinic. “When he was in college, he took an art 101 at Texas Tech, and his professor tried to get him to change his major to art because he saw such talent.”

Perhaps inspired by his line of work, Wiley’s paintings are often of animals.

“Two years ago, he did a jack rabbit, and it had glass over it since it was a pastel,” Heath said. “When he took it down to let the person who purchased it take it, it had little finger prints all over the rabbit. People had reached over to touch it because they thought it would be soft. I said, ‘Do you realize what a compliment this is?’”

Margaret’s paintings are often of tranquil yet vibrant scenes inspired by places she’s visited.

The Heaths have had much support from their family – not only through their attendance of the art shows, but most recently with the contribution of their granddaughter’s talents. Along with her friends, the 14-year-old formed the The Young El Paso String Ensemble and will perform at Saturday’s opening reception. They will play a combination of classic and contemporary pieces.

“I think I’m more excited about that than anything,” Heath said enthusiastically.

The backgrounds of her fellow Alazan members are diverse, ranging from school administrators to nurses. For them, forming Alazan and selling their work at their exhibits has instilled a confidence in them that keeps them going.

“The experience of working with other artists and then the experience of actually realizing that what’s in your heart, your mind and your soul can be trained – that makes a big difference,” Heath said.

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