An art gallery is a place full of promise. Creative energy emanates from paintings, sculptures, ceramics, glassworks, and jewelry. The hopes and aspirations of each individual artist are brushed across canvases in alizarin crimson, cadmium, cobalt, chromium oxide, and raw sienna.
Taminah Gallery & Gift Shop in Pagosa Springs is such a place for me—at least it was. It is a soft-spoken place, much like its owner, Karen Cox, a tall, slender woman with short blonde hair, soft cerulean eyes that meet your gaze and a tender smile.
The blonde brick building sits in the shadow of the Liberty Theatre marquee and a railroad mural that hides a vacant lot. Its worn western façade is slightly tilted and missing some bricks. Four large phthalo turquoise tiles are gone. The sign above the door reads Taminah Gifts. One window announces that the place is a “Gallery of Fine Art and Distinctive Jewelry.” The other window proclaims “Custom Framing Center.” A vivid floral print flag waves near the door and reads OPEN.
The building was erected in 1895, and a black historic marker states that this is the oldest building in Pagosa Springs and has been home to a millinery shop, an automotive store, an ice cream parlor and even served as the Courthouse at one time. The location of the building was once the site of the barracks of old Fort Lewis. In the 1990s it was home to the Milton Lewis Gallery and in September 1999 became the home of Taminah Gallery. Taminah is a Shoshone word meaning forever spring. Karen Cox owned a gallery with the same name in Alta, Wyoming before returning to her hometown of Pagosa Springs.
For the past four years, business at the gallery has been a dichotomy: forty percent gallery, sixty percent custom framing. “The closest thing to a gallery we have in Pagosa Springs,” said nationally known artist Pierre Mion, whose original watercolor paintings of “Clear Creek Falls” and the “Commodore Mine” hang near the back of the shop. “A little bit of Santa Fe in Pagosa,” is how Sally Hameister, former director of the Pagosa Springs Chamber of Commerce, described it.
As I enter Taminah Gallery for the last time, I am aware of the gentle tinkling of a waterfall near the door, the smell of ylang ylang, patchouli and lavender, a plate of pink frosted sugar cookies and red cellophane wrapped chocolate candy greet me. I resist the temptation. A Rada CD plays in the background, her original piano compositions a cross between Rachmaninoff and Yanni. Most of the paintings are landscapes and western scenes by local artists. Elegant oil paintings by Carol Cooke of places I see every day. A small oil by Chama artist Avanna Lee Landwehr, “Ranch with Blue Barns” capturing the tranquility of a ranch on Highway 84 that will soon become a golf course surrounded by trophy homes. And a Claire Goldrick original oil painting immortalizes a fly-fisherman casting in the light of an October evening, somewhere along the San Juan River.
Gregory Hull captures the “Blanco Basin” and “East Fork Morning.” Pat Erickson’s work reflects intricately accurate prismacolor drawings of eagles, horses, cougars and hawks. Wayne Justus’ cowboy scenes, Randall Davis’ oil paintings of “Dyke General Store,” and a “Barn of Archuleta County,” and Celia Jones’ hunter hauling out an elk in “Packing Out,” are poignant in their contemplation of a lifestyle that is rapidly changing.
Dozens of local artists are now without a home, a place to display their work, a venue to reach their audience. “Sweep & Son,” a bronze sculpture by Celia Jones, will no longer have temporary shelter at Taminah Gallery. Randall Davis’ native warrior on horseback, “As the Crow Flies,” must now take flight.
“My mission has always been to share the tradition of artistic expression,” Cox said. “To help individuals give meaningful gifts to one another.”
The last day Taminah Gallery will be open is Saturday, February 26. Cox and her husband have sold the building to Galles Properties who will move their real estate office into the location at 414 Pagosa Street. “Last year was our best year,” Cox said. “Business is thriving. We are closing for personal reasons.” Cox wants to spend more time with her family and her elderly mother. I set aside a pair Anasazi potsherd earrings and a pendant with turquoise that I’ve had my eye on and a necklace by Brooklyn artist Andrea Lucille that I have coveted since before Christmas. All jewelry is 50% off beginning Thursday, February 10, and there will be special savings on art and accessories.
“I want to thank the community for all of their support,” Cox said, tears filling her eyes. She took a deep breath, composed herself. “And especially the Arts Council and all of the artists.”