Paul Rhymer, Rant and Skeptic, bronze, at Manitou Galleries on Canyon Road.

Santa Fe’s Gardens Different

The Sculpture Gardens of Canyon Road

written and photographed by Kathy Haq

With its myriad galleries and numerous eateries, Canyon Road is an appealing destination year-round. It is especially inviting from late spring to early fall when outdoor spaces rival indoor spaces for a visitor’s attention. This is the time when deciduous trees are leafed out and in full bloom, ornamental grasses are at their showiest and colorful perennials strut their stuff in mass plantings up and down the street. There are orange daylilies; yellow and red yarrow and blanket flowers; purple sage, lavender and phlox; white datura and Shasta daisies; and delicate pink and white wand flowers. As summer progresses, hollyhocks and sunflowers abound. It’s an ever-changing landscape, and the more often you visit the more you will see.

Nedra Matteucci Galleries, 1075 Paseo de Peralta

While not technically on Canyon Road, the sculpture garden behind Nedra Matteucci Galleries is a must-see starting point for those who wish to spend the day exploring the gallery gardens just a block away. The nearly one-acre site is surprisingly lush — quite literally an oasis — with an expansive lawn and a verdant collection of plants and trees around a well-fed pond. Dan Ostermiller’s Rearing Elephant is just one of the many sculptures you encounter as you walk the pond’s perimeter, and daylilies, roses and various blooming shrubs offer up splashes of color throughout.

This is the time when deciduous trees are leafed out and in full bloom, ornamental grasses are at their showiest and colorful perennials strut their stuff in mass plantings up and down the street.

La Mesa of Santa Fe, 225 Canyon Road

The colorful “blooms” that spring skyward around La Mesa are largely the imaginings of Minnesota-based artist Russ Vogt and New Mexico Master Blacksmith Christopher Thomson. Vogt’s work, which he characterizes as “reeds,” are vertical assemblages of colorfully painted ceramic beads that come in different groupings. Thomson’s steel home and garden sculptures include pieces from his aptly named Spiral Blooms series and his steel orbs inspired by chinlone, or cane ball, Myanmar’s national sport. The garden and side yards are cheery places where vividly painted artworks catch the eye.

Meyer Gallery, 225 Canyon Road

Step into the shaded courtyard at Meyer Gallery and find yourself enveloped in youthful wonderment. Be sure to look up as you pass beneath Learning Curve by Gary Lee Price so as not to miss the many book titles that he’s incorporated into this memorable arch. Just outside the courtyard, Big Appetite — another of Price’s works — features a young boy immersed in literature, oblivious to the merriment embodied in the sculpted youngsters behind him. Here in the cooling shadows of a pink Bradford pear tree, the children conceived by Price, Karl Jensen and L’Deane Trueblood evoke curiosity, love of nature, friendship, joy and peace.

A sculpture of an elephant next to a pond
Dan Ostermiller, "Rearing Elephant," bronze, at Nedra Matteucci Galleries
An entrance to a sculpture garden at Meyer Gallery
Meyer Gallery welcomes guests with "Learning Curve" by sculptor Gary Lee Price.

Manitou Galleries, 225 Canyon Road

When you climb down into the garden behind Manitou Galleries, you enter an urban woodland anchored by aspen trees and century-old cottonwoods covered in ivy. The garden’s many inhabitants range from historic figures to creatures that suggest peace, majesty, grace and whimsy, their character apparent in each work’s name. Two crow sculptures, Rant and Skeptic, by Paul Rhymer, and Robin Laws’ touching Just for Kids are but two examples. The expansive garden, at the corner of Paseo de Peralta and East Alameda Street, has many seating options that allow visitors to spend a bit more time in the quiet beauty of this setting.

McLarry Fine Art, 225 Canyon Road

A great blue heron, a fish and a turtle make up Tim Cherry’s River Mates, drawing visitors in to look more closely at the creatures surrounding the water feature in front of this gallery.  Cherry’s sleek mountain lion, Silent Shadow, seems ready to pounce from its perch above the shallow spillway, while the artist’s other animal-inspired works — Fish Hook, Rapid Rabbit, Otter Motion, High Jump and House Sitter — beg for closer inspection. Lavender, Russian sage and chamisa can be spotted here, and there is bench seating around the tree in the front courtyard.

Wiford Gallery, 403 Canyon Road

Now in its eighteenth year, the Wiford Gallery is home to what may be the largest installation of Lyman Whitaker Wind Sculptures in the world, according to Director Tim Wiford. So enchanting is this spinning, stainless steel forest that you might forget to train your eyes downward to the other works featured in this lovely garden space. Engaging bronze wildlife sculptures by Kent Ullberg, rock fountains by Ryan Steffens and rock furniture crafted by R.C. Albin can be found along the garden pathways amidst roses, lavender, Shasta daisies and blackberry vines.

Ventana Fine Art, 400 Canyon Road

At one time this, turn-of-the-century schoolhouse housed natural history and wildlife exhibits. Today animals of a different nature populate the neatly groomed grounds. Framed by Virginia creeper, Jim Agius’ merry Dancing Elephants greet you as you climb toward the front door. Elsewhere in the side yards, you encounter other works by Agius, Santa Fe artist Rebecca Tobey’s spiritual bronzes, Giuseppe Palumbo’s energetic beasts and Mark Yale Harris’ spare figurines. The one-story brick building opened in 1906 as the First Ward School and was closed in the 1920s with the resurgence of parochial schools in Santa Fe. It has since served as a theater, an apartment house and an art gallery, according to the Historic Santa Fe Foundation.

A sculpture of two elephants dancing
Jim Agius, "Dancing Elephants," bronze, at Ventana Fine Art
Kinetic sculptures in a southwestern garden
Wiford Gallery's sculpture garden

Mark White Fine Art, 409 Canyon Road

Many of Mark White’s kinetic wind and water sculptures carry floral-themed names like Blooming Lily, Dahlia, Poppy Bud and Rose, and they glint like overly large, colorful pinwheels dancing in the breeze. The sculptures are handmade in Santa Fe with stainless steel structural elements and copper blades. The gallery issues this “health warning” in its brochure: “Extended viewing may cause extreme relaxation and bouts of pleasant daydreaming.” A small fountain leads visitors to the back of the gallery where a tented area allows them to take in the colors out of the sun.

Carole LaRoche Gallery, 415 Canyon Road

Artist Allen Wynn’s comely Lady with Buckets invites you to visit the sculpture garden behind the Carole LaRoche Gallery. As you navigate the short, shaded pathway, you encounter the work of Madrid, New Mexico-based artist Jill Shwaiko, whose petroglyph-inspired sculptures of big horn sheep are featured around the property. The sparsely landscaped backyard provides a fitting backdrop for Bill Loyd’s Crow Ball, his Turtle Island totems and his footed steel torii arch with temple bell and mallet. Standing quietly at the center are Wynn’s Moon Sister and Moon Shaman. A luscious pink honeysuckle sits just to the left of the front gate.

Sage Creek Gallery, 421 Canyon Road

Artist Vala Ola’s dignified Chief Black Elk commands your attention from the west side of this gallery at Canyon Road and Delgado Street. In the front yard, where gravel has mostly replaced plantings as a water-saving measure, an American Indian aims his bow skyward in Lincoln Fox’s Heaven Bound. Nearby is Sweet Tooth, Walt Horton’s enchanting and detailed sculpture of a bear tearing apart a tree trunk to get at the honeycomb inside. Check out the bees! On the Delgado Street side, Horton’s homage to brotherhood, He Ain’t Heavy, can have you almost believing the one boy is picking his apple from what is actually a nearby hawthorn tree.

Kinetic sculptures by Mark White
Kinetic sculptures dazzle in the sunlight at Mark White Fine Art
Two brightly colored sculptures in a courtyard
Kevin Box's sculptures "Dancing Pony" and "Red Dress" greet guests at Kay Contemporary Art

Morning Star Gallery, 513 Canyon Road

The children scaling Jane A. Dedecker’s sculpture New Heights seem determined to make their way into the towering cottonwood that stands nearby. From the street, a flourishing hedge of silver lace vine on one side and Virginia creeper on the other guides visitors toward the stairwell that leads down to the front entrance of this sister to Nedra Matteucci Galleries. Here, two of Dan Ostermiller’s bears, Daydreamer and Jugar, laze in the small, homey yard while Hermon Atkins MacNeal’s The Solitary Chief keeps an eye on passers-by. Plantings include a crabapple tree, a quince tree and a cherry tree, as well as fernleaf tansy, yarrow, blue delphinium and orange daylilies.

The Longworth Gallery, 530 and 532 Canyon Road

New Age music beckons from the gallery as you enter the courtyard through imposing wooden entry gates. The gates are open, and the music is intended to soothe. Artist Monte Zufelt’s works Aleseum and Utopia flank the entrance to a small courtyard heavy with greenery. This is the setting for various gatherings throughout the year at a gallery that welcomes visitors to “the World of Metaphysical Realism.” In an introductory video, painter Charles Frizzell sums it up this way: “The uniqueness of this gallery is that we’re exploring things not as we see them but as we feel them.”

Kay Contemporary Art­­, 600 Canyon Road

A sign above the gate welcomes visitors into this intimate backyard garden, and welcoming it is. The first pieces you see are Kevin Box’s red Paper Dress and his yellow Dancing Pony. A covered porch leads into a traditional garden well-shaded by an apricot tree. There you see more of Box’s bronze and steel origami sculptures, such as Sway with Me and Nesting Pair. The outsized Blue Bird is a collaboration between Box and Dr. Robert J. Lang, who is recognized for bringing a mathematical approach to origami. From there, visitors pass under a vine-covered arbor, around an apple tree hedgerow and into a gravel courtyard peppered with more sculptures and bounded by more plantings and a hand-painted window.

A southwest garden agains an adobe wall.
Gilbert Romero, "The Fountain," outside of Winterowd Fine Art

Winterowd Fine Art, 701 Canyon Road

The sweep of flowers in front of Kay Contemporary Art’s sister gallery brings to mind a densely carpeted alpine meadow. The eye-catching mix of blanket flowers, Shasta daisies, daylilies and phlox attract sightseers as well as butterflies hungry to feed. A magnificent western tiger swallowtail and several painted lady butterflies recently were spotted here. The spiral Fountain by native Santa Fean Gilberto Romero is the latest addition to this garden and joins Romero’s other pieces, Sunrise, Repose and Ventana. An ample bench provides visitors with a place to rest and enjoy the color.

Globe Fine Art and On Canyon Road, 727 and 729 Canyon Road

In recent years the owners of these two galleries have partnered to establish one of the more seasonally colorful storefronts on Canyon Road. Gravity Defied by James Kelsey is the signature piece in front of Globe Fine Art and a popular stop for guests who want to photograph themselves in its reflection. The ringed garden areas are filled with the eye-popping shapes and colors of yarrow, purple coneflower, Karl Foerster grass, clematis, Mexican hat and the dramatic smoke tree, whose ethereal purple blooms inspired its name. On Canyon Road features a fountain at the entrance and benches that allow visitors to sit a spell and enjoy the view.

Kathy Haq
Contributor

Kathy Haq is a Master Gardener and a Santa Fe Botanical Garden member-volunteer. She has lived in Santa Fe nearly two decades, having fairly recently returned to New Mexico after living on the Southern California coast for many years. A former daily newspaper reporter with an MBA from the University of New Mexico, she is retired from the University of California.

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