The vision of Tierra Mar Gallery, founded by Brenda and Glenn Renner, resonates now more than ever. “It’s about the experience of art,” says Glenn. “Especially after we’ve all been locked up for the pandemic, we believe the chance to interact with beauty and creativity in the physical world is still essential.”
The artists represented at Tierra Mar express this experiential philosophy in their work. The gallery invites collectors to explore spatial and tactile dimensions through an array of mediums and techniques.
“The art is unique, but also approachable,” says Brenda. “People want to touch everything.” At Tierra Mar, one feels the beauty of craft as an enriching part of real life. Elegant tables, chests and cabinets by artists Doug Jones and Joshua Tate are not only available for purchase, but also help create a furnished environment that helps visitors imagine having the art in their own homes.
For example, Ruben Marroquin’s vivid fiber sculpture weaves together diverse materials — from metal, yarn, silk and linen to bottles and bamboo — set in handmade frames. The results hypnotically draw the viewer into labyrinths of color and texture.
Another artist, named Keoni, reimagines what woodcarving can be, describing his work as “touchable illusion.” Keoni coaxes sugar maple into shapes usually associated with basketry and imprints them with mind-bogglingly complex designs that honor tribal and First People’s legends and imagery worldwide.
Passionate art collectors, the Renners are excited to champion artists and their work. Brenda purchased her first piece at age thirteen with her first paycheck, kicking off a lifelong love. “I went to art school, and what these people do is seriously hard,” she says. “I decided early on that I wanted to be the applause, to support artists I believe in.”
The couple met in Washington, D.C., some twenty-five years ago. Along with their impressive entrepreneurial careers, they have continued to cultivate their love for and knowledge of art. “It’s been a long-term goal and passion to be able to open a gallery together,” says Glenn.
But when the global pandemic arrived at their doorstep mere days before opening, the Renners needed to adapt quickly. “Our lease kicked in literally two weeks before the COVID-19 lockdown began,” recollects Brenda, “but we were way past the point of no return. Seventeen artists had sent us their work sixty days before. We needed to get over the blow rapidly and decide what to change about our model.”
Their initial strategy — cultivating in-person relationships based on the intense foot traffic Canyon Road usually enjoys — abruptly became impossible. Drawing on their business backgrounds, the Renners kept their cool and made incisive decisions with aplomb. They hired Tim Harman, a Santa Fe art scene veteran and former manager of creative direction for Meow Wolf, to help with digital outreach and programming.
Now, in addition to social media channels, remote visitors can experience Tierra Mar through virtual custom galleries and tours arranged upon request. Onsite, videos about each artist delve into concept, craft and studio tours, helping collectors form relations with the creators and their artwork as they tour the gallery. “Our goal is to use the digital to enhance the physical. We believe, at the end of the day, the experience of art is still a physical one.”
Tierra Mar’s multimedia gateways will also help younger collectors find their way to the gallery. “People in their thirties and forties are discovering art collecting — and Santa Fe!” says Brenda. “They’re ready to experience beauty back out in the world. I think it’s the role of any curator to help people find that joy in art.”
Why? “For the love of art and beauty!” she exclaims.
Santa Fe is the United States’ third-largest art market, but to Glenn, The City Different has a more personal significance. “I think my biggest draw to the place is that Brenda and I discovered it together. We love the uniqueness and diversity here. The community of Canyon Road is especially inclusive and supportive.”
With its doors open at Canyon Road’s 225 Complex, Tierra Mar Gallery invites and excites visitors, both in person and via their website. Tierra Mar makes it possible for both seasoned patrons and new collectors to experience the gallery scene in a new way. “There’s nothing else like this collection,” say the Renners. “Come see us!”
Tamara Johnson is a writer, educator and dancer living in Santa Fe. She grew up in New York and moved to New Mexico five years ago after a decade working in South America and Asia.