By Kelly Skeen. Photos: Linda Carfagno
Ventana Fine Art is a landmark on Canyon Road. The gallery opened in 1983 and is housed in a 107-year-old brick schoolhouse, setting it apart on a street with over 100 adobe galleries. Landscaped gardens surrounding the building are dotted with large bronze sculptures, and more often than not you’ll find a resident artist set up with easel and canvas taking advantage of this inviting outdoor studio.
The bronze bears, elk and buffalo in the gallery gardens are the work of Rebecca Tobey, a Santa Fe based artist who began showing at Ventana in 2006. From the street, her sculptures have a commanding yet elegant presence with beautifully blended patinas and graceful silhouettes. But as you walk into the gardens for a closer look, you find another layer of Rebecca’s artistic expression on her complex sculptural surfaces. Each sgraffito, which in Italian means, “scratched into the surface,” tells a deeper story beyond the sculpture itself. Some of the etched shapes or symbols are polished bronze for a striking contrast against the patina surface, while others are quiet mystical designs that echo the larger sculptural subject.
“For me, the animal is a vehicle,” explains Rebecca. “It’s a three-dimensional canvas on which I can tell an additional story.”
Rebecca’s body of work consists of tabletop and monumental bronze and ceramic sculptures, silver and gold jewelry, watercolor paintings and etched glassware. She began her art career alongside her late husband and renowned western sculptor Gene Tobey, who was known for his Raku pottery and primitive bronze sculptures. The two began collaborating in 1987; Rebecca brought bold and contemporary surface designs to Gene’s timeless, ancient animal forms, creating a unique stylistic contrast. They transitioned from Raku to ceramics, which quickly became Rebecca’s preferred medium as she discovered the excitement of painting on a three dimensional surface. Today, she continues to carry on her husband’s legacy but with new directions that are distinctly her own expression.
Rebecca translates her designs into a variety of mediums, which allows for never ending ways to describe the essence of an animated hummingbird, a howling coyote or a dancing bear. Her current focus is on ceramics; molded animal shapes are pared down to their suggested anatomical forms, and their painted surfaces tell a story through vivid sunsets, soothing landscapes, and mystical animal or human silhouettes. Bold colors, patterned glazes and shapely cutouts contribute to interesting compositions with a striking southwest flavor. Rebecca continues to make exciting new discoveries with the medium; in her recent work she applies airbrushed glazes to evoke the magic of a Santa Fe sunset, and uses actual medical scalpels for precise cutouts. Continued exploration keeps her work fresh and new, while building on consistent themes honors the distinct Tobey style.
Rebecca’s work can be found in extensive private and public art collections across the United States and internationally. Explore Ventana’s welcoming gallery space and sculpture gardens on Canyon Road to discover the complex symbols, vibrant personalities, and playful joy of Rebecca Tobey’s sculptures.
Ventana Fine Art | 400 Canyon Rd. | 505.983.8815 | VentanaFineArt.com