A couple of months ago, I had the privilege of spending time with Phyllis Waxlander Kapp in her amazing Canyon Road Gallery. She was such a delight and so inspiring that I had to write this piece about her. When you’re on Canyon Road, stop in and say hello. Tell her I sent you. At 83, she’s likely to out-walk and out-talk you, and she’s a testament to doing the thing you love in this life.
The Waxlander Gallery, sitting at 622 Canyon Road, is home to an eclectic mix of mediums that all have a definite feel to them. Tricky, right, to use the terms eclectic and definite in the same sentence? Two words that have such different meanings? But Phyllis Waxlander Kapp’s Gallery is an interesting mix of both. Founded in 1985 on Kapp’s’ 55th birthday, what was once the three rooms where Phyllis slept, cooked, painted and sold her art is now a gorgeous gallery, one of the largest on Santa Fe’s famed Canyon Road. A definitely eclectic mix of art and fun. And beauty.
Phyllis says Waxlander Gallery is the only piece of sculpture she ever created. In true Phyllis Waxlander Kapp, she turned a funky little one-room studio into a 15 room artistic space. She takes me on a tour and shows me where her first sales space stood next to the studio where she painted which stood next to the one room where she slept, cooked, and kept her few belongings. Waxlander was, at the time, one of only five galleries on Canyon Road. Over time that number has grown to 75 plus and Santa Fe is now considered the third largest art market in the United States.
“This was one tiny short door,” she says as we walk through an open arch into a room filled with brightly painted canvas. My eye is immediately drawn to the stylized longhorns thundering across Andree Hudson’s canvas. They’re not just the browns and blacks of my childhood. These cattle are bright and vibrant and call to me across the room. They’re a wash of unexpected colors and energy.
Color. That’s what strikes you when you wander through Waxlander Gallery. It’s fresh and reflective of the woman standing in front of me. She’s wearing what she called her “hippie chick” dress as she greeted me, an embroidered mass of twelve or fourteen difference hues. At 83, Phyllis Waxlander Kapp shows me around while she talks to art lovers who have wandered in off the street, pointing out a distinctive detail of a Christopher Owen Nelson wall hanging.
The reason color is so prevalent is because this is how Phyllis sees the world. The daughter of a Russian immigrant mother who arrived in the States divorced and knowing little English, Phyllis had several options for how she viewed life. She could have gone dark and dismal. But despite the fact that her mother was forced to work in a sweat shop before eventually opening a small grocery store in Chicago, Phyllis doesn’t see the world in black and white.
And neither should anyone else, she says. Her own landscapes are very distinctive, splashes of color formed into immensely popular and widely collected paintings that follow her very open, caring and enthusiastic heart.
Her advice to other artists? “Hear your own song. Be open. Find your own heart.”
For Phyllis, it’s a huge responsibility to represent artists. She chooses carefully, and is clear about what draws her to specific painters and sculptors like Chris Deverill and Paul Cunningham.
“Everyone has to get up in the morning and face the day. Everyone has to walk through their home and make choices about how they’re going to see the life before them. I choose artists whose works will make you smile, that will bring joy into your space and your life and your moments. Anyone can hang something dark and unhappy on their wall, but not me. I believe in beauty and joy.”
While we talk about her work and that of the artists shown at Waxlander, I use the word exuberant to describe the works in the gallery. She smiles and points a finger in the air. “Exactly.” Phyllis says, “The world I want to represent is exuberant and positive and joyful.”
Canyon Road has over 100 galleries, shops, boutiques and restaurants in less than a half mile. With a wide variety of choices when it comes to art and artists, how do you choose the one you want to visit first or the one you like best?
I think it’s simple. Choose the gallery that best embodies true beauty, hope and joyfulness.
Phyllis has worked hard doing the very thing she loves the most. Now, in addition to painting her beloved landscapes, she spends time furthering the careers of artists she believes in. When we visited a couple of months ago, the gallery represented 32 artists, all of whom in some way reflect the very happy, optimistic philosophy of Phyllis Waxlander Kapp.
In Phyllis’s words, “This life is a good place to be.” So is Waxlander Gallery. Thanks, Phyllis, for creating such a vibrant reminder that life is not only beautiful, it’s fabulous.