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Harold Joe Waldrum

(1934 - 2003)
One of many colorful characters in the long history of art in New Mexico, Harold Joe Waldrum was a native of Savoy, TX. His first love was music and he earned a bachelor’s degree in that field from Western State College in Gunnison, CO. He taught high school band and art classes in Kansas, but decided to return to school to pursue the visual arts and earned his masters in fine art from Fort Hays State College in 1970.

Drawing his inspiration from vanguard mid-century American art, Waldrum initially pursued an aggressively abstract approach in his painting. He relocated to New Mexico in the early 1970s, living in the Santa Fe and Taos areas. A 1974 shootout with a gang of criminals who invaded his studio resulted in the death of one of the invaders and Waldrum’s studio being burned to the ground. Waldrum fled for New York and spent several years shuttling between New York and Taos.

He began shooting reference photos of historic New Mexico churches in the late 1970s, using a Polaroid SX-70 instant film camera. These small photos— 3 1/8 inches square—and their vibrant colors were to influence the direction of his work from that point forward.

By the early 1980s Waldrum had developed his signature style: Views of northern New Mexico adobe churches and chapels in a square format, reductive in composition but frequently lush in carefully layered color. Some of his paintings were close-up views of buttresses and windows that verged on geometric abstraction.

Regardless of the size, the square format endured, including Waldrum’s forays into graphic media. He was a prolific printmaker, working primarily with etching, aquatint and linocut.

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