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MANDRAKE FINE ART & BOTANICA GALLERY

Mandrake Gallery grand opening fetes Poncé work

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On Feb. 8, two grand opening events in the same building welcome guests to browse and see some strange, beautiful and curing sites in central Las Cruces.

The Mandrake Fine Art & Botanica Gallery and Electric Sun Tattoo Studio are showing off what they have to offer from 3 to 8 p.m. at 501 E. Hadley Ave. in Las Cruces.

Well known in Las Cruces, herbalist Trisha McCaul and artist Michael Poncé have collaborated on the gallery side of the building.

“We have art and antiques in this space,” McCaul said. “For the opening show, we’ll be featuring 20 years of Michael’s work.”

Poncé said he has had the space for about 12 years and feels like the area is ready for the enterprise. The gallery, he said, is a place not only containing art, but also a place where people can learn about art, culture and other, more esoteric things.

The gallery space reflects the couple’s lives at home, Michael said.

“This is what our house looks like,” Poncé said. “We collect art, so this is just an extension of what we like. We both have very old professions – art and herbs.”

Poncé studied in New York, and while the paintings on display in the gallery are his own, plans for future exhibits include other area artists, as well as bringing in work from other places. He maintains close contacts with fellow alumni from the New York Academy of Art and the New York Studio School.

“I lived in New York City for 20 years and maintain a strong connection with the art community there,” he said.

Poncé’s oil painting work has a traditional feel to it, harking back to the old masters.

“It’s just reading and writing,” he said. “You want to write really well, hone your craft for people to understand you. It’s the same with my paintings, they are very subtle messages. Sometimes I play with the composition to make it a little bit eerie or dark.”

But Poncé doesn’t always paint in that traditional style. He has put his hand to more contemporary pieces as well.

“The problem I have is you want to stick true to yourself, but you want to be edgy, too, like contemporary styles of art, as well like graffiti artists, outside artists,” he said.

The gallery has plenty of nooks and crannies and surprises in the corners. It also contains striking collections of artwork and furniture. On one shelving unit is a group of small and strange sculptures, old artifacts.

“Some of these pieces are centuries old,” Poncé said. “These represent Christianity, Buddha, Mexican god. They are all different, but they go really well together. All these things were discarded at one time, and I always wonder who made it and I just find that the pieces really interest me.”

McCaul has a room in the gallery where her trade is represented, and she has her herbal products and some esoteric supplies available for sale like Tarot cards and Roses of Jericho. She has been studying herbalism for 12 years and started her company, Mother McCaul’s, in 2007.

“I do salves here on this table – topicals and aroma therapy products,” she said. “I have plans to do more: candles and Tarot decks and botanical incense.”

McCaul identifies herself as “an ingredient snob,” using organic or wild harvested ingredients, often harvesting native plants from the desert and mountains herself. Her most popular product is a joint/muscle balm, which she blends from multiple ingredients, including the medicine aspirin was originally derived from. “Meta sweet and white willow bark and a bunch of different anti-inflammatories  are in it,” she said.

Mandrake Gallery open hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays.

Elva K. Österreich may be reached at elva@lascrucesbulletin.com.