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Baseball Hall of Famer Willie Mays once described his profession as, “They throw the ball, I hit it. They hit the ball, I catch it.”
Las Cruces artist Virginia Maria Romero has a similarly on-point explanation for what she does: “You start with a blank canvas. You create something. Somebody connects with that.”
Art lovers throughout New Mexico, across the country and around the world have connected with Romero’s uniquely beautiful paintings, retablos and public art, adding them to collections in homes, galleries, museums and nonprofits.
“It’s just exciting,” Romero said of the international reputation she has gained as an artist. “$100 or $10,000, any time I sell a piece of artwork, somehow, somebody gravitated to something I did and they want it,” she said. “That never gets old.”
Much of Romero’s art reflects her personal connection to nature and wildlife. She has a particular affinity for coyotes, who frequently show up in her artwork. Having looked one in the eye, Romero said she recognizes their right to co-exist.
Romero also paints bobcats, ravens, owls and other wild creatures.
“When I paint then, I try to paint not what I remember, their features,” she said, “but how they affected me. I’m painting the primal connection we share with everything on the planet. Animals are reflecting that color essence of the universe.”
You may also find turtles, Romero’s power animal, in some of her paintings.
If you see a drum in her artwork or a photograph she has taken, it likely represents for her the rhythm, the heartbeat, that connects humans to all creatures.
“They’re the same,” Romero said. “They have a heart too.”
The images that come to her in “dreams, visions and imagination” reflect “how I would like the things to be vs. how they are around some of the social issues like the environment and wildlife,” she said.
Romero has donated the use of some of her artwork to wildlife groups, including Project Coyote and the Northern Jaguar Coalition.
“I view my work helping make social change,” she said.
Romero shares her Las Cruces home with husband, Alfonso, and four cats.
The whole house is her studio, Romero said.
“I paint everywhere,” she said, “as long as I don’t disturb the cats.”
“I don’t live my art, my art lives me,” Romero said. It’s an expression … a reflection of my life.”
Romero’s art has been exhibited in a number of local venues and it part of the collection at Bill Hester Fine Art 613 gallery on Canyon Road in Santa Fe. She is at work on the 12-17 pieces of her art that will be part of an exhibition at Galleri Artsight In Stockholm, Sweden next May.
Romero is a native of Sheffield Lake, Ohio. She read about Santa Fe in National Geographic and lived there for 10 years before moving to Las Cruces with her husband more than 30 years ago. One of Romero’s hobbies is beadwork, making belts, hatbands, vests and fetish pouches as she did before taking up painting. It helps her to unwind, Romero said, and to meditate.
“Painting does the same thing for me,” she said. “I have no idea what my technique is. I start with color or a thought and it evolves into something. I just paint what I feel.”