The year was 1989. Gerladine Tso had just finished showing her artwork at Eight Northern, the art show for the eight pueblos north of Santa Fe.
She had a great time; it was her first art show, and she sold every piece of art she had on display.
It was also all the art she had.
“After it was over, I was loading the truck with my display racks,” Gerladine said, smiling, “and people kept approaching me for more of my work. I didn’t have any more, as I had sold out. It was then that I decided I’m having fun, enjoying myself and people are enjoying my work. I decided I can do this.”
Geraldine is a member of the Diné (Navajo) Nation, and was born in Gallup and raised in Standing Rock, New Mexico.
She took art classes in high school, but hadn’t considered herself an artist. She was working for the Bureau of Indian Affairs when she was 18, enrolled at UNM and earned a certificate in graphic design.
As her interest and skill in art grew, she went to the Institute of American Indian Arts for two years, and she said she got a lot of experience working with different materials.
“The thing about painting,” said Geraldine, “is I had to find the materials I was comfortable with. I started with oils, and learned what a heavy medium it is to work with versus watercolors, which is much softer textured.”
“I like to work with acrylic paint. I enjoy the focus of watercolors and the heaviness of oil.”
Geraldine’s dad and sisters are all architects, and while she chose a different path for herself, she too has a love of structures.
“I’d see my father and sisters staring at blueprints they were working on, and I’d try to imagine the finished product” she said.
The first time she visited Taos Pueblo, she was amazed by the Native buildings — in some cases five stories high — and was amazed by the interplay of shadows, light and especially the colors, like how the sun accented red in the structure’s walls. She fell in love.
Now her artwork is primarily Southwestern architecture and landscapes which she says, “emulate the natural earth tones of the Southwest.”
Interestingly enough, she had to leave New Mexico to realize how special it is.
“I was in Indianapolis as part of a group of seventy five artists from the Southwest that had been invited to the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art,” Geraldine told me, “and when I saw work by Joseph Sharp, I was extremely impressed.”
(Joseph Sharp is one of the founding members of the Taos Society of Artists.)
As Geraldine thought about the varied landscapes of places like Missouri and Texas she had traveled through to get to Indiana, she said she found a new appreciation for her home state and thought, “I really do live in a beautiful place. New Mexico is extremely special.”
Accolades & Success
Geraldine has shown her work in prestigious shows, including the SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market, the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market, Eiteljorg Indian Museum Art Market, and other shows around the country and Southwest.
Additionally, she has been judged, “Best of Show,” at the San Juan Bautista Art Show and the Parkview Fine Art Show in Aurora, Colorado, both of which were juried events.
Her paintings have been purchased by individuals worldwide at different art shows, as well as the Evening Snow Comes Gallery in Taos Pueblo.
In 2015, the Nativo Lodge in Albuquerque commissioned her to paint a mural now on display there.
She has been featured in magazines and books as well as being featured in the El Paso Museum of Art and the National Museum of the American Indian in New York City.
Sawmill Market, Albuquerque.
“The Sawmill Market has been absolutely wonderful for me and other Artists to showcase our work,” Geraldine told me, referencing Albuquerque’s newest Food Hall. “We are having an art show here in February, featuring jewelry, sculptures, pottery and clay work.”
We had met up in the morning at Sawmill Market, where dining is available outside on the patio, and there were people there enjoying the day.
I had to agree with Gerladine, Sawmill Market is pretty great and I want to spend some time here as well, and try a bite of everything.
NYC & The Smithsonian
Geraldine and I talked some more as we shared stories, discussing different things we’ve both seen, and our conversation took us to New York.
“There was a 2018 show at The Smithsonian I was there for,” she told me.
She decided she wanted to see Times Square, and as she stood there like so many before her, she took it all in; the people, the sights, the energy and humanity on display.
If you’ve ever been to Times Square, you know what she and I were talking about. It’s called the, “Crossroads of the World,” for a reason.
“I was standing there, taking it in. It was impressive, yes, and I’m glad I saw it,” she said.
She stood a while longer, absorbing the experience, until New Mexico intruded on her sight seeing.
“As impressive as it was, I thought to myself, ‘I’m grateful I live in New Mexico.’”