Nicho for the Soul
Carol Anthony’s Sanctuario
Su Casa, Autumn 2006
Carol Anthony came to Santa Fe in 1991, drawn by a yearning to consolidate a lifetime of creative contemplation under one roof. Anthony wrote about the dream she intended to realize : “One day I will design and build a small casita / studio near the arroyo in my meadow nearby… The exit and the coyote gate from the kitchen door below will become the entrance and gateway to the cloistered herbed gardens and thatched sanctuary above. The light, the shadows, will join– and both will be a continuing dance and painting. My dog, my horse, my cat and the birds will be family and finally, we’ll all have a home.”
As Santa Fe Style has been increasingly reduced to a paint-by-the numbers formula, the simple, earthy charm that created it seems in danger of being lost in the shuffle. Anthony’s adobe santuario reconnects us with just this kind of southwestern gravitas. This modest little room, with a medieval thatched roof and unexpectedly organic curves flanked by thick straw bale walls evokes a remembrance that architecture springs from a need for comfort, security, and connection with a deep feeling of being at home. Despite its tiny proportions, it never fails to make a big impression. Sometimes less is truly more. Anthony’s little building is art.
The tiny turret is a sort of nicho for the soul. It’s embellished with just a simple altar and a chair. “I built my cloister with friends, some great humor, tequila, and, now and then – hugs, money, and some delicious ratatouille,” she laughs. “For me, straw and wind and sunshine all equal pure religion. The land, the sky and the feel of hard work and people working together with their hands and hearts all add up to that brand of life experience that nourishes the soul for years to come.”
Enclosed by those straw bale walls, the santuario and an adjacent 400 square foot casita, or guest house, is one part of her larger “cloister.” The little casita’s porch is ruffed by hardy aromatic plants like Artemisia, Russian sage, blue-mist spirea and potted pelargonium geraniums, while silver lace vines twirl up the posts. She’s planted a few trees here and there – always in pairs as an homage to her late sister. Bales of straw circled around a dusty fire pit create the effect of a welcome. “My cloister … is about communion, mud and. Straw’” she writes, her descriptions flowing with the cadence of poetry. ”A sense of place and time embraced where I feel soft, wild, and free. Where there is harmony with dream and land, animal spirit and stone, sage and quiet.”
Anthony created her sanctuary with a clear inspiration and purpose. “This cloistered garden is my version – and vision – of remembered inner courtyards and atriums of Italian Pompeian and Hurculeaneum villas…” she writes. “Energy and mystery play an integral part here.”
Carol Anthony has lived a life with many strands. An identical twin, she grew up with creative, cosmopolitan parents, and attended the Rhode Island School of Design on her way to being a successful and respected artist. Even before coming to New Mexico, articles and features about her career, her homes and her work appeared the New York Times, Art News, ARTS Magazine and dozens of others venues. The spirit of Anthony’s work has been compared to many predecessors including George Segal, Georgia O’Keefe, Rembrandt, Magritte, and her mentor, Milton Glaser. Her paintings and monotypes are found in numerous recognizable collections. Today, her work is represented by the Gerald Peters Gallery in Santa Fe and the Maxwell Davidson Gallery in New York.
But Anthony has more to offer than her skill at the easel. She lives in a state of artistic reverie that influences everything she does. Art has crossed into the realm of her existence.
Art is a conundrum, and much has been written in an attempt to capture the essence of just what art is. Most often, it requires a direct experience with something so authentic and undeniable as to cut through to the kind of knowingness that does not really require words and which impresses us with the understanding that all things have essence. Illuminating the sacredness of everyday moments is what carol Anthony has to offer to those of us who do not live in the dream-time she occupies. Anthony’s thoughtful acknowledgements of the profound in the ordinary have a kind of iconic power. It reminds us that art and architecture can evoke a sense of reverence for and connectedness to all the things around us.
The overall sense of the entire five acre compound is an experience of a soft, feminine shrine to the landscape, to a dialog with quietness and with all things earthy and organic. There is a Zen-like simplicity to Anthony’s lifestyle that is as pervasive and as easy to miss as the miracle of an egg or a mountain. Her casa / studio is simply a part of the land itself. Inside, one is enveloped in a womb-like den of textures, organically-shaped objects and warmth. Her paintings of eggs, pears, unopened envelopes, and dream-like landscapes convey a sense of surrender to nature.
Outside, up against her bedroom door, behind another straw bale wall, is an exuberant, Provence-style garden of rowdy lamb’s ears, lavender and lace vine which forms a link to the adjacent chapel she created in memory of her sister. Her studio space is softened by a simple, vine-shrouded ramada, where she sips champagne while dogs cluster at her feet. Beyond the walls, the pinyon and juniper remain in a quiet landscape, embellished only by the distant mountains, shadows and clouds. Anthony’s compound leaves visitors with the feeling that the landscape is enough, just as it is.