Diana Bryer - Artist
A cozy little red trailer with intricately painted window frames serves as Diana Bryer’s studio behind her home in Chimayo. Every inch of it has been hand-painted with bright yellow, blue, and red, adorned with animals, swirls, and flowers. Bryer calls it her Gypsy Caravan. “It’s a work in progress,” she laughs as she shows off the little painted cats and stars set on the light blue door frame. “It’ll always be at this rate.” Evolving pieces are often the most beautiful. Even the back of the trailer is painted with false windows, though Bryer doubts anyone will ever wander behind it.
The Gypsy Caravan is the perfect face for the works held within. She has a variety of prints and original paintings inside, as well as jewelry, magnets, posters, cards, and a small collection of antique Spanish dolls for sale. She explains that she used to run an antique business in California with her first husband, some leftovers and echoes of that decorating her studio as well as her home.
Bryer first came to New Mexico when she met an artist in a gypsy wagon, appropriately enough. He took her on a road trip to The Land of Enchantment in 1976. She moved to the state the next year and has been in New Mexico ever since. It’s easy to see the way that the state influences her art. Desert animals largely dominate her works and there are many local themes.
Bryer’s paintings are full of vibrant colors and joyful details. Humans and animals often interact with one another in her images. They are usually working together or mirroring each other’s actions, such as a mother and daughter lying under a tree with families of animals all around them. She focuses a lot on nature, tradition, folklore, history, peace, and the concept of everything being a part of a single whole.
Perhaps one of the most unique aspects of Bryer’s art is her borders. The majority of her pieces are framed in painted borders that pull all of the elements together into a lovely bundle. Some are reminiscent of Native American weavings and others look as if they have a whole story in themselves, holding a painting within the painting. Many of her works have suns, stars, moons, hands, flowers, horses, and desert animals all about the edges.
Bryer says that her painting process is never the same twice. “If you do it the same way every time, it gets boring,” Bryer says. “I might start with a border. Sometimes I’ll paint the sky first. Other artist’s don’t do that, they have a set thing.” This avoidance of repetition applies to her imagery as well. She doesn’t want paintings to be too similar to a past work, she would much rather create something new.
Her art doesn’t stop at painting. Bryer also makes jewelry, creating pendants out of clay. “As a child I played with modeling clay,” Bryer says, “And created forests, animals, people and fantasies on my play table and a bookcase, including background. My masterpiece was a drawer with a Japanese garden with roads, Japanese geishas and a two headed dragon.” All of this was done from the age of about seven up until she was a young teenager. Playing with clay evolved into jewelry making in junior high. One of her favorite things to make was -and still is- cats.
A descendant of Eastern European Jews and with some Spanish roots, Bryer is a firm believer in the power of peace and tolerance. She’s the kind of person who would rather compare the similarities in people, marveling at what is parallel while celebrating the differences. One of her new images, “End Racism, Build Tolerance” (right) has gotten mixed reviews. It depicts a Muslim, a Christian, and a Jew all praying together, while an African and Asian hug at the foot of a symbolic tree. Icons of peace can be found throughout the image and the border has many different religious symbols. The painting has a lovely message. However, some galleries it was presented to wouldn’t show it because they reportedly ‘didn’t understand it.’ “What’s not to understand?” Bryer asks in disbelief. “The title says it all, it’s right there!” She plans to print some posters of the image that will proudly display the title at the bottom.
Bryer’s whole life is surrounded by art and inspiration: the music she listens to, the museum-like charm of her home, her granddaughter Lylie (below), her 10+ year old cat and Chihuahua who each like to sit on the arms of her favorite chair. She is never at a loss for subject matter. “Just driving down the road inspires me,” Bryer says, “I never get art blocks. I do get blocks when I have to do housework.”
The JewelMark at Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino currently sells Diana Bryer works, and her Gypsy Caravan gallery at her home is open to the public. Her easily recognizable style has become one of the faces of New Mexico art. Ask for her cards and prints the next time you’re at an art gallery or gift shop. If they don’t carry them, they certainly should.
Artist’s Name: Diana Bryer
Diana Bryer's Gypsy Caravan
P. O. Box 458
Santa Cruz, NM 87567
313B State Rd 76, Cuarteles
By appointment or by chance