Joan Potter: In the Studio

For the still life painter, the studio is a haven of creativity. Shelves and tables are filled with objets d’art and flea market bric-a-brac. In Joan Potter’s light-drenched studio on upper Canyon Road, favorite treasures – porcelain vases, oriental screens, and antique copperware – all find their way to canvas.

Having moved to Santa Fe from New York in the mid ’80s, Potter transformed a small adobe house – one of three constructed by Gerald Cassidy in the 1920s – into a comfortable residence and studio. The open living space is ideal for entertaining friends and fellow artists. Here, she is surrounded by traditional New Mexico architecture, antique furniture, and her personal art collection. Hung salon style, there are paintings by early Taos and Santa Fe painters, works by contemporaries and her son’s bronze sculpture.

At the other end of the house, Potter created a vaulted atelier that is bathed in warm, north light. Her studio – adjacent to the road once traveled by Indians and burros – is an artist’s dream. Surveying her space, Potter is reminded of what she loves most about her adopted New Mexico home – the sun, the warmth and the weather!

In contrast, sunlight was scarce in New York City when Potter began her painting career in 1964. Her first studio was space she borrowed from her instructor, David Leffel. On each Saturday, she would attend his class, then have the seventh floor walkup to herself on Sunday. Potter was thrilled to be able to paint two full days but remembers the harsh winters when she worked bundled in woolens and warmed her hands between brush strokes on the small space heater.

Her determination to succeed as an artist kept her painting seriously. Twice a year, she exhibited at the Greenwich Village Art Fair where her sons lined the booth with her paintings, priced to sell at $100. The weekends were profitable for the aspiring artist, and she soon became the fair’s most sought-after painter.

It was at the Village Art Fair that Gregg Kreutz first saw Potter’s work. When both were needing studio space, they leased jointly in a turn-of-the-century building overlooking Union Square. The eleventh floor studio, with its much sought after north light, was tiny… so small, recalls Joan, that the two constantly bumped into each other if they were both working at their easels.

While the studio had its limits, Potter’s creative spirit soared and her artistic career flourished. She now exhibited at the prestigious Grand Central Gallery on 57th Street and participated in group exhibits across the country. By the time she left Union Square for the wide-open mesas of New Mexico, she was one of the country’s most noted woman artists.

When Potter set up her easel at Union Square, the rent was affordable, but the urban park was filled with the city’s criminal element. The area gradually improved, and the square is now home to New York’s most popular farmer’s markets. Today, Potter’s trips to New York City include a visit with her former studio-mate at 1 Union Square and a leisurely walk through the rows of fresh produce at the Union Square Outdoor Market. While she retains her accent, distinctly northeastern, she gladly assumes the role of “city visitor” rather than “city resident,” knowing that her artistic sanctuary in New Mexico awaits her return.