BILLIE WALTERS and her 5 STONES

"Five Stones for Elena Gallegos" (1983) by Billie Walters at the mouth of Pino Canyon, Sandia Mountains ---- photo by MW 4:28pm February 8, 2021 and my shadow

“Five Stones for Elena Gallegos” (1983) by Billie Walters at the mouth of Pino Canyon, Sandia Mountains —- photo by MW 4:28pm February 8, 2021 and my shadow

Five stones for all of the mountains
The sun and the glow
Radiating from the stones at sunset
The turning Earth, spiraling in orbit
The rain and the snow and seasons of
Warmth, five stones looking down upon
A city and a river and five little volcanos
5 stones, turning in the universe
At the portal to the canyon

 

the shiny orb stone ---- Pino Canyon ---- 8feb2021 MW

the shiny orb stone —- Pino Canyon —- 8feb2021 MW

Telcon w/ Billie Walters Monday morning February 8, 2021 Albuquerque USA

Knowing how much I admire her “Five Stones for Elena Gallegos” Janet always tells me when Billie has been into her office, so, I decided to talk with Billie myself and got her telephone # from J (and birthdate: March 12, 1927) (she’ll be 94 in March)

She’s a sweet person, a little hard of hearing. Her helper (not a daughter J says) answered the phone and asked what the call was about and I said I want to ask her things about her 5 Stones for Elena Gallegos and the nice person, said, Okay, let me see if she’s available, and she was enthusiastic —– Her assistant had told me to be sure and talk a little louder —- My voice is pitched kind of low and tends to disappear if I don’t dial it up.

I told her that I was husband to her doctor Janet Simon and she coo’d.

So, she couldn’t always hear me that well. But, not too bad. She had a good manner about talking, it didn’t bother her to be questioned, but, after awhile she said she was “fading,” having not been able to specifically answer some of my questions can tire you out ——

I asked if the stones came from nearby where they are situated now? She said, Yes.
Within, say 200 yards?
A little further in some cases, “One was taken out of a stream, the arroyo nearby.”
I asked how?
She said, “We had a lifter.”
A crane? She said, “a crane-like kind of thing.”
I said, a tractor? She perked up, “Yeh!’
A skip-loader type tractor? She said, “I don’t know the names of them.”
How long did you work on this installation?
She said she had located the spot in late January (1983) and “when the weather was
better we had a scraper come out,” to level the site, “and to dig holes, the stones
were set in holes.” So, the placement was March and “then I came back in April or
May to re-situate them.”
I asked how she had decided on the arrangement, was there a lot of trial and error?
She said, “No. I had taken photos using my family to stand in place. I had just enough
family, then, to do it,” laughing (Robert died in 2008 age 82)
I asked if she had worked with big rocks like this before?
She decisively said: “Never.”
Did you ever work with stones after that?
“No, never, that was it,” finding that humorous.
I said, so, you were mostly a ceramicist?
“Yes, because that’s what I am!”

I asked if there are photos of the whole construction process and installation? She said, No, but some were in a magazine, “I can’t remember which, you’ll have to look around.”

I asked if she knew Rita Deanin. (Ed Abbey’s artist wife.)
“Oh, the name rings a bell, but I can’t see her face.”
Raymond Jonson? (transcendentalist painter of New Mexico)
“Oh, yes”

She wasn’t familiar with movie filming LONELY ARE THE BRAVE which I believe used that same canyon in 1961.

I asked how the polishing was done on the shiny round orb?
She misunderstood my question and said, “It was so the sunset would shine on it”
I asked if there were considerations as to placement and alignment with the backdrop of the Sandias? But, I think she misunderstood and said, “No.” It’s obvious that those were considerations, but an interviewer asks just to see what they’ll say.

I told her I knew Robert and she perked up and was happy for that. We men always hope that our wives will remember as fondly when we’re gone. I said that he designed a book cover for me, and she said she’d love to see it. I said I’d mail her one.

I told her I really like the “Five Stones” and she said, “I do too, I hope they stay there for a long time”

Billie Walters & Connie Fox Boyd at the Albuquerque Modern Museum, circa 1953

Billie Walters & Connie Fox Boyd at the Albuquerque Modern Museum, circa 1953

About dead center of this photo is where the "Five Stones" are in attendance ---- photo by Mark Weber looking toward Albuquerque and Rio Grande, February 8, 2021 and Mt Taylor sixty miles in distance

About dead center of this photo is where the “Five Stones” are in attendance —- photo by Mark Weber looking toward Albuquerque and Rio Grande, February 8, 2021 and Mt Taylor sixty miles in distance

"Five Stones for Elena Gallegos" ---- Dona Elena Gallegos was daughter of early 17th century Hispanic colonists Antonio Gallegos & Catalina Baca, surnames that are still very much present in New Mexico to this day. Antonio & Catalina fled w/their newborn daughter during the 1680 Pueblo Revolt and returned in 1693 ---- this area was a land grant in Elena's holdings. Photo in wide angle 8feb2021 by MW

“Five Stones for Elena Gallegos” —- Dona Elena Gallegos was daughter of early 17th century Hispanic colonists Antonio Gallegos & Catalina Baca, surnames that are still very much present in New Mexico to this day. Antonio & Catalina fled w/their newborn daughter during the 1680 Pueblo Revolt and returned in 1693 —- this area was a land grant in Elena’s holdings. Photo in wide angle 8feb2021 by MW

the shiny orb stone ------ photo by MW February 2021

the shiny orb stone —— photo by MW February 2021

Pinyon ---- photo by MW February 2021 Sandia Mountains

Pinyon —- photo by MW February 2021 Sandia Mountains

Five Stones looking toward Albuquerque ---- photo by MW 16feb2021

Five Stones looking toward Albuquerque —- photo by MW 16feb2021

After snow storm ---- two of the five ---- photo by Mark Weber February 16, 2021 Sandia Mountains

After snow storm —- two of the five —- photo by Mark Weber February 16, 2021 Sandia Mountains

"Five Stones for Elena Gallegos" photo by MW 16feb2021

“Five Stones for Elena Gallegos” photo by MW 16feb2021

Robert Walters in his studio July 21, 1996 in the Albuquerque North Valley ---- photo by Mark Weber

Robert Walters in his studio July 21, 1996 in the Albuquerque North Valley —- photo by Mark Weber

Robert Walters pen & ink from 1994 collection of Mark Weber

Robert Walters pen & ink from 1994 collection of Mark Weber

Robert Walters at his exhibit downtown Albuquerque October 11, 1997 ---- this evening was a woodblock demonstration using his series "Incident in Salamanca" regarding a trip he & Billie took to Spain in 1994 ---- photo by Mark Weber ---- Robert was a beloved professor of architecture at University of New Mexico, every student of his always speaks about him with affection

Robert Walters at his exhibit downtown Albuquerque October 11, 1997 —- this evening was a woodblock demonstration using his series “Incident in Salamanca” regarding a trip he & Billie took to Spain in 1994 —- photo by Mark Weber —- Robert was a beloved professor of architecture at University of New Mexico, every student of his always speaks about him with affection

Janet with chapbook by yours truly, subtitled: A story, a book review, some drafts, and some poems (1997 Zerx Books) cover designed by Robert Walters ---- photo by MW Feb. 2021

Janet with chapbook by yours truly, subtitled: A story, a book review, some drafts, and some poems (1997 Zerx Books) cover designed by Robert Walters —- photo by MW Feb. 2021

Self-portrait with Covid-19 mask and Sandia Mountains ---- February 2021

Self-portrait with Covid-19 mask and Sandia Mountains —- February 2021

5 Comments

  1. Bob Gusch

    Thanks Mark. Very informative.

  2. Mary

    Wow, thanks for this post, Mark. I’m so glad to know about Billie Walters and to see your photos of the stones. And of course, of Janet and you.

  3. charley

    Nice interview and story, great pic’s….!!!

  4. vinny golia

    Great story Mark!!

  5. Cirrelda Snider-Bryan

    Hi Mark! Guess what? I know Billie too! I was thinking about her this morning and typed in Billie Walters Albuquerque artist. Billy? The screen insisted? But your post was at the top! Bless you for writing this.

    When I was at UNM 1978-1980, I was disillusioned with the ceramics professors in the department, the “New” Art Building was brand new (I have a journal entry about it) and I took I, II, III. My friends Conrad and Diane had studios in the old Crafts Annex and so did Billie. Hers was right as you walked in on the right. She was great to know! Doing her masters in ceramics. They were all lucky that building was still there for them, it was the. best. space. So when it was announced that she would teach a Ceramics For Non-Majors class, I hopped to it and signed up. She was the teacher I needed! Oh my gosh the pieces I made. A tile that was the window of my sister’s Volvo looking out to the hump of the Sandias from Santa Fe, with silver luster on the window edge. I wrote about it, because I went insane and put it in the dump, and can’t believe I did that. I would run into Billie, or seek her out- knew where she lived- up until seeing her in the clay studio at the Department of Art Education where she was part of that fabulous studio environment, throwing. She seemed to not remember me. That was in the 90s. My life took a different turn as mom and publisher. I always cherish seeing the 5 stones. It’s so important you made this connection and documented. Thank you.

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