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Back Issues
2012 - Spring Issue
Casas Bonitas
Art & Accessories
Article: Jessica Muncrief
Photos: Bill Faulkner
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Artist Michael Poncé was born and raised in Las Cruces where he knew at a very young age that he had a passion for drawing and painting. He's studied art, fashion illustration and anatomy all over the world, and has honed his skills working with some very prominent artists. After 20 years, Michael returned to his hometown and he has been building a solid reputation in the local art world for the past few years. He graciously sat down with me to talk about the art scene in the area and his work.

    Photo Captions

Artwork photos courtesy
of Michael Poncé

1.) Michael Poncé (third
     from left) with MVS
     Studio owners Kate
     Mott, Russell Mott,
     and Meg Sanchez-

Michael Poncé
508 N Mesquite St.
Las Cruces NM 88001

MVS Studios
535 North Main St.
Las Cruces, NM 88001
What led to your decision to return to Las Cruces?

I had purchased an old, original adobe house in the historical district and was planning to do some minor remodeling, but I ended up gutting the whole place and doing an entire renovation. Being the artist that I am, I spent a lot of time on details and one weekend turned into two months. While I was here, I met my wife, Stephanie, who was a student at NMSU and it just seemed right to move back. At the time, I was living in New York City, right in between Ground Zero and Wall Street, where basically there are a hundred thousand people around you at any moment. And in New York you are bombarded by images and influences that I find superficial. Everyone is doing the same thing in the New York art scene. All the women are painting themselves and posing in a bathtub. I wanted to be free of the influences and just paint from my imagination.

What are your impressions of the art scene in Las Cruces and the region and what are your hopes for its future?

I'm surprised and very excited about the art scene here. I love what has been happening downtown and on Mesquite Street. I grew up on Mesquite and since I was about five years old I knew I wanted to paint and I wanted a gallery in that area. I recently purchased a building on Mesquite that I hope to turn into a gallery, so it is exciting to see what I imagined as a child happening. I've also been very impressed with the art scene in Truth or Consequences. They have some beautiful galleries downtown and I've met some serious international artists that have moved to the area.

You have lived and traveled all over the world. What places have influenced your work?

I started out in San Francisco and that really had no influence at all. All the artwork was that abstract California thing, not really my style. In New York, I studied with Steven Assael and Vincent Desiderio and I gained a lot from those experiences. I studied anatomy in Oxford under Sarah Simblet for a year and that was extremely rewarding. I also did a lot of independent research projects at galleries in New York and England, studying collections at The Met, The Frick, The Ashmolean. In India, I was so impressed by their watercolor drawings, these mini-paintings with extremely fine lines. They are so exact. I guess you could say it is like an architectural rendering, but of humans and animals. They are so anatomically correct, it is just amazing.

What artists have influenced your work?

I've always been drawn to the painters from France in the 1800s. Chasseriau and Ingres; I love their work and I've always found it so inspiring. Picasso also, but those two, Chasseriau and Ingres are really the reason I do what I do.

How have your studies in fashion and anatomy influenced your career?

I've always been fascinated by someone who can draw and paint at the same time; use a loaded brush and capture the moment. In fashion I did a lot of that, capturing movements, gestures and patterns, but it happens so quick it all has to be done in a few brush strokes. This really helped my work with racehorses and jockeys. I would go out there and try and get the movements of the horses and the riders with a loaded brush in just a few strokes.

What achievement are you most proud of as an artist?

I won the Bruce Stevenson Memorial Award for Portrait from The National Arts Club and that is an award that is really sought after, usually going to a very famous artist. Ironically, I was sort of shunned from the New York art world after I won that award. When you win the award and people are commissioning you to do portraits, you are taking business from other artists. But that has definitely been the most memorable award. It helped me gain confidence and realize that I painted well enough to stand on my own in the art world.

What are you currently working on and what are your plans for the future?

Right now, I am painting. I don't want to say it is just still life and portrait pieces; they are more abstract and figurative than that. But I am working on a new body of work that includes some very personal pieces. I have a full-time job right now, but I kind of like that. Before I would paint all day everyday, but now that I have limited time, there is more follow through, I'm more focused and I know what I'm working on. Hopefully I will open the gallery on Mesquite Street. I would like to see that area grow as a venue for the arts with more galleries and cafes. I love being here because I feel that people are recognizing and appreciating me as the artist I want to be. Being in a big city is lonely and I spent a lot of time working alone, but here I work more with people and I'm very excited about the new opportunities that have opened up to me here. ///
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