A lifetime of art

Artist Richard Maitland has a show opening on Friday in Downtown Albuquerque. Behind him are several of his works.

To call Richard Maitland's artwork eclectic would not be doing it justice.

But then, he freely admits that.

"My stuff is a little far out there for the average person," says the 86-year-old Maitland, who has lived in Rio Rancho for almost 20 years.

Then again, to drop a few names, Maitland's work has been displayed in the homes of folks like Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Ralph Bellamy, Blake Edwards, Jack Lemmon, R. C. Gorman, Phyllis Diller and Jerry Lewis.

He will be doing a month-long show beginning Friday with an artist's reception from 5-7 p.m. at a new gallery in Downtown Albuquerque, Gallerie Imaginarium, whose owners have been big Maitland fans for years.

The show at the gallery at 301D Central NW will run through Nov. 2.

According to the gallery's website, gallerieimaginarium.com, Maitland's work "seems to pull the viewer out of time into a lonely, quiet, pensive and dreamlike world that is often touched with humor. Perhaps it is this feature that inspired many critics to call his artwork magical."

Whimsical and by his own words, sometimes "macabre," he also describes his art as having "a sense of humor. It's really a look at life and death and at 86, a lot more seems to be looking at death."

While most of his artistic career has been involved with painting, he's also been quite enamored of mixed-media, which will be the main focus of this show.

"I pulled out 40 of my best creations," Maitland said. "I'm getting them boxed and crated ready to take down. Being an artist is a lot more than doing and watching."

In his mixed-media work, Maitland used a variety of pieces ranging from bones to seashells to gems to fossils, creating pieces that are far greater than the sum of their parts.

Artwork, however, is just a small piece of the Maitland tale.

He played in "Lil' Abner" and "Brigadoon" during their runs on Broadway, and also appearances in other Broadway shows. A professional dancer, he later toured throughout the world. At one point, he made a stop in India, there on a one-month visa. He ended up staying six years.

"I knew Indira Gandhi," he says. "Of course, this was before she was prime minister."

While in New Delhi, he opened a school of dance then organized a children's dance theater with Gandhi's help.

Before moving to Rio Rancho, Maitland spent 24 years in Santa Fe, operating his own gallery before the demands of the business overburdened his creativity.

That's when he decided to take the proceeds of the sale of his house there and move to Rio Rancho, where he has had the freedom to create his art without being bothered with running a gallery.

A self-taught artist, Maitland fears that this just may be his famous final scene, at least publicly.

"I'm getting old and I have a lot of (health) problems," he says. "I've been working every day to get ready for this show."

Despite his physical ailments, Maitland maintains a plucky attitude, especially when he's at his home, surrounded by the trappings of his artistic career.

One room of his house is dedicated to his India era, with trinkets and doo-dads and that he either purchased there or remind him of the area.

He points to a pair of antique, tin models.

"I bought this one in India for $30, and it's about 80 years old now," he says. "I bought this one in Santa Fe, and I was told it's an original. I paid $600 and it's a fake."

Another room is dedicated to stars he knew and worked with in a wall filled with signed photos of Marilyn Monroe, Roy Rogers, Louis Armstrong and Harpo Marx, among many others.

His dining-room table, which is his work space, is covered with the tools of his trade. Prominent on the table is a big bottle of glue, which he uses to affix the various items to his base piece.

"That's going to be on my tombstone," Maitland says with a smirk. "He glued."