Artist Toby Morfin sits on a sofa in front of five of his paintings featured in his ‘Una Casa de Adobe’ solo exhibition, which runs Saturday and Sunday in Santa Fe. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
‘Mother and Child’ in oil on canvas is one of Toby Morfino’s works featured in his solo exhibition. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
The earliest work by Toby Morfin featured in his solo exhibition is this portrait in acrylics from 1990 when he was in high school. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Artist Toby Morfin stands next to a custom painted snowboard mounted outside the 1943 home he renovated in Santa Fe that currently houses his solo art exhibition titled, ‘Una Casa de Adobe’. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
His art has been well-known in Northern New Mexico since Toby Morfin attended Espanola Valley High School. Many people recognize his style because he has donated his work for many fundraisers for non-profits and charities throughout the area, sometimes painting murals, snowboards, even designing artwork for clothing and ballcaps.
This weekend, Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 23 and 24, Morfin is hosting a unique exhibit of 34 years of his work. The oldest piece is a pencil drawing done in 1989 and the show features work from that time period all the way to this year. What makes Morfin’s exhibit, “Una Casa de Adobe” different is that it is being held in an adobe house built in 1943 that he has been renovating for the last seven months.
The Los Alamos Reporter had the opportunity to visit with Morfin Thursday morning at 1713 West Alameda Street in Santa Fe and view the work in the silence and tranquility of the empty house, which is owned by David Bell, who also owns Mellow Velo Santa Fe Shop near the Plaza de Santa Fe.
“I’ve been friends with Dave for about nine years now and I’ve bought mountain bikes from him. When he bought the house he asked me to come and pick up some appliances from the home that he wanted to get rid of. When I took all that out he called me back and asked me to put down some traditional style wood floors for him. Then we stopped,” Morfin said.
An unusual work by Toby Morfin called ‘Till Death Do Us Part’, which features a candy painted shadow box. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Toby Morfin stands next to a fireplace worked on during his renovation project in Santa Fe. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
He ended up continuing to work on the house, removing walls and changing the layout. The ceiling was 17 inches lower than it is now throughout the house and was covered with sheetrock.
“So I got rid of all the sheetrock and I sandblasted all the beams and re-did the whole house. It took seven months of working every day just to get this house to where it is now. About four months into the project, I started looking at the house, envisioning hosting an exhibit of my own work there. I approached Dave and he told me to go ahead,” Morfin said.
Artist Toby Morfin looks out a window he installed at the house. To his left is one of the special doors he installed that feature blue and yellow patterned glass. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
“Abuela’ is an ink and pencil work completed by Toby Morfin in 1995. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
He started to plan out the show on paper and began figuring out how to borrow back pieces that he had already sold over the years. Along the way, the people whose grandfather actually lived in the house, came to see it while he was working on it. Morfin said they were “kind of blown away with all the changes”. After the elderly man who lived there left or passed away, Morfin said the house went through a few different owners and then it was on the market for 90 days and Dave Bell found it. It sits on 1 ½ acres and the views are just amazing.
The renovation includes the installation of two unusual, large doors with stained glass that were imported from overseas. Morfin said the glass may not be as old as the doors, but when you get something special like that you figure out where to place them, and you build around them.
A view through the doors installed by Toby Morphin of his representation of a roadside cross honoring someone who had died at that location. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
This newest piece of Toby Morfin’s work in the solo exhibition was painted this year. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreportere.com
The piece of art that is placed in a prominent place to be viewed through the doors is a painting of a roadside cross like many that have been placed throughout the state to mark where someone died.
“I put skulls on the bottom and the Cross with Our Lady in the middle. That’s my interpretation of that subject. The frame was done by my friend Byron Martinez, a woodworker from Chimayo. It’s cool the way we collaborated. A lot of these frames are collaborations with woodworkers. That’s one thing that people have always liked about my work is the framing job I do on all my pieces,” Morfin said. “I have had a lot of people involved in my frames. One of the pieces in the exhibit is fused glass framed in a custom candy painted shadow box. I like to work with people who are on the same level and see my vision of what I want.”
Unique painted plates by Toby Morfin are featured in the show. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
A view of the front room in the adobe house renovated by artist Toby Morfin showing the floor and ceiling beams he worked on during the last seven months. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Morfin said this show is important and has 62 pieces of work – about half of them are borrowed and the other half are for sale.
“It’s good to have that variety. Yesterday I sold a piece to someone who stopped in. My work is all across the board. I’m one of those artists that won’t do the same style or the same thing over and over. To me, that’s like listening to the same song over and over, as artist Andres Martinez once told me. I have always kept that in my head. I work in just about every medium – there’s ceramic, there’s glass, there’s automobile paint on the snow boards, there’s pencil, charcoal, acrylic, oil, pastel and watercolor in the show. Every medium in two-dimensional I’ve done,” Morfin said.
Morfin began drawing in elementary school and people kept telling him that he was a good artist and should keep it up.
“When I got to junior high, I was introduced to color and to paint by my teacher, Mr. Mills. When I was a freshman at Espanola Valley High School, the art teacher Ted Salazar let me be in the advanced class and I took off from there, dabbling in everything – paint, pastel, ceramics and watercolors. We’re still good friends. I talked to him yesterday and invited him to the show,” he said. “It will be cool to have some of those teachers from way back then there to see what I’ve done over the last 34 years.”
After high school Morfin continued with his art but never took art classes.
“I never went to college for art, I took business and basic stuff and I learned marketing. Then I started working for the May Corporation in Phoenix and from there I continued with my art and did gallery shows. In the last 10 years or so, I figured out how to self-promote myself and organize and set up my own shows with full control of everything. I’m one of those guys that wants to represent myself. Soon I will have my own gallery in Ojo Caliente across from the Hot Springs. There will also be a sculpture garden on three acres I own there that will include a sculpture garden on the three acres I own monumental sculptures from artists around the world,” he said.
Four of many custom painted snowboards by Toby Morfin. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
“Cruz y Corazon’, a work by Toby Morfin in ink and pencil from 2008. Photo by Maire O’Neill/loslamosreporter.com
A lot of artists struggle with how to promote themselves, Morfin said, so he is happy that he can work on his art but also knows how to build and landscape.
“That’s what gets me to the point where I have this vision for this house that manifested into being able to put this retrospective exhibition together and it’s not only my exhibit art but the art I did on the house, along with my friend Armando Trujillo, my brother Ricardo and my friend Antonio Ortiz from Santa Fe. As a team, we all helped each other,” he said.
The beginning wood for the floors came from Hanson in Santa Fe but the remaining wood came from his friend Bill Moore’s Lumber Mill in Hernandez, Morfin said.
“I got all the beams and the big stuff from him. He just has a good operation out there and a good mill, “Morfin said. “It’s been a fun project and I’m just glad the whole inside is complete. My friend Mark Duran with 3-D Electrical came in and did all the electrical work. I like the way he did it to the outside with the conduit, which gave it that industrial look, but still it’s in an old house. Yeah, it’s been a fun project.”
The Sacred Heart stands painted by Toby Morfin rests on a window sill in the house Morfin has been renovating for seven months. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Vans canvas shoes featuring the Sacred Heart and the Virgin of Guadalupe painted with acrylic by Toby Morfin. Photo by Maire O’Neill/loalamosreporter.com
The show will only go through Sunday, Sept. 24 and Morfin said that’s the right amount of time.
“Whoever catches it will catch it and if you miss it, you missed it. I’m sure I’ll do another retrospective in a museum someday. It will get a lot more exposure,” he said.
The show opens Saturday to the public from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Morfin has planned a nice reception with hors d’oeuvres, drinks and music. The exhibit will close Sunday afternoon.
An Easter Egg painted by Toby Morfin in 2019 using acrylic on wood. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
‘El Maestro Patrocino Barela in charcoal and pencil by Toby Morfin. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
“I am very honored that Dave let me do the show here in the house. That was really nice of him. It’s cool to do it in Santa Fe and I like that it’s an adobe like where I grew up in my grandparents’ houses up north. That’s why I titled the exhibit, “Una Casa de Adobe”.
The address for the house is 1713 West Alameda Street, Santa Fe, NM 87501.