Have you ever been in the situation where you’ve met someone new or brought someone into your circle and have this immediate and deep connection – sometimes to the point of being able to anticipate what they are feeling, as if they’ve been in your life before?
Often this can mean “they have been” in a spiritual sense, as this kind of ‘instant karma’ we feel with certain people is exactly that. Spirituality and fate can be an interesting experience and when one encounters it, it can feel karmic like that there was a past life connection.
As a sceptic of such events and of most of the “supernatural world,” it can be unsettling, at first, when confronted with such an experience.
When smacked with it, at first, we encounter a level of comfort and feeling that we already ‘know’ someone, when getting to know them better it them becomes an affirmation that we are merely catching up with our shared history, and our paths again cross, as faith would have it, and that is what has carried our energy across the millennium.
Recently, we have encountered such feelings, unsettling at first, yet joyous when the feeling is affirmed through conversations, and we can feel what the other person is feeling with just a look or a smile.
That unsettling, yet joyous connection, is what we made with the artisans of Lydia Aspen and Emmanual Renteria. We’ve shared glasses of wine and other novelties of indulgence in the past, and with each encounter our laughter, appreciation and admiration of our shared paths grow.
This past weekend the couple was gracious to allow AlamogordoTownNews.com into their gallery space at 1120 New York Avenue and to dive into their history or evolution as artisans, the Alamogordo community and New Mexico. The community of Alamogordo is just beginning to recognize the value they bring to Southern New Mexico and well beyond, and the best is yet to come with their partnership of love.
We began with a glass of champagne and red wine, then took a deep dive into their past and skirted the future. We discussed their vision of Alamogordo’s New York Avenue, and the role of the artisan community in Alamogordo’s future but more importantly to this article today their shared bits of their history that led to the evolution of who they are today.
We asked if they would allow us, to pry, and get to know their history prior to opening the art gallery at 1120 New York Avenue, Alamogordo and what motivated their passions for the cultural arts.
Lydia Aspen born in Minnesota. Independent and on her own by the age of 12. A life lived that would represent five, possibly ten, lives of others. Her’s is a story, that for many young girls turns out to be far different than her own and far darker. Her’s however, is a story of survival, resilience, deep emotions and compassion, and how artistic expression can be curing not only for a victim but also for those fortunate enough to cross paths with such a power of energy. Lydia Aspen is just that, a force of energy that dreams it, lives it, embraces it, and always from the heart.
From the age of 12 to 20 years of age; Lydia learned the art of survival. In and out of a variety of homes and the streets, passed off from her mom and others, Lydia’s energy shined and carried her forward. Others in similar circumstances would have broken, not Lydia, instead she channeled her strength from within, found her passion in a variety of artistic forms, grasped complex psychological concepts, and ran forward with a path of heartfelt expression and love of others channeled through artistic expression.
At Age of 21, she was living in Kansas City and at that age founded her own art gallery. Not only was it an art gallery but it was more of an artisan colony where she taught dance, created abstracts, and held all forms of performance art with collaborative artisans.
During her lifelong journey of artist and gallery owner, Lydia has grown. She grew in how to express herself, and work through her inner and real-world demons that have chased her peace and happiness. As an observer, it appears she has now found her inner and outer peace and a partner that provides her true happiness.
Her life is a life that is a checkerboard of many lives and adventures lived, with learning along the way. Much success and acclaim has come her way, accolades from afar, for the good she created, and the positive impact she made on those around her.
Her journey carried her into the world of academia via her performance art and her natural understanding of psychology and human instinct. Beginning around 1980, and onward she has conducted classes and workshops with an understanding of human relationships and behaviors as the core.
For Truman Medical Center as a very young woman, she conducted classes to include Hemispheric Lateralization, Doctor Patient Relationship Skills, Conflict Resolutions etc. using art, music, mime, movement, and role playing as the canvas to instruction. By 1997, in addition to performance art and art on canvas, she was conducting classes at Baker University School of Professional and Graduate Studies such as “Psychological and Physiological Interactions in Human Development.”
As an instructor she incorporated performance to combine education with aesthetics. Via her “Journey through Madness” performance piece she carried attendees through performance of the conflicts that each person may face. She used two characters Annie Lytical and Clara Voyant – to examine how people deal with opposition, conflict resolution and how this affects personal development.
Her two “characters” carried her forward in life and opened many interesting doors in journey of artistic and educational development.
We asked Ms. Aspen if these two characters were manifestations of her own personality? She said these two personalities eventually molded into one and helped her evolve into the accomplished person she is today. She said there was a time in her life that she felt that; “I didn’t deserve to be in a room with humans.” Ms. Aspen expressed that her artistic expression and working through the world via her characters has allowed her to evolve but, “that feeling never completely goes away.”
Well, rooms full of humans over the years have embraced the worth of Lydia Aspen, and that of her artistic expression and creations. Over the years her works have evolved and hundreds of her works are in the hands of collectors, the world over. She is an accomplished artist and when we asked her what work she was proudest of, she responded was that her work she titled “Lady Liberty.”
This piece in full color shows the statue of Liberty with flames engulfing her in the lower half of the painting, yet lady liberty, is pregnant and has her sullen face of determination. The piece was created prior to 9-11 and was considered controversial, yet after 9-11 the work took on a whole new meaning to those that viewed the art piece as an “expression of rebirth and renewal arising from the flames of terror.” The painting was on display at Artisan Alley in Cloudcroft for a period and then traveled with a group that was dealing with PTSD for a period, and was a piece used as a part of a suicide prevention campaign. The work has traveled across the country, been showcased in a museum in El Paso. The piece has brought acclaim in a variety of showings across the country and is now believed to be in a private collection.
When Lydia Aspen was asked what of her lifetime collection of works meant the most to her; she immediately told us the story of how she was teaching at a professional conference at an event hosting the Scientist of Unexplained Phenonium in Cuernavaca Mexico. The divide of wealth was disturbing to her but an event during this conference would have an impact on her that lasted a lifetime forward. She was asked to attend a day trip to an area church. On the property, she encountered a large bronze sculpture, of a young girl holding a rabbit and she felt the piece of artwork in “the core of her being.”
Lydia had once owned a rabbit that meant much to her. It got out and was the center of attention between a German Shepard that grabbed it, a Coon Hound that also found interest and her wolf. Eventually the wolf won it. She received it back from the wolf, wounded and paralyzed but not completely out of sorts. She nursed the rabbit to some semblance of health, carried it around in a pouch for quite some time on her being. She always felt a connection to the rabbit, thus the rabbit and the girl sculpture we see glimpses of her inner self.
When the artistic creations of Lydia Aspen from the “Rabbit Girl” series are viewed one is left to wonder if the rabbit, or the rabbit and the girl, was symbolic to events in her own life, and rather the symbolism impacted her art forms and creativity. The answer would be presumptive of this writer to say yes, but as the years moved forward to the present rabbit girl has evolved and so too has the artist, Lydia Aspen.
From those spiritual connections, Lydia creates a series of paintings, sculptures, and other works around the “Rabbit Girl”. Each of her works has a young girl with big eyes as a prominent feature. When one concentrates on the artistic creation; one can feel the girls’ emotions through her eyes communicated through the work. With each creation, the girl is holding or in the accompaniment of a rabbit. Since the series began, Lydia has created over 100 pieces of art around the theme of the Girl and the Rabbit.
Lydia Aspen is a very accomplished artist, a free spirit, passionate and full of energy. When asked what is the proudest thing to happen to her and what has made her happiest? A big smile crosses her face, and she points to the man that was to her right, Emmanuel Renteria. She said the best thing to happen to her was “this man.”
Who is this man, Emmanuel Renteria?
Some in Alamogordo know him as a contractor, others as an owner of significant real estate, others as the guy that plays the drums, the guys that loves art, a graduate of Alamogordo High School that did well, but who is he, and how is he connected to New York Avenue and to Lydia Aspen?
Emmanual Renteria claims his life is “a lot less interesting than Lydia’s” and is a bit shy and quiet when it comes to telling his story. He shines her into the spotlight when in a conversation with the two of them, though when one wonders around and views their shared gallery and home, one can see both are very colorful and complementary beings that love and respect one another immensely.
We asked Emmanual about his upbringing and what brought him to become a leader in the cultural arts community of Alamogordo’s New York Avenue. He shrugs and is shy and then proceeds to explain his formative years. He was raised in Europe, born in Austria till around the age of 16 when his family settled in Alamogordo as a final home. From an early age he always has loved music and is very partial to the drums. As a youngster Emmanuels mother encouraged him to learn music, however it was not the drums, that he is passionate about, she had him learn on the accordion.
Emmanuel said, “my brother would be outside playing baseball and mom had me practicing the accordion.”
That passion would evolve over the years as he learned to master a variety of instruments from ear with a great passion for the drums. He has a collection of multiple grand piano’s, string instruments and drums to even include a set of drums that traveled on the road with the entertainer, “Prince.”
He once channeled into a potential past life and said, “I envisioned myself on the African Dysphoria playing the drums to communicate with my brother via the beat in a neighboring tribe.”
Rather his talents evolved from a past life or are just a natural gift one thing is clear, he is a many of artistic talents both is music and on canvas. Be that canvas a natural canvas as witnessed by an early painting he shared with us, or the canvas of a scene created with a variety of elements, mediums, colors, and lighting. He sets a stage or scene, and it gets attention and is a form of artistic expression.
As the years progressed Emmanuel graduated from Alamogordo High School, married, served in Germany when drafted into the military. He was successful in each of his varied careers but always had a flair for artistic expression in the work he did.
While in college he continued to learn about music and participated in bands from his college days to the present. He does not read music but is a composer and an accomplished musician with talent that exceeds many classically trained musicians.
While in the military he played in bands which on many occasions kept him from trouble with the officers that respected his musical talents. When his squad would march, he would play the drums and play special rim shots that made his squad almost dance on their marches. The squad and commanders loved his artistic flair.
After leaving the military he moved back to Alamogordo and was a contractor. He built houses and spent 5 ½ years at White Sands building 20-foot to 100-foot towers that the military would use for “target practice and blow them up.”
Emmanual was a savvy investor and purchased land and real estate around Otero County and for many years lived in High Rolls where he and his wife acquired the Spruce Cabins and rented them.
His passion has always been creativity and exploring music, colors, and textures. When he built houses, he put in the finest of fixtures and textures and build homes that other builders had difficulty emulating or competing with, due to their high design elements.
Over the last decade, Emmanuel Renteria has honed into his artistic side and acquired the former Coke Plant on New York Avenue. From that location he purchased from an area doctor, he has built it into a wonderland of gardens, performance space and a home unmatched in Alamogordo for artistic design, color, and flair.
His wife died about 15 years ago and as such he has channeled much energy into creativity since her passing. He served briefly as the artistic director for the Flickinger Center and has become a huge advocate for the arts and a renewal of the New York Avenue corridor.
Lydia Aspen claims the best thing to happen to her was meeting the “shinning inspiration of Emmanuel.”
We asked how that meeting happened and she said it was simple. She had her gallery on New York Avenue, and he was entering his house one day, and she hollered over to him and asked if he owned that building. Emmanual responded he did, and they started talking. From that simple conversation was “a spark of energy between the two of them that has evolved into a beautiful partnership.” That partnership is one of mutual respect and admiration and of building a life together that evolves with love each day.
The two now live together in a partnership of love in the big “Coke Plant” on New York Avenue near the Flickinger Center and have made it into a beautiful home together. They have created a Lydia Emmanual Productions which owns the wonderfully eclectic gallery at 1120 New York Avenue called New York Avenue Art and Music. Together they are actively pursuing a variety of projects showcasing artists, expanding an appreciation for artistic design via advocacy and leadership and investing in the revitalization of New York Avenue with their own art studio, energy, and flair.
The New York Avenue business community and the community at large is thrilled to collaborate and engage with Emmanuel and Lydia. Look forward to a prosperous turnaround of New York Avenue with their artistic flair and leadership as a key component to reinvention of this historic district into a destination location.
Upcoming Events by Lydia Emmanual Productions:
Lydia and Emmanual’s, New York Avenue Art & Music Studio has partnered with Roadrunner Emporium for an April 30th night of artistic expression to be showcased at the Patrons Hall. The April Evening Under the Stars Gala event will showcase artisans from both galleries, culinary arts, live performance art, special celebrity guests and more. This will be a gala event like Alamogordo has not seen in years, showcasing a huge variety of artistic forms of expression in a fun and uniquely unforgettable evening.
Mark your calendar for this first of many collaborations between these two artistic enterprises to be showcased at Patrons Hall on April 30th.
Thank you; Lydia and Emmanuel, for opening your hearts and your home to our interview and to sharing your story with us and the Alamogordo community. It’s been said that “Fate controls who walks into our life.” The Alamogordo community is fortunate to have these two talented individuals engaged and “walk into our lives”.