Subscribe to
our newsletter,
Desert Tracks
powered by EZezine

Desert Foundation Blog
Desert Foundation Home
About The Desert Foundation
What's New at The Desert Foundation
Please Donate to The Desert Foundation
Circle of Friends
Caravans Magazine
Responses from our readers
Desert Foundation Activities Desert Foundation History


Leslie McNamara

Leslie McNamara is a painter and printmaker who moved to Santa Fe in 1984. Here’s how she describes her work:
“I have always, since childhood, been deeply connected to nature, the land, and painting. My mother loved painting, animals and gardening, so I learned early on. I went to New Mexico from a life of ranching and farming in eastern Oregon. Painting there for me was all about cows, their form on the landscape, the light and shadows.”
“In my painting now I seek to praise the sacredness of the earth, the mystery within the ordinary, and the burnished light of northern New Mexico. This light is clear and strong as the eye of God igniting everything in nature: the haloed cottonwood and chamisa in autumn, the dry winter corn, or the fruit and flowers on the table.”

Leslie’s work is distinguished by her unique use of color. She is also known for her fine decorative painting on walls and furniture. In Santa Fe she has painted for La Fonda, Inn of the Anasazi, La Puerta, Elements, and many private homes. Her gallery exhibits include The Lightside Gallery, Enthios, Post-Western, Winsor Betts, The Firedworks Gallery in Alamosa, Colorado, and currently the Wiford Gallery in Santa Fe ( She is among sixty artists featured in the book, Landscapes of New Mexico: Paintings of the Land of Enchantment.

In the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Dodge City, Kansas, Leslie recently created a shrine with eleven paintings of patron saints and founders of religious orders who have served in the Diocese of Dodge City. These paintings are not realistic portraits of the saints, but stylized depictions full of symbolism.

“The Spanish Colonial style began to emerge in the rural villages of New Mexico and southern Colorado in the late 1600s and 1700s,” Leslie explains. “There was a strong devotional culture but not enough religious art from Spain and Mexico to go around.”

“While influenced by baroque images from Europe and Mexico, these indigenous santeros, or saint painters, were mostly untrained, so their art was characterized by simplicity. Their figures were direct, emotional, highly stylized and symbolic, unconcerned with anatomy and perspective.”

“They used bright, pure pigments on gessoed board and strong, singular design elements recalling the innocence and purity of children’s art. Like Greek icons, the paintings, or
retablos, were understood with heart and spirit rather than literally as realistic portraits.”

"Today in New Mexico, the santero tradition of Spanish Colonial times continues to be widely practiced and revered. While the ‘Founders Shrine’ in Dodge City was born of this tradition, there are some major differences which make it truly unique.”

"The horizontal shape of the wall area pre-determined that the saints would stand side by side instead of in a vertical structure typical of the Spanish Colonial style. The faces and hands of these saints are slightly more realistic and portrait-like to keep them in harmony with the other formal, realistic art already in the Cathedral.”

"St. Teresa of Avila prayed, ‘May God deliver us from sour-faced saints!’ I painted these saints in solidarity with this philosophy, and truly with this spirit in my heart.”

View Leslie's Cathedral Paintings


©2012, Desert Foundation, all rights reserved.