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* For Enchantment magazine, Summer/Fall 2006

“Discover your passion. Focus your energy on it. Enjoy your life’s passion to the fullest.”

Those words from a motivational speaker embody artist Dee Wescott of Glencoe. “I’ve drawn ever since I can remember and loved creating beautiful things, especially from fabric. But it wasn’t until the early 90s, when I took an art class from an unconventional instructor who advised giving up something in my life that would give me more time to paint, that I followed his advice and focused on my painting. I’ve never looked back.”

Morning sun warms the Glencoe home on Dee and Lee Wescott’s fifty-acre Buena Tierra horse ranch in the Hondo Valley. That warmth, however, is rivaled by Dee’s exuberance for her art, Lee’s enthusiasm for his quarter horses and Thoroughbreds and their combined ardor for the valleys and mountains surrounding Ruidoso.

“I grew up in Carlsbad. When I was a child, we came to Ruidoso in the summer for weekends, vacations or picnics because it was in the cool mountains, so different from Carlsbad.”

“That’s this area’s most saleable quality, the coolness,” agrees Lee, who grew up in Seminole, Texas.

Dee continues, “I've visited here and when we got married, we even honeymooned here—at the Sierra Blanca Cabins. That was 42 years ago—and they’re still here! We spent New Year’s Eve at the Navajo Lodge, across the street from where Visions and End of the Vine are now. And we went skiing—for the first and only time! We lived in Texas and Missouri but we always came back here. I took lots of pictures so I could paint from them later, wherever we were living at the time. When it came time to retire about ten years ago, this was the obvious place.”

“Retire” became a euphemism for pursuing more interests. Dee slipped easily into the artist-friendly atmosphere of Lincoln County, garnering national recognition and awards, while Lee immersed himself in successful horse breeding and racing. “He’s passionate about horses the way I’m passionate about art,” reveals Dee with a twinkle in her blue eyes.

Art has resided in Dee’s bones since “always, I guess, but the first time I remember drawing what someone would notice was in third grade. We used to exchange those little wallet-sized photos and I would sit in class drawing my friend’s faces—until the teacher caught me!”

Initially Dee thought she’d like to attend an art school and become a fashion designer because she loved sewing. “My mother was creative with fabric. I was five years old when she sat me at a sewing machine. I couldn’t reach the pedals, but I sewed and sewed. I was in love with the colors and textures of fabric. I thought I’d gone to a candy store when I went to a fabric store!”

Instead of fashion design, Dee poured her soul into painting. Her style combined realism with expressionism and abstraction, initially specializing in watercolor, then exploring the richness of combining media such as acrylics and collage. “I love the feel of contrasting textures.” A mixed media painting by abstract expressionist Robert Rauschenberg in New York moved her. “When I saw how he’d integrated a quilt into his painting, I saw a way of combining my love of fabric with painting.”

Her dedication, innovation and passion gained much recognition, culminating in 2004 when she was elected a signature member of the American Watercolor Society in New York. “Only 400 plus artists have membership. Perhaps ten or so are elected every year, only after someone dies and a position opens.” Her entry, the New York-inspired “Friday’s Special,” is the painting that was accepted in the National Watercolor Society's 2004 exhibition in California, giving her signature membership in NWS. Dee has won four awards from AWS, “one in each year I’ve entered.” All four of these award winners were chosen to be part of the US traveling exhibition to seven museums.

She has also been in Western Federation of Watercolor Societies. “I was accepted seven years and won awards six years, including Best of Show.” The painting that topped 1310 others for that honor was “a small seven-inch square painting, the smallest one in the show."

Most recently, she has been honored as the poster artist of the OK Mozart Festival in Bartlesville, OK for both 2005 and 2006. “I’m really proud of this,” she admits quietly, fingering the 2005 winning painting, “Sounds of My Soul” which featured her son’s guitar. “The 2005 Festival focused on guitar.” The painting chosen for 2006, “Boardwalk”, incorporates people on a keyboard. “I like the idea of people integrated with music,” says the artist.

Dee’s career spans 35 years, yet her vision is still that of youth, always looking forward, never back. “If you don’t change, you don’t grow.”

Husband Lee pursues a vision as well. “When we moved here, I was looking for a home, he was looking for acreage!” reveals Dee with a laugh.

“I wanted the challenge of something competitive,” says the quiet entrepreneur as he leafs through his album of racehorses that run in Sunland, Hobbs, Albuquerque, and Farmington as well as Ruidoso Downs. He pauses at a picture of a mare. “She’s probably my most successful horse.” Iza Leap Year Lady, born February 29, was the 2004 American Quarter Horse High-Point Champion among New Mexico Aged Mares. In 2005, she was named Superior Race Horse for acquiring over 200 points in her racing career.

Find Lee’s horses in the race program under Buena Tierra or StanLee Stables which he operates with his partner Stan Whisenhunt of Abilene, Texas. Buena Tierra currently has eight brood mares, producing about six new ones entering the racing every year. “At any given time, we have eight to ten horses on the track.” When pressed, the modest owner admits to winning “ten to twelve races every year.”

Lee sees his focus changing, possibly phasing out quarter horses in favor of Thoroughbreds (“more quarter horses than quarter horse races”), and Dee sees her work evolving into more abstraction, with an emphasis on abstractive figuratives, “my favorite things to do.”

Her approach to art? “Letting go and let it happen!”

Passionate beliefs from a passionate artist.

c. Enchantment 2006

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