1983 was an exciting year for Toh-Atin Gallery. We moved into a new gallery space and started showing work by Jan Thompson.
Our first showroom was in the front of the Pepsi Cola building where Dad sold rugs and Indian arts. We spent two years in the old First National Bank building on Main Avenue and finally found a permanent home in an old warehouse we remodeled on 9th Street.
Until then, we had not considered carrying work by non-Indian artists, but there was a woman in town whose work everyone in the family liked and we wanted her to be part of the gallery.
Jan Thompson grew up in the Animas Valley north of Durango on a beautiful family farm. Back then the Valley didn’t have golf courses and housing developments. Before the new Highway 550 was built, there were two roads going north to south, one on each side of the valley.
The rest was farmland.Jan married Sandy Thompson, who was from another pioneer family in the area. He was a writer and they both loved the Southwest. I worked for Sandy when he was editor of the Durango Herald.
At their home one night I saw the beautiful pictorial weavings that Jan wove. The three-panel weaving in this newsletter was created by Jan in 1983 for our first Fall Gallery Walk in the new building. It is a beautiful Monument Valley scene.
Jan’s weavings were very popular, and we seldom had one in the gallery for long. She did single, double, and triple panel pictorials that captured the essence of the country around us.
Her work was also part of one of the best lessons I ever learned.
Bessie Barber, Anna Mae Barber’s daughter from Burnham, was a young and very talented weaver. She brought a weaving in one day and I told her that if she were to spin her wool a little finer, her weavings would be smoother and look more like her aunt’s.
Bessie looked at me and pointed to one of Jan’s wall hangings and asked, “Do you tell her how to spin her wool?”
It was always a fun day when Jan brought in a new weaving. I wish the internet had been invented back then just so we could have shared them with the world.
Like the Monument Valley piece we have today, they were all great art!
Jan and Sandy divorced, and she married archaeologist Gary Matlock. She developed Carpal tunnel syndrome and had to quit weaving. But she is a born artist and soon she was creating serigraphs on hand made paper based on the petroglyph, pottery designs and rock art found in the Southwest.
Several of her works decorate the lobby of Mercy Hospital in Durango. They are perfect for the hospital, radiating a peaceful and ancient beauty.
Jan and Gary now live in Cedaredge, Colorado where they have a small farm specializing in garlic. She continues to create serigraphs.
It’s unusual for an artist and a gallery to work together for 37 years and we are looking forward to many more!