Art and Law Mix Well at the School of Law

Robert Flinkman with one of his block prints depicting Cabezon Peak
Robert Flinkman with one of his block prints depicting Cabezon Peak.

Art and law have shared a tradition at the University of New Mexico School of Law almost as long as there has been a University of New Mexico School of Law. Beginning in the 1950s, not long after the school moved into its own building, artwork of and by New Mexicans has adorned the walls of the school.

“By displaying art throughout the building, it provides a more inviting atmosphere for students,” said Robert Flinkman, a library information specialist, member of the school’s art committee and a painter himself. “It adds color and life and celebrates New Mexico’s culture.”

For the first 20 years, paintings were loaned by faculty and graduate students of the UNM fine arts program. When Bratton Hall opened in 1970, a collection of eight images of the Pueblo culture painted by Joseph Imhoff was loaned by the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology. Those paintings hung in the Forum for 30 years and now five of them grace the walls of Room 2404, the former moot courtroom.

Highground by Lloyd Hamrol
“Highground” by Lloyd Hamrol.

In 1980, an earth sculpture titled, “Highground,” by California artist Lloyd Hamrol was constructed between the two wings of Bratton Hall. This enduring sculpture, which has been the site of commencement ceremonies since the 1990s, was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts with matching funds provided by UNM.

An art committee was formed in the 1990s, chaired by Professor Dick Gonzales. During that decade, a series of acquisitions, combined with the launch of Professor Sherri Burr’s “Art’s Talk,” a cable-access television show produced by UNM law students, raised the awareness of art across the law school. During that time, two large paintings by Taos artist Bill Rane were donated by his son, August Rane (`85), and other paintings were loaned by the UNM Art Museum collection.

The school’s commitment to displaying paintings and collages at the school has continued to blossom since the turn of the 21st century. Through the City of Albuquerque’s Public Art Program, a print by internationally renowned Taos artist Larry Bell was presented to the law school. The Gaddy Law Firm donated two watercolor prints, which hang outside the Dean’s Conference Room. Until his retirement, Dan Noyes, the school’s media specialist and an artist himself, organized regular art exhibits and catalogued the school’s collection.

Reflector by Jonathan Sandmel
“Reflector” by Jonathan Sandmel.

The library also began acquiring art for that space. In 2008, “Reflector,” by Jonathan Sandmel, was commissioned for a space behind the circulation desk. In that same year, the library commissioned, “Coruscate,” a ceramic wall piece by J. Zona, a UNM fine arts graduate student. Albuquerque sculptor George Manus donated “Brother Bear,” a metal sculpture, in 2009. 

Brother Bear by George Manus
""Brother Bear" by George Manus.

Following a Forum renovation in 2008 that included new carpeting, furniture and paint, a reinvigorated art committee set about obtaining fresh artwork for the walls. In 2009, Sandmel loaned “Tea in a Coffee Cup” and Brian McPartlon donated “The Mountains Win Again,” a large acrylic landscape. Flinkman contributed pieces to the display: two of his black-and-white linoleum block prints depicting Cabezon Peak hang outside Room 2401. And Neil Ottaviano loaned “The Bonds Between Humanity,” a bronze and steel sculpture that now greets visitors to the school’s administration suite.

The Bonds Between Humanity by Neil Ottaviano
"The Bonds Between Humanity" by Neil Ottaviano.

“The art committee feels it’s important to reflect the broad tradition of art in New Mexico in the school’s collection,” said Flinkman. “We have a mixture of landscapes along with traditional and contemporary pieces, all of which represent the diversity of the state. That same diversity is reflected in our student body.”

Thanks to Dan Noyes for his contributions to this article.

August 29, 2011