Alice Webb arrived in New Mexico by plane in the 1970’s with little more than a pair of flare pants and an 8-track player to her name. The Texas native had met a man from Taos and swiftly left the University of Texas at Austin, eager for a Southwestern adventure.
“At that time in the 70’s everyone was dropping out, so I dropped out too,” Webb says. In Taos, she met artists of all stripes who became her friends and mentors. The little mountain town transformed the young talent into a celebrated professional artist, forever tied to the Land of Enchantment.
“The first time I remember drawing and thinking I was pretty good at it was when I was 5 years old,” Webb tells us over the phone. She grew up in Texas but her family is from Mississippi. One summer on a trip to the South, the Webbs visited a living history farm. “We were drawing the women with their costumes, and I noticed that my drawings looked different from the other kids’ work,” she recalls. “They weren’t stick figures, they had a lot of information in them.”
By 7th grade, Webb knew she wanted to study art. When she got stuck in home economics courses instead, she marched down to the principal’s office to discuss her academic career. “[The principal] was tall and skinny and wore suits in the middle of the summer, and had bouffant hair and long fingernails,” Webb says. “It was pretty scary, but I went and said, ‘No, I want to take art.’”
The gambit worked, and Webb excelled in art classes through junior high and high school. She studied art for a short time at UT Austin, but then Taos called. Webb landed in New Mexico just in time for a revival in the American Arts and Crafts movement.
“Art forms that were never considered fine arts were gaining prominence at the time, like basketry and tapestry weaving,” she says. “I took a class in tapestry, and did that for a while.” The work was so time intensive that Webb eventually turned back to drawing and painting, inspired by the artwork of the Taos Seven.
Webb intently studied paintings by Bert Geer Philips, Ernest L. Blumenschein and others, following in the footsteps of these early 20th century Taos luminaries with a group of like-minded plein air painters. In her self-guided studies, Webb even rubbed elbows with Fritz Scholder and Dennis Hopper.
“I could see a piece and go, that’s a Berninghaus or that’s a Sharp,” Webb says. “I studied those guys so much, particularly their use of color.” As she developed her skills as a colorist, Webb fell irrevocably in love with her surroundings. “The landscape was just so readily available,” she says.
Frustrated by the lack of recognition for women artists in Taos history, Webb and five other local artists formed the ‘Women’s Taos Seven’ and began exhibiting together in the 1980’s. By the time she moved to Albuquerque to complete her BFA at the University of New Mexico in the 1990’s, Webb had already exhibited with many of her professors.