“She had a love for the native arts,” says Hart of his grandmother. “She would show me kachina dolls and paintings.” His mother took it one step further, trying her hand at retablo painting.
Hart took a different path, studying at New Mexico State University and then training to be a police officer. He spent 20 years at the Albuquerque Police Department, but his love for New Mexico’s multicultural history always stuck with him.
Hart’s first steps into fine furniture making in the early 1990’s were the result of a dilemma.
“I fell in love with Spanish Colonial furniture. I had to have it, but I couldn’t afford it,” he says. Hart had never learned a craft before, but he was determined to uncover the secrets of carpenters past. He read books and visited museums, studying every inch of pieces he admired.
His big breakthrough came on a visit to the Nicolai Fechin Museum in Taos. Fechin (1881-1955) was a Russian painter and craftsman who settled in New Mexico in 1927. He purchased a two-story adobe home and greatly expanded it over the next few years, carving intricate doors, windows and furniture pieces that were inspired by European and Native American aesthetics.
“Fechin blew me away. He took art and applied it to furniture,” says Hart. “I had felt caged in by the things I was learning, but all of a sudden I realized I could do anything I want.” Just as Fechin had drawn from multiple influences in his work, Hart began to use styles and motifs from the different cultures around him.
“I incorporate my love for the native arts, for the Spanish and for my European ancestry,” Hart says. “I try to tie a little bit of everything into every piece.” One of the joints he uses originated as an old ship making technique, while another was once ruled the only legal joint by the Spanish Colonists. A particular design might come from the Cochiti pueblo or resemble a pattern on a piece of Native jewelry.
“I think furniture should be art,” Hart says. All of his works are hand carved from sugar pine, and no two are the same. “It’s unique and really fits my background and my love for Santa Fe and New Mexico,” he says.