IF YOU MEET PAULA WILSON AT HER STUDIO during the weekly art event known as MoMAZoZo, you might not actually see her for a while. Art tends to get in the way, along with history, a growing artistic community, and the gorgeously decrepit streetscape in downtown Carrizozo, where US 54 meets US 380, midway between Socorro and Roswell.
Though I can’t immediately find the artist when I come to visit one scorching day in June, I can follow her trail. Wilson’s bold brushstrokes decorate the outside of a three-building suite on the former railroad town’s historic 12th Street. On the rear facade, zagging, free-form designs and a few mysterious, all-seeing eyes overlook the train tracks. Repurposed wire-and-metal sculptures hang jauntily from the empty window frames of a sagging second-story porch. Across from a sunken auto bay filled with glittering broken glass, spiky bushes of Siberian elm, and jimson weed, two large female silhouettes flank the garage-door entrance to Wilson’s studio. Everything in sight adds depth, atmosphere, and a bombed-out kind of beauty.
Wilson is a mixed-media artist, and the sum of her work can’t be reduced to its parts. Through sculpture, collage, printmaking, painting, fashion, and video art, she creates layered pieces that weave narratives across time, space, cultures, art history, and natural landscapes.
Amid the crumbling century-old complex Wilson bought with her partner, Mike Lagg, in 2015, thousands of square feet are filled with creative possibilities. Every morning, the couple walks the half mile from their midcentury adobe home to the space they have also named MoMAZoZo. It spans the falling-down El Cibola Hotel, where Lagg keeps his woodworking studio, an open-air chicken and pigeon coop in a part where the roof is missing, and an artists’ residency studio on the second floor. The adjoining building, once home to a Ford garage, is where Wilson constructs her works. Next door, the Lyric Theater is an old-time movie palace (the last picture shown there was The Exorcist) that the couple has repurposed for community performances and artist talks.