Harold Joe Waldrum (1934 - 2003)


Born in 1934 in Savoy, Texas, Harold Joe Waldrum moved to Tesuque, New Mexico in 1970 to become a full time painter, after graduating from Fort Hays State College with a master’s degree in studio art. Prior, he worked as an art and music teacher for over a decade in the Kansas public school system.

The focal point of Waldrum’s work became the adobe churches of Northern New Mexico. With a profound sense of color, he captured architectural details in an abstracted and minimal fashion. His “window series” focused on the interaction of color and form, and he pursued this rectangular composition for 10 years. His process involved photographing the interiors and exteriors of churches with a Polaroid camera, in order to capture light and shadow for reproduction. Waldrum’s photographs are held in the archives of the New Mexico History Museum.

Waldrum fled New Mexico in 1976, after a year of living in the Penitente village of Gusano, following a dispute that resulted in his shooting and killing a young man in self-defense. After this incident, his studio was burned to the ground by local residents. During this period, after escaping to Texas and Mexico, he took up residence in New York, returning to New Mexico in the summers to paint. In 1979 he relocated to Taos, New Mexico and began working in the former studio of Taos art colony founder Joseph Henry Sharp.

With the goal to preserve the churches that he had spent much of his painting career capturing, he established the El Valle Foundation, to raise consciousness and funds for the most endangered historical structures in Northern New Mexico.

In the later years of his career, he established the RioBravoFineArt Gallery in 1997 in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, where he lived until his passing in 2003. The building was a former Ace Hardware store, which he purchased through trading some of his paintings and prints. The exhibition space was also a working studio, and it is still in operation today.

Santa Fe New Mexican, “Against the grain: The Art of Harold Joe Waldrum”

Schools of Study

Western State College
Fort Hays State College

Partial List of Collections

Palm Springs Art Museum, CA
Albuquerque Museum, NM
Museum of New Mexico
The Harwood Museum, NM

Selected Exhibitions

“A Passionate Light”, The Albuquerque Museum, 2011
“Las Sombras” Tucson Museum of Art, 2019
Museum Barberini, Potsdam, DE 2017
Tally Richards Gallery
Gerald Peters Gallery

Selected Works in Our Inventory