Thursday, May 7, 2015

Quirky Doesn't Begin to Cover It -Alibi

Originally published May 6, 2015 via alibi.com

From NM-536, the Tinkertown Museum (121 Sandia Crest Rd., Sandia Park) is barely visible behind a row of trees, looking like something you'd find in an elaborate fish tank. Flashes of light reflect off the blue and green glass of a bottle wall, creating impromptu fireworks that leak between the leaves.
It took the late Ross Ward, local painter/sculptor/you-name-it, over 40 years to build Tinkertown. The museum is often described in tourist maps and vacation guides with words like “whimsical” or “quirky”—words I try never to use—leading me to expect a bland afternoon of “family fun.” But when I push open the swinging saloon doors at the entrance, leaving the feverish sun to enter a cool and dim corridor, my breath catches in my throat.

The entire right side of the hall is a miniature Western town peopled by antique toys and hand-carved figurines. Stores and bars and markets come to life as tiny inhabitants act out a variety of scenes. Every inch of the town seems to sizzle with action.

Pushing one of the buttons found at intervals along the length of the town causes a scene to animate. An angry restaurateur clutching a meat cleaver chases a chicken in circles. Drunkards at the saloon raise their mugs.

This is not the dusty kitsch nightmare designed to bilk passing travelers that I've been expecting. It's an honest-to-God work of art. In fact, Tinkertown proper is only one room of 22 in the museum. Visitors still have to make their way past a miniature three-ring circus, Otto the one-man band and a 35-foot sailboat permanently docked in the side of a mountain.

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