Kamatics Corporation, a specialty bearing manufacturer and a subsidiary of Kaman Aerospace Corporation located in Bloomfield, Connecticut, is celebrating fifty years in business. They have invited their most outstanding former employees to an anniversary party. One of them is painter and UNM-Taos instructor Giovanna Paponetti.
Originally published in Taos News
Taoseños are already familiar with her artwork. Paponetti painted the Taos Historical Timeline Murals on an exterior wall at the Town Hall. In 2004 The Taos News commissioned her to paint an oil portrait of the Citizen of the Year and other honorees for the Tradiciones issue. She was also included in the book Remarkable Women of Taos (Nighthawk Press, 2013).
Paponetti was commissioned to create twenty-one oil painted panels on the life story of Kateri Tekakwitha for an altar screen by St. John the Baptist Church at Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo. She also wrote and illustrated the book Kateri, Native American Saint. In 2004 she was invited to the Native American Department at Stanford University.
“They wanted to meet me and felt that I portrayed their people in my paintings in an honorable way,” she said.
Her work has been included in documentaries and shown in The History Channel and PBS, among other media outlets.
Working at Kamatics
Though she is currently a fulltime artist and art teacher, Paponetti had a nine-year stint in the corporate world. From 1983 to 1992 she worked for Kaman Aerospace as an engineering aide and a graphic artist.
Paponetti is also a consummate storyteller. Here is her fondest memory from her time at Kamatics, in her very own words:
“I was sent, as part of the marketing team, to an International Air Show in British Columbia, in Vancouver, Canada,” she said. “I designed the display with an image of the earth taken from space. During the show, a customer came up to our booth and told one Kamatic’s reps that the earth in our display was upside down. When asked how he knew it, the man replied, ‘Because I am the astronaut who took the photo.’ End of conversation.”
Paponetti was up for a promotion to run a public relations department and the graphic arts department before the company lost some government contracts in 1991.
“Instead I was laid off, along with many others,” she said. “I moved to New Mexico where I became a painter and professor of art at UNM-Taos. It has been 24 years
since I left but I am very grateful to Kamatics and the way they treated me. In a way, due to a twist of fate, I am here indirectly because of them.”
Inspiration in Taos
Paponetti traces back her interest in Taos to a class she took back in college, where her employer had helped send her.
“Kamatics Corporation always encouraged its employees to further their education,” she said. “In 1990 they contributed to sending me back to school to finish my Bachelor of Fine Art degree at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, Connecticut. One of the courses that I took was an Anthropology class. I came with my professor and classmates to Taos Pueblo as part of the course. I was deeply inspired by the beautiful Deer Dance and my life was never the same.”
She returned home and wrote her course paper about the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.
“I was also inspired to paint Native people,” she said. “I hadn’t painted in three years but I rekindled my passion in Taos. No wonder that, more than twenty years later, I was again inspired to write and illustrate a book about the first Native American saint. Nothing happens by accident.”
Upon the return from Rome, where she attended the canonization of St. Kateri Tekakwitha in 2012, she gave a lecture and a PowerPoint presentation at Taos Pueblo.
“I showed the illustrations in my book, my photoshoots of the Mohawk people in Canada that I used as models as well as photos that I took at the canonization,” she said. “It was beautiful and I felt truly honored at Taos Pueblo. I also did a book signing afterwards and the money went towards a frame for a print of St. Kateri that I donated to the San Geronimo Church.”
Painting with Paponetti
Paponetti has been teaching art at UNM-Taos for fifteen years. During the 2016 fall semester she will teach a Realistic Painting class on Wednesdays from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Additionally, she is planning to teach a small, three-hour private class.
“Students will learn to express their artistic creativity in subject matters and mediums of their choice,” she said. “The class will take place in a relaxed studio setting with beautiful vistas. The mornings will start off with a focus on a particular technique, artist or style and discussion. Students will then work on individual art projects with one-on-one instruction.”
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