Carolyn "CJ" Buckner (1941 - 2019)

  • "I taught with CJ at Cumbres and remained a friend even..."
    - Barbara Wilaon
  • "Oh, CJ! You were an original and we were proud to have you..."

Beloved artist and longtime resident of Los Alamos, Carolyn (CJ) Buckner passed away May 7th, 2019, after a yearlong battle with neuroendocrine cancer. She was just shy of her 78th birthday at the time of her passing.
CJ, as she preferred to be called, was born in Cedar Rapids, WI. on July 9, 1941. She began her undergraduate studies at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. Upon graduation with a Bachelor of Science degree, CJ moved to Los Alamos to become a biology science teacher at Cumbres Junior High school.
Imagine seeing a strapping young gent driving a 64 Corvette convertible through the parking lot of your apartment complex. You aren't intrigued by the car or the man but the little blueeyed kitten riding on the man's shoulder. A chance Siamese kitten encounter introduced CJ to David Buckner.
David and CJ were multifaceted crafts people. While Dave enjoyed building things, silversmithing and sculpture, CJ started exploring a talent she thought she had forgotten: painting and drawing. CJ kept busy with her toddler son while she focused on watercolor painting and developing her skills. She began to accumulate a very impressive body of work. She began showing her paintings at the Los Alamos Crafts Fair at Fuller Lodge and becoming active with the New Mexico Watercolor Society as well as showing her work annually at The Rio Grande Arts & Crafts Fair in Albuquerque. Several galleries including Cornwell's Gallery in White Rock, Weem's Gallery in Albuquerque and a couple galleries in Taos. She was also instrumental in organizing the first Los Alamos Artist's Studio Tours and gained the attention of magazines (Southwest Art, New Mexico Magazine, etc.) as well as local and regional collectors.
On a stranger note, CJ and local artist friends were the culprits for possibly causing more than a few accidents at the corner of State Road 4 and Rover in White Rock! CJ and friends were often the minds behind some of the more creative dressings of the White Rock "White Rock". The most memorable was when CJ and friends painted and decorated the "Rock" as a chicken for the 50th Anniversary of White Rock. The Chicken version of the "Rock" was probably the most visible and remembered state of the locally famous and everchanging monolith and stayed decorated that way far longer than any of the other iterations.
CJ's paintings can be found in so many of the homes of families in Los Alamos, Santa Fe and surrounding areas. Far too many stories have been relayed from collectors and owners who lost their treasures in the LA Fires and the obvious remorse that so many of CJ's paintings had been lost.
CJ continued painting, doing shows and galleries until 1993 when CJ's creative talents made a shift from 2 dimensions to 3 dimensional. She felt she needed to explore new avenues in Raku clay sculpture, thus continuing her artistic path but on a new creative playing field.
Her Raku focused mainly on using river rocks as the shape and sizing for comical clay animal caricatures. Combining the natural shapes, expressions and the beauty/unpredictable nature of the Raku process, she captured some of the most whimsical yet fascinating of the world's creatures. She started coop galleries with fellow artists in both Santa Fe and Cuyamunge. She also donated her time volunteering at the Los Alamos Art Center at Fuller Lodge. CJ and friends continued the gallery Galaria el Jardin on the Santa Fe Highway until construction woes and rerouting of exits around Buffalo Thunder Resort dropped the direct access of tourists and locals to a slow trickle and the gallery was closed.
In July 2012, CJ's husband David passed away from an aneurism but chose to keep the family home. She continued her volunteering at The White Rock Visitors Center and enjoying time with friends. She moved to Santa Fe to El Castillo in the fall of 2017. During the summer of 2018, she was diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer after a routine mammogram. She opted for chemotherapy. The treatments worked for a time but eventually cancer took the upper hand. Carolyn Joyce Buckner passed away peacefully in the morning May 7th, 2019.
CJ was preceded in death by her mother Alice Birch, father Valentine Birch, brother Leonard Birch and husband David Buckner. She is survived by her son Adam Buckner, his wife Angie FeliceBuckner, grandsons Jaymeson Perry and Tyler Buckner, as well as countless friends.
In lieu of flowers or any other remembrance, CJ's wish was to have any donations made to either the or the International 5P- Society benefiting children with the same genetic syndrome as her grandson Tyler.
Published in Los Alamos Monitor on Aug. 4, 2019
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