ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A New Mexico woman is preserving some of the state’s most iconic Route 66 signs through art. For years, she has captured the signs through paintings, often, right before they are taken down.
Cheryl Godin considers herself a ‘painter of history.’ While art has always been a passion, she now hopes to preserve these moments in time for generations to come.
“My first project was an old drugstore painting sign on Central. I loved it because of the colors and I wanted to do it. I did it, I got it into a show, I got an award for it and I sold it,” said Godin. “Then I noticed another sign on Central, the Aztec Motel, and the colors, once again, grabbed my attention. I went down there, did some sketches, took some photos.”
It was an ongoing project as Godin often works on multiple paintings at once. One day, she decided to return to the same spot of that Aztec Motel sign to jot down more details.
“I went back to the sign, I went back to get more information, and the sign was gone,” said Godin. “I thought that was odd.”
These bright, neon symbols of Route 66 were dimming as the old disappears to make room for the new. The Aztec sign would not be the only time this would happen to Godin.
“I went on and started painting some other signs and I started traveling 66 in New Mexico,” said Godin. “I’d go back for more information and the signs were gone. They were starting to disappear faster and faster.”
She captured a number of these New Mexico icons through paint and canvas. This was when Godin realized her calling.
“I decided this was it. This is what I was going to do,” said Godin. “I was going to record history in a small slice of America with my art so that future generations will be able to see how they were, how it was, the places those signs were at and what their parents saw when they were younger.”
Traveling as far east as Tucumcari and as far west as Seligman, Ariz., Godin is preserving as many signs as she can through art. She captures everything she sees, from the vibrant neon in restored signs to the weathered symbols of the times like rust and broken bulbs.
“Sometimes I do them new. I might refurbish them as I paint them,” said Godin. “But I still find the more interest is in the rust and the broken glass, the cracks and all that, the weather-beaten.”
She takes pride in the memories she can bring back. For a while, she worked at a gallery in Old Town where locals and tourists were able to see her work every day.
“Even though the people weren’t from Route 66, they had heard about it or they had experienced it. I had a couple come to me, they were elderly, and they said to me, ‘Oh, I remember staying in this hotel in Flagstaff for our honeymoon. This means so much to us to see this,'” recalled Godin. “It’s the stories like that, that just really just egg me on to keep painting them.”
Godin plans to travel outside of New Mexico and Arizona to capture more iconic Route 66 spots. She hopes to make it to the end of 66 in Santa Monica, Calif.
She currently has a show at ArtsThrive at the Albuquerque Museum, showcasing paintings of cinema marquees from around the area. You can catch the exhibition through Dec. 8.