Life Imitates Art
Both Santa Fe and Taos have long histories of fostering creative output, much of it inspired by the surrounding landscape. Tour northern New Mexico with a creative eye, and soon you’ll be recognizing locations from paintings and maybe find yourself ready to buy… or to dive into some work of your own.
Art Is Where You Find It
Taos is the best place to see where and how artists lived: Mabel Dodge Luhan House is now a bed-and-breakfast, but Mabel’s own bed is still in place in her sunlit room with views of Taos Mountain. Elsewhere in town, the Blumenschein Home and Museum and Taos Art Museum at Fechin House both show how resident artists adapted their homes to their personal styles; the wood carving at Fechin House is especially rich.
Northwest of Santa Fe lies Abiquiu, turf that painter Georgia O’Keeffe called her own — even if she had only a small house in town and a studio at Ghost Ranch. But everything under the sway of flat-topped Pedernal Peak — often depicted in her work — was grist for her creativity.
But perhaps the most illuminating spot is Dorothy Brett’s miniscule cabin at the D. H. Lawrence Ranch, barely big enough for a bed and a woodstove. Across the yard, in front of Lawrence’s only slightly larger home, is the towering pine depicted in Georgia O’Keeffe’s The Lawrence Tree. Get her perspective, and the curving lines of the painting come into focus: “There was a long weathered carpenter’s bench under the tall tree in front of the little old house that Lawrence had lived in there. I often lay on that bench looking up into the tree… past the trunk and up into the branches. It was particularly fine at night with the stars above the tree.”
Art in Action
Art lovers need not spend all their time in museums (though there are some great ones) — it can be just as rewarding to visit studios, talk with artists, and see how objects are made. Time your trip around the High Road Arts Tour (http://highroadnewmexico.com), for instance, and you’ll get to see woodworkers’ studios in an area that’s usually quite closed and private feeling. The New Mexico Potters Trail (www.newmexicopotterstrail.org) is a year-round route of open studios, most between Santa Fe and Taos — participating artists do some of the finest contemporary work in the state, an excellent complement to the traditional pottery from the pueblos.
Curious about the process? Just north of Santa Fe, Shidoni and Tesuque Glassworks sit side by side — the former is a bronze foundry, with demonstrations on weekends, and the latter has an open glass-blowing studio where you’ll usually see some craftspeople at work. It’s remarkable to see such heavy technology creating what are often very delicate pieces. If you’re truly inspired, head to Sunrise Springs, just south of the city, for classes in its ceramics studio.
© Zora O'Neill from Moon Santa Fe, Taos & Albuquerque, 2nd edition