Taos Art Museum at Fechin House
This sunny space (227 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, 575/758-2690, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Tues.–Sun. May–Oct., 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Tues.–Sun. Nov.–Apr., $8), former home of artist and wood-carver Nicolai Fechin, is a showcase not only for a great collection of paintings, but also for Fechin’s lovely woodwork.
When the Russia native moved to Taos in 1927, hoping to cure his tuberculosis, he bought seven acres of land, including the small two-story house, and, with the tools that are hidden in a small cabinet in the dining room, proceeded to hand carve the lintels, staircases, bedsteads, and more, in a combination of Russian Tartar and local styles. He also designed all of the metal trim and the fireplaces.
His blending of traditions is flawless and natural—a small altar, also in the dining room, is set with Orthodox icons but could just as easily hold local santos.
Although Fechin was devoted to traditional styles, he had no qualms about adapting the house to modern life. The stove in the kitchen is electric, installed in 1928 when power first arrived in town, and he engineered a central heating system.
The collection of paintings shown here is eclectic: Victor Higgins’s 1936 recalls Gauguin, while Dorothy Brett’s from 1942 is more enamored of the powerful landscape. One room is dedicated to Fechin’s own portrait work, characterized by broad, dynamic brushstrokes and a canny eye for distinctive facial features. One work is an etching of the same set of haggard, mustachioed twins rendered in oil by Ernest Hennings on a canvas hanging at the Harwood Museum.
After all the work he did on the house, Fechin stayed in Taos only six years, leaving when his wife divorced him. He moved on to Los Angeles with his daughter, Eya (her sunny study, on the ground floor, contains the child-scale furniture that her father made for her). After her father died in 1955, Eya, by then practicing psychodrama and dance therapy, returned to live in the studio (the back building that also houses the gift shop) and helped establish the main house as a museum.
While you’re on the grounds, head farther back from the road to see the lobby of the Worldmark, built as a hotel in 1996—the astonishing woodwork that fills the space, all of it following Fechin’s designs and planned under Eya’s guidance, took 52 artisans working three years to finish.
The Museum Association of Taos (www.taosmuseums.org) manages five museums in town, the Taos Art Museum at Fechin House, the Millicent Rogers Museum, the Harwood Museum of Art, the Ernest L. Blumenschein Home and Museum, and the La Hacienda de los Martinez. At any of the museums, you can buy a $25 pass, valid for a year, that grants you a single admission to all five. With individual admissions costing $8 or more, it can be worth it if you visit three places.
© Zora O'Neill from Moon Santa Fe, Taos & Albuquerque, 2nd edition