By Lenore Macdonald
Much to the joy of Taos’ cultural afficionados, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham recently announced that museums could open subject to certain restrictions. Taos, nestled at 7000 feet at the southern end of the Sangre de Christo Range of the Rocky Mountains, is home to many museums, historic homes, and haciendas and, of course, the oldest continuously inhabited site in North America, the Taos Pueblo.
Two of Taos’ museums reopened between October 1 and today: The Harwood Museum of Art followed by the Taos Art Museum. The Millicent Rogers Museum has not announced it reopening date, but I am told it should be soon. The Harwood and the Taos Art Museum are located near the historic Taos Plaza. The Millicent Rogers Museum is north of town on (surprise!) Millicent Rogers Road.
Diverse Regional Art Under One Roof: The Harwood Museum of Art
Just south of the Taos Plaza on charming Ledoux Street is The Harwood Museum of Art. Reopening to visitors on October 1, visitors are at last able experience works in its previously on-line only show Las Santeras: Images of Faith and Folklore.
Bulto by famed artista Lorrie Garcia, part of The Harwoods Las Santeras exhibit. Lorrie Garcia, Patrona de la Santa Fe 2004. Courtesy of the artist.
Las Santeras explores the influence of female artists working with the cultural devotional arts of New Mexico and Colorado. Steeped in history and tradition, these women have paved their own paths in an artform that for decades has been largely dominated by male artists. The backgrounds and diverse styles of the award-winning artists represented have elevated them to the high stature they represent within the art world and practicing religious communities today.
Also featured in The Harwood Las Santeras exhibit is a beautiful retablo by santera Catherine Robles Shaw. Catherine Robles Shaw, La Familia de los Santos 2005. Courtesy of the Millicent Rogers Museum.
Also for visitors’ contemplation is Contemporary Art/Taos 2020, a juried exhibition to bring to light the talented artists currently living and working in Northern New Mexico or with deep roots in the region. Taos has long been known as a place where artists source creative inspiration and hunker down in their studios building bodies of work that may never be shown in Taos, even if displayed in New York, Los Angeles, London and beyond.
While visiting the Harwood Museum, be sure to see the Agnes Martin Gallery featuring seven paintings by the internationally acclaimed artist. These works were created in 1993 when Martin returned to Taos. This gallery was built specifically for these paintings. Martin, who never conceived her work as a series, or as being exhibited in this fashion, was thrilled by the display. Four Donald Judd benches are arranged under the Gallery’s oculus. It is one of my favorite contemplative spaces in Taos.
And, of course, you will also want to see Ken Price’s Death Shrine I from Happy Circus, the museum’s Early Twentieth Century and Taos Society of Artists collections, and the Harwood’s exceptional contemporary collection.
Other current temporary exhibits include DEAN PULVER: ELEMENTAL RESONANCE through February 14, 2021. Pulver is interested in making pieces that are resonate and reflective. Pulver finds that in using forms that are basic and elemental, there becomes an openness to creating multi-referential relationships to the pieces that he creates.
To celebrate Larry Bell and his 80th birthday, Larry Bell: Cubic Propositions highlights his ongoing investigation of the cube. The exhibition closes on November 7, 2020, so make haste.
Visit www.harwoodmuseum.org for more information. The museum’s website also hosts Las Santeras and Contemporary Art/Taos 2020 so you can explore these fascinating exhibits from the comfort of your sofa.
A Chicago Connection: Taos Art Museum
Several blocks north of the Taos Plaza is the Taos Art Museum at the historic Nicolai Fechin historic home and studio. Russian emigrant artist Fechin’s hand-built and hand-hewn home is a beautiful sight to behold.
There is a Chicago connection to Fechin and the Taos Art Museum, too.
Nicolai Fechin, Balinese Boy with Scarf. Charcoal on paper. 15.5 x 22.75. Private Collection
Nicolai Fechin, Alexandra on the Volga. Oil on canvas. 31.75 x 26.375. Private Collection
As Executive Director Christy Schoedinger Coleman explained, “Duane Van Vechten was born in Chicago in 1899 and was the daughter of the prominent banker Ralph Van Vechten. She studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Art Students League in New York City, and under Emil Bisttram while summering in Taos in the mid-1920’s. In 1924, her father commissioned Nicolai Fechin to paint her portrait. It was completed in 1926. In 1935, Duane met Edwin C. Lineberry, and they married in 1941. Together they built and operated the first grocery store in Taos….”
Duane continued painting, and after her death in 1977, Coleman continues, “Lineberry created a museum in memory of Duane and the Taos Founders whose paintings formed the core of his collection. In 1994 the Van Vechten-Lineberry Taos Art Museum was created to promote and honor Taos’ most talented and notable artists. Today, it is the Taos Art Museum at the Historic Fechin Home and Studio.”
Nicolai Fechin, Balinese Dancer. Oil on canvas, 17 x 14. Private Collection
Nicolai Fechin, Russian Singer with Fan. Oil on canvas, 48 x 33.5. Private Collection
In preparation for the museum’s reopening, Coleman says, “we are ready and absolutely thrilled to welcome visitors again! I think a lot about how much life the Fechin House and Studio had while Nicolai Fechin and his family lived here. It must have always been a flurry of activity with Fechin painting during the day and carving and building his home in the evening. That same kind of energy thrives when visitors are wandering through the museum and feeling inspired by the art and Fechin’s handcrafted home.”
Photo Interior of Historic Fechin House-Taos Art Museum. Courtesy of the Taos Art Museum.
Opening on October 9, 2020 through May 3, 2021, Nicolai Fechin: Drawings and Paintings includes a premier assemblage of his incomparable pencil and charcoal drawings, as well as a selection of his beautiful paintings and his handcrafted furniture. Coleman notes that “Several of the works in the show were created by Fechin during the Russian Revolution and times of significant challenge for the artist. When one looks at those works and considers what he went through at that time, while standing in the beautiful architectural masterpiece he would later build as his home, it’s impossible to not be inspired, and perhaps even hopeful. We, too, will emerge from difficult times stronger than ever.”
Also opening that same day in the Fechin Studio is Meredith Garcia: A Room of One’s Own. “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction,” Virginia Woolf famously wrote in 1929. To Meredith Garcia, this sentiment still applies today to the woman artists of Taos. A Room of One’s Own is a diverse series of twenty-nine silver gelatin photographs depicting these female creatives.
For more information, visit www.taosartmuseum.org
Seventy Years of Collaboration: The Taos Pueblo and the Millicent Rogers Museum
The Navajo Nation was hard hit by the Covid pandemic. The Taos Pueblo Nation (The Pueblo) tribal leadership imposed a strict no visitor policy which has gone a long way towards sparing The Pueblo that same fate. Sadly, The Pueblo has been severely economically impacted by shutdown since many of its members have not been able to earn their livelihoods. The Pueblo remains closed to visitors and we await its reopening.
The Taos Pueblo, a World Heritage Site. (c)2019 Lenore Macdonald
In an attempt to help ameliorate the situation for The Pueblo’s accomplished and thriving artist community, to celebrate Indigenous People’s Week, and as part of the Millicent Rogers Museum’s ongoing commitment to The Pueblo, the Millicent is presenting its premier Taos Pueblo Artisans (virtual) Showcase and Sale from October 16 through October 30.
The sale features a variety of art forms including glass, jewelry, pottery, photography, sculpture, paintings, beadwork, and more. Internationally acclaimed potter, Lorraine Gala Lewis, has accepted the invitation to show. Other participating artists “Living Treasure” Maria Samora, Jacqueline Gala, Cassaundra Dukepoo, Ira Lujan, Luis Romero, Louisa Mirabal Murphy, DeAnna Suazo, Suann Davin, Dominic Beau, Ivan Concha and others.
These unique and original artworks will be available for purchase via the Millicent’s website, www.millicentrogers.org and can also be viewed at www.taospueblo.com. Select works will be on display at the museum’s store, which is open Thursdays through Saturday afternoons.
Executive Director Greta Brunschwyler shared that “It’s been heartbreaking for all of us. The value of the museum’s exhibits and collections are in the interaction they allow with the audience. We were scheduled to open the Michael Naranjo exhibit the day the museum closed and had to cancel the annual Taos Pueblo Winter Arts Showcase.”
The Michael Naranjo exhibit at the Millicent Rogers Museum. Courtesy of the Millicent Rogers Museum
Naranjo, perhaps unfamiliar to Chicago readers, is a celebrated, sight-impaired Native American sculptor. Naranjo spent his childhood and formative years on the Taos Pueblo and in its area, then went off to the Viet Nam War where he was blinded and suffered other injuries. Since he cannot “see” he visualizes in “his mind’s eye” and sculpts with three fingers, ones that were not wounded in Viet Nam.
I recently viewed the exhibit and can attest to his mastery of his medium. His work is extraordinary in and of itself and he also wants the beholder to touch and experience his works via touch, just like he does—not just look at them. The exhibit is organized to encourage (careful) participation and represents yet another dashed opportunity due to Covid.
Naranjo sculpted this crucifix, one of which he presented to Pope John Paul II during an audience at the Vatican. Photo courtesy of the Millicent Rogers Museum.
The good news is that when the Millicent reopens, visitors can experience the Naranjo exhibit until February 17, 2021. It will be joined by a new and exciting exhibit, Treasures From The Vault, featuring objects chosen to illustrate The Millicent’s diverse collection and the unique cultures represented.
View of part of The Millicent’s Treasures From The Vault reopening exhibit, including a side view of the Sunset Straws rose gold necklace. Courtesy of the Millicent Rogers Museum.
In addition to a display of some of Rogers’ jewelry designs conveying her talent and creativity, standing alone in all of its glory is a never-before-exhibited necklace made by Rogers. Handcrafted from rose gold, Sunset Straws was gifted to the museum in 2019 by her granddaughter, Christina Lucia Peralta-Ramos. It is simply breathtaking. The nearby photo does not come anywhere close to capturing its sublime beauty and nuances.
A treasure from the museum’s vault, the Millicent Rogers-designed rose gold Sunset Straws necklace. Courtesy of the Millicent Rogers Museum.
Donor Peralta-Ramos explains, “My grandmother commissioned Jean Schlumberger at Tiffany’s New York Studio to do the formal casting from her wax molds.” It is an incredible collaboration to contemplate and makes one wish that one could have been the proverbial fly on the wall during their collaborative meetings.
A spectacular selection of Native American jewelry originally collected by Millicent Rogers that later became part of the core collection of the Millicent Rogers Museum fills another case.
Millicent Rogers was a serious artist—painting, sketching and designing her jewelry. Here, an exhibit of two of her jewelry design sketches and her some of her personally designed jewelry. Courtesy of the Millicent Rogers Museum.
Additionally, the museum’s well-known Buffalo Katsina has come out of the vault to welcome visitors. Featured new acquisitions include a gouache on paper by Quincy Tahoma. This painting was recently gifted by Judith Anderson, daughter-in-law of Claude and Elizabeth Anderson who donated their historic hacienda home and property to the charitable foundation which later became the museum. A collection of contemporary Hispanic iconography as well as Old Master santeros (saint makers) are also featured.
Curator Carmela Quinto explained, “This new introductory gallery at the MRM is designed to give an overview of the museum, beginning with Millicent Rogers herself. Early images of museum’s current site are on view, as well as a photo of the Andersons and Peralta-Ramos families taken when the museum opened at the hacienda.”
Brunschwyler continued, “Having just arrived in January as the museum’s new Executive Director, I only had two months when visitors have been allowed in the Museum. Needless to say, I can’t tell you how happy I will be to welcome everyone back to the Millicent. We’ve pulled some special things from our collections for this occasion!”
The Millicent’s grounds and unique site warrant the visitor’s attention as well. It is located on a multiacre site housing an historic, hand built traditional adobe hacienda while boasting an addition designed by Chicago’s Skidmore Owings & Merrill. A very photogenic Michael Naranjo sculpture awaits you. Walk the grounds. Take in the 360-degree views. Enjoy the beautiful native plant beds as you meander.
The Millicent’s website is open 24/7 for your virtual viewing pleasure and inspiration, visit www.millicentrogers.org
Yes, Taos is reawakening and should be on your must-visit list as soon as it is safe for you to travel. In the meantime, expand your cultural and artistic horizons with virtual visits. Consider starting a collection–or add to yours–while supporting Native American artists and Taos’ fabulous museums.
© 2020 Lenore Macdonald. All rights reserved.