Cypher Space - the Museum of Art Blog

A Hee-Haw For The Holidays by Miguelito - 12/15/14

The Museum of Art’s Annual Holiday Open House takes place on Sunday, December 21 from 1 to 4 p.m.

Gustave Baumann
Donkey (Miguelito)
Gift of Jane Baumann, 1978
I’ll be there. I hope to see you too because I need your help. Who am I? Why I’m Miguelito, the faithful burro. I’m a puppet. I belong to Juan and Rosina, his wife. We’re all puppets, part of the marionette family created by New Mexico artist Gustave Baumann. During the holiday season, we perform along with Freckles and Warts, duende twins, who make mischief while everyone else tries to make merry.
What do I mean by mischief? Well, one year, Freckles and Warts took me, Miguelito. While Rosina fretted, instead of baking biscochitos, Juan had to stop what he was doing and find me!
During this year’s puppet show – there will be two performances directed by Barbara Hatch – Warts will be on stage along with the rest of us, while Freckles hides in the museum. He was asked to hide, so children attending this year’s events could look for him on a Treasure Hunt.

Gustave Baumann
Freckles, Duendi
Gift of Jane Baumann, 1978
If you haven’t been to one of our performances before, you’ll need some clues if you want to find him. Freckles is a little guy with strings attached. He’s named after the freckles on his face. He looks just like his twin, Warts. How do you tell them apart? Look carefully.
Freckles also has a long wooden nose. He’s always sticking his nose into trouble. Maybe he should have been named Nosy. Because he’s a duende, or an elf, he has funny ears. Sharp ears like a Trekkie.
Freckles will be wearing his costume, his duende duds. It’s hard to get cool clothes in small sizes: you don’t want to wear doll’s clothes, but does Freckles have to dress like a lampshade? Lucky for me, I wear fur year round. Freckles also wears a hat that looks like an upside down funnel. See what I mean about mischief?
On the Treasure Hunt, you’ll have to look hard for Freckles. The museum is big, two stories! It’s packed full of art now, too. AND, Freckles and Warts know how to make themselves invisible. That’s right! Thin Air Twins! Poof! They vanish, but they always come back.
What do you do when you find Freckles? Martha Landry, the Museum’s Special Events Person, says the boy or girl who finds Freckles will win a prize. Collect your prize, receive your congratulations, then let me know where you found him.
Before my show biz career, I hauled wood from the mountains down to Burro Alley, so, yes, I could carry a grudge easily, and Freckles and Warts have played tricks on me. But that’s not what this is all about, besides I always forgive them. Underneath their lampshade jerseys, their wooden hearts are made of gold. Trust me; it’s puppet anatomy.
Anyway, as Miguelito, the faithful burro, I want to make sure Freckles didn’t make more mischief while he was playing Peek-A-Boo Puppet. The holidays are right around the corner. I want to take some time off. Kick up my heels. Let the reindeer do the heavy lifting from here on out. I want to have fun and plenty of it, and I want you to have plenty of fun, too. So listen. Make your ears as long as mine.
In addition to the two performances of Teatro Duende, Baumann’s Santa Marionette will be in the St. Francis Auditorium. He’ll sit in your lap. If you want your picture taken with Santa, bring your camera or your phone.
I usually give friends and family a Hee-Haw around the holidays, but if anyone needs holiday cards or special gifts, they’re available in the New Mexico Museum and the History Museum gift shops. The Gustave Baumann family not only put on puppet shows each year, Gus and his artist friends created fantastic holiday cards. There’s an exhibit of those cards at the History Museum. A holiday book, Gustave Baumann and Friends Artist Cards From Holidays Past, by Jean Moss and Thomas Leech, is available as well.
For a real treat, check out the videos (below) created by students at the Community College of Santa Fe. The filmmakers have produced a number of videos about us: The Baumann Marionettes. They’re on YouTube. They’re a hoot; guaranteed to make you kick up your heels.

Strike 1970 - 12/1/2014

Tin soldiers and Nixon's comin'
We're finally on our own
This summer I hear the drummin'
Four dead in Ohio
Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are gunning us down
Should have been done long ago
What if you knew her and
Found her dead on the ground?
How can you run when you know?
- "Ohio" by Crosby, Still, Nash & Young
Neil Young wrote these lyrics in 1970 after seeing the now-famous photographs of the Kent State massacre in Life Magazine. The photos depicted Ohio National Guardsmen shooting four students at Kent State University who were protesting the US military's invasion of Cambodia during the Viet Nam War on May 4, 1970. The event spurred additional protests throughout the country within days.  
At the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, local anti-war activists called for a strike, and students took over the Student Union Building. On May 6, four anti-war protesters were stabbed by pro-war students, causing the regents to shut down the university and obtain a restraining order to vacate university buildings. When students ignored the order, police started arresting activists on May 8. Upon hearing false rumors that the protestors were armed, then-Governor David Cargo called the New Mexico National Guard.  The chaos escalated in several protestors being bayonetted by the National Gardsmen. Unlike at Kent State, no one at the UNM strike was killed. Yet the event is still felt deeply by those who were present.  
A group of graduate art students formed the Visual Coalition to photographically document the UNM strike. One of these students, Paige Pinnell, donated several of these photographs to the museum, currently in the exhibition Hunting + Gathering. The photographs are all untitiled and the photographer is unknown, forcing the viewer to focus on the subject.

Miguel Covarrubias - 11/15/2014

Today's guest entry was written by Cuauhtemoc Murphy, an artist and educator from Texas whose work can be found here.

The New Mexico Museum of Art  collection includes international art that links the core collection to the West, the Americas, and the World. Miguel Covarrubias is a perfect example of an artist that does just that. The museum has only a handful of his large body of work, but what they do have is worth making a trip out to see them.

Like many others, I did not know of his work-- yet he was creating art during the second half of the great Diego Rivera's career, and for that matter they both died the same year, 1957.

Miguel Covarrubias was born 1904 in Mexico City and was an author, painter, caricaturist, staff cartoonist for Vanity Fair magazine, and professor of art history at the National School of Anthropology in Mexico City. The New Mexico Museum of Art has the following books: The Prince of Wales and Other Famous Americans (1925), Negro Drawings (1927), Island of Bali (1937), The Eagle, the Jaguar, and the Serpent: Indian Art of the Americas: North America: Alaska, Canada, the United States (1954), Miguel Covarrubias Caricatures (1985), and a lithograph in their collection.

Miguel Covarrubias
Mexican Street Scene, n.d.
Lithograph on white wove paper
Gift of Sears, Roebuck & Co., 1965

The Prince of Wales and Other Famous Americans (1925) has many of the drawings that were originally published in Vanity Fair magazine, while Covarrubias was a staff cartoonist.

The book features several dozen black-and-white caricatures of famous Americans (mostly New York-based but also Hollywood). Personalities from the 1920s such as the likes of Clark Gable, Alexander Woollcott, Shirley Temple, Paul Whiteman, and many others were portrayed in caricatures that ranged from art-deco to surrealistic. This book really showcases his eye of the 20s and brings to light his entertaining style. I can't state that he pioneered that style, but of the examples I found it was and still is the hallmark of that period-- when I think of clubs that may have had caricatures lining their walls.

Another book that stood out from the museum's collection is Covarrubias's Island of Bali (1937). This has come to be regarded as a classic work on the Balinese people and their civilization. From all that I read regarding the book it is an extremely thorough account of Balinese life.
The Eagle, the Jaguar, and the Serpent : Indian Art of the Americas: North America: Alaska, Canada, the United States (1954) is a book that is also in the Stanford University's collection.

This is one that I personally want to see more of because of the quality of the illustrations. Just from my limited contact with Rebecca Potance, the museum's Librarian/Archivist/Webmaster, and surfing the museums site I want to make a trip to the New Mexico Museum of Art.

The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum down the street from The New Mexico Museum of Art is currently hosting an exhibition about Covarrubias until January 18, 2015 Their webpage summarizes his connection to New Mexico and American Modernism :

I Approve This Message - 11/1/2014

'Tis the season, the silly season. The days are crisp; fall leaves are bursting with color, and the airwaves are jammed with junk. During the silly season, political advertising saturates radio and TV stations as politicians and wannabes try to persuade us to elect them instead of their opponents.
“He’s dirty. She’s negative. I’m experienced. He’s bought and paid for.”
By whom?
“The Committee for Sustainable Mediocrity, Clay Foote, chairman.”
If we keep watching, sooner or later we witness the media perform a righteous fact check on the candidate’s advertising. Fudging will be exposed. White lies will be uncovered, and an outright exaggeration or two will be reported. Then we’ll see several stories on the effects of negative advertising on the American electorate. Congress is held in low esteem! Imagine that.  
Lately, when the campaign season approaches, I find myself fantasizing about ways to end this madness, this noise pollution created by political advertising. One solution comes to mind.
Force office seekers to submit a headshot – selfies acceptable - resume, and the answers to five questions concerning the issues, not the state of their opponent’s laundry. The candidate’s materials will be submitted to a panel of editorial cartoonists. Each member of this panel will be an artist capable of extracting the essence of an individual or an issue using one of the most enduring forms of artistic expression – the caricature.
In my fantasy world, one caricature will be created from each candidate’s material. Voters will be allowed to study the results, even request copies. After all many caricatures or political cartoons, the terms are often interchangeable, are ripped out of the newspaper or printed off the internet, and saved. Secure behind a magnet on the refrigerator door, these cartoons remind voters that politicians and baloney have much in common.
Why caricature?
According to Victor S. Navasky, the former editor and publisher of The Nation, and the author of The Art of Controversy, Political Cartoons and Their Enduring Power, caricature has different meanings for different artists.
“But for Leonardo da Vinci, whom many consider to have invented the form, caricature is an extrapolation of realism taken to its logical extreme…Moving beyond Universal Beauty, Realism searches in the particular for an image of secular truth.’”
Secular truth, huh? Would that make today’s fact checkers happy?
Navasky goes on to say that the word caricature, derived from the Italian caricare, means to load as in vessel or a weapon. 
“Artists capable of brilliant caricatures force us to focus on what we might otherwise miss,” Navasky adds. This is accomplished by taking a distinctive feature and exaggerating it, literally overloading it.
Sixteenth century Italian Baroque painter Annibale Carracci (1560 – 1609), who also produced caricatures, clarified the differences between the classical artist and the caricaturist. In referring to da Vinci’s caricatures, Carracci says: “Both see the lasting truth beneath the surface of mere outward appearance. Both try to help nature accomplish its plan. The one may strive to visualize the perfect form and to realize it in his work, the other to grasp deformity, and thus reveal the very essence of a personality. A good caricature, like every work of art, is more true to life than reality itself.”
As Navasky puts it: a caricature seeks that perfect deformity. Finding it is high ambition.
As caricature developed throughout Europe caricaturists added visual metaphors, personification, and allegory. The content of the art expanded from behavior to social situations to politics. At least one scholar credits Martin Luther, who took aim at the Catholic Church, with creating the first political cartoons. 
The first cartoon in America was published by Benjamin Franklin. But it wasn’t until the 1870’s that caricature became popular.  Thomas Nast’s caricatures brought down Boss Tweed, head of Tammany Hall, the corrupt Democratic machine in New York. Nast, by the way, is credited with creating the donkey and elephant symbols still used by the Democratic and Republican parties.   
Out of all of the editorial cartoonists working today, I’d select Pat Oliphant, considered by many to be the dean of American editorial cartoonists, to chair my panel of political cartoonists. Punk, Oliphant’s wise cracking penguin, whose witticisms are found at the corner of Oliphant’s cartoon panels, would be on the panel as well. Look at Oliphant’s Billy the Kid, in the permanent collection of the New Mexico Museum of Art, and you’ll see why I selected Oliphant.
Patrick Oliphant
Billy the Kid, 1999
Museum purchase with funds from Phyllis Sloane, 2008
Whether you’re a fan or critic of the former President, the viewer immediately recognizes the cartoon’s symbols. In other words, we see what Oliphant sees. A man who plainly done himself in, an aw shucks outlaw who failed to outrun Sherriff Ken Starr’s posse, because he shot himself in the foot.  Yes, there was a right wing conspiracy, or so they say, and an intern, she’s back by the way, and a cigar, but Clinton held the smoking gun. In Oliphant’s rendition, Clinton’s gun is conveniently located where Adam attached the first known fig leaf. That brilliant detail gives the caricature the power of a bullet fired at point blank range.
“Bulls eye,” Punk might say.
Oliphant lives in Santa Fe, but I reached him by phone back East. When a new president takes office, Oliphant tells me, the cartoonist and his audience engage in a conspiracy. “We’ll be watching this man. It takes three or four months to get an idea of what a person is like,” he says. “It evolves as you get exposure to the person.”
We’re co-dependent. The artist depends on the viewer to make the correct connection, Navasky says. Once that happens drawing expresses what words cannot say. A brilliant cartoon can be read in a second, something Martin Luther realized when he circulated his caricatures among the illiterate in Europe, who had not yet learned to read. Many of Boss Tweed’s constituents couldn’t read either, but they could see.
“Stop them damn pictures,” Tweed cried, referring to Nast’s cartoons.
“When the caricature has artistic depth, the outrage is more keenly felt,” Navasky writes. “The more powerful the caricature, the more outraged the protest.”
Indeed, the French King Louis Philippe, the same monarch who ordered caricaturist Honore Daumier jailed, described caricature as an act of violence. All Daumier did was liken a body to a pear. Pears are normally thought of as fruit not weapons. Someone could have been beaned by a pear, so I fact checked. Google has no record of “pearacide” in the search engine, and I was feeling lucky.   
Pat Oliphant doesn’t appear violent either. I recall attending an opening at the Gerald Peters Gallery in May of 2013. Oliphant’s show featured selections from a sabbatical in Rome. Sculptures, paintings, drawings, prints and monotypes were included in this accomplished artist’s exhibit. Despite the crowd, it didn’t long before I located the impish, white-haired man, glee evident in his eyes, drawing on a huge piece of paper hung on the gallery wall. No sign of Punk, though.
Oliphant brought Punk with him when he moved from Australia, where he was born, to the United States in 1964. He took a job with the Denver Post. By 1967, Oliphant had won a Pulitzer Prize for an editorial cartoon concerning peace efforts during the Vietnam War. Since then he’s won numerous awards. His work is in the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, the LBJ Library, many museums, including ours, and he’s had numerous exhibits.
When I asked him about his cartoons depicting war, many of which are chilling, Oliphant says: “War is never a pleasant subject. The cartoon is not a joke. The humor is a vehicle to carry that observation.”  
In an earlier interview with The Atlantic, Oliphant says that humor induces people to look at things they wouldn’t want to think about without humor.
That humor is also what makes Oliphant’s political caricatures so powerful, but there are other elements as well. Wendy Wick Reaves, Senior Curator of Prints and Drawings at the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian, recommends keeping three elements in mind when you glance through any collection of Oliphant’s work. “Consider his draftsmanship, imagination, and verbal wit and how forcefully they can work together,” she writes in the afterword to Oliphant’s book, Leadership: Oliphant Cartoons & Sculpture from the Bush Years. Wick Reaves also describes Oliphant’s work as magical, more to the point for me.
As I wandered through Gerald Peter’s Gallery observing Oliphant’s caricatures and sculpture, I was amazed at what he was able to do to Dick Cheney with a few deft strokes. In Oliphant’s hand, a pen is a weapon of precise destruction.
With a shotgun in one hand, the same one used to accidentally shoot his hunting partner; Cheney leads a horse wearing blinders. America? Absolutely. On top of the stead is a tiny rider, the size of a jockey, wearing a jester’s cap. George W. Bush clings to the horse’s mane, while Cheney, his other hand gripping the horse’s halter, rolls his eyes. That telling detail, tiny considering all of the other components in the piece, says it all. Contemptuous, arrogant, and in charge.  
How did you do that? I ask Oliphant when we talked on the phone. Get Cheney exactly right? Find the perfect deformity?
“Dick Cheney was a gift really,” Oliphant says. “I never liked him.”
In my mind’s eye I see Punk. I hear him too. “A non-returnable gift,” the penguin says. “So forget the receipt.”
In your sixty year career, have you changed the electorate I ask, recalling that Thomas Nast’s cartoons were instrumental in bringing down Tammany Hall?
“I’ve never drawn a cartoon to change people’s prejudices in one way or the other,” Oliphant says. Besides, nothing much changes, really. “All we do is change the faces every four or eight years.”
There is no such thing as a balanced or fair caricature, but balance is not what we’re seeking. We’re looking for essence, truth according to Leonardo da Vinci, and we’re getting a laugh along the way, more often than not a good laugh from gifted artists such as Pat Oliphant.
We’re electing human beings, and they’re flawed. Perhaps all we can do is laugh. That’s a message I can approve.
Pat Oliphant’s Billy the Kid is included in the Museum of Art’s Hunting + Gathering exhibition which opens November 7th.  

A New Mexico Tradition : Southwestern Realism - 10/15/2014

In 1990, this museum set out to tell the story of contemporary New Mexican artists working in the realist tradition.  The result was an exhibition called A New Mexico Tradition : Southwestern Realism.  The exhibition may be over, but its legacy remains with the catalog and the following video which we have digitized for your viewing pleasure.   

A Winning Ticket - 10/1/2014

Today's guest blog post comes from Sara Ford, a Santa Fe resident and member of the museum's docent program.


Visitors to the Museum’s recent Family Day that included a behind the scenes tour of the facility were treated to a bonus – an introduction to the museum’s newest curator. Carmen Vendelin, Curator of Art, greeted visitors on the first stop of the basement tour – the acquisition center, where the museum’s extensive collection of art and photographs is stored, preserved, registered and catalogued. Carmen was joined by Kate Ware, Curator of Photography. Carmen appeared quite at home as the two curators handled their portion of the tour like Wimbledon doubles partners confident that when the rally ended, they’d score their points.

Prior to moving to Santa Fe, Carmen served as Curator of Art at La Salle University Art Museum in Philadelphia, but she’s no stranger to the American West. Indeed, she’s a native. Carmen grew up in Idaho, where her mother encouraged her interest in creativity and art. As she matriculated, Carmen discovered that she had other interests and talents as well, ideal skills for an art historian. “I really enjoy scholarship, and I really enjoy writing,” she said.

Carmen earned her bachelor’s degree with honors in art history from the University of Washington before she headed east. She earned her Master’s in Modern and Contemporary Art History, Criticism and Theory from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. From there, Carmen headed to New Jersey, where she completed her doctoral candidacy at Rutgers.

Over the years, Carmen has acquired 13 years of museum experience, ten of those curatorial, at such institutions as the Newark Museum, the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers, the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as her recent post in Philadelphia.

But the time had come to make a change. “I was really tired of dealing with a lot of aspects of the big city. I realized that I missed the landscape out west. That was really important to me,” Carmen said. “I was very excited to come to Santa Fe because it’s such an art mecca, and it’s such a beautiful place. I felt like I won the lottery.”

Carmen’s area of specialization is 19th and 20th century American and European art with a particular emphasis on the years between 1870 and World War II. At the New Mexico Museum of Art, she’ll be working mainly with collections prior to 1955.
Hunting + Gathering, which opens November 7th, will be Carmen’s first curatorial effort. The exhibit will present a sampling of artworks that have entered the Museum’s collection since 2010. Nearly two hundred works of art in a variety of media, including painting, photography, sculpture, prints and ceramics will be included. Among the artists featured are: Richard Diebenkorn, Sol LeWitt, Robert Motherwell, and Imogen Cunningham.

Carmen is enthusiastic about the theme as well as the variety. “It’s a great way for me to get to know the art that has come in over the last four-and-a-half years. It’s an opportunity to do things creatively. Showing art work that you wouldn’t otherwise put together. Different mediums, differing time periods, different kinds of subject matter,” she said.

A number of other exhibits, already planned, will follow, leaving Carmen with fulfilling days. In addition to spending time her adult daughter, who moved to Santa Fe, also, Carmen enjoys film. She also plans to learn more about the area. “I like to be out in beautiful natural spaces. I have a list of places I’d like to see,” she said. “There’s no lack of places to go around here.”

Welcome to Santa Fe, Carmen. It is a winning ticket.

New Additions to the Library - 9/15/2014

In November, this museum will be doing an entire exhibtion on artworks we have acquired in the past 4 years for the permanent collection. We have also added to the library and archives collections during this time. Building library and archival collections is a similar process to building an art collection.  In fact, sometimes books and archival materials are donated to the museum together as one collection. Throughout the museum's history we have always relied on donations from the community to build a research collection. Some of the largest collections of books have come from artists themselves. For example, local artist Vivian Sloan Fiske, gave us approximately 900 items on art-related subject matter (about half of them books) after she died in 1978.
Earlier this year, the museum was offered about 800 items about photography from a man named Dennis Cormier. Of those, we kept about 170.  Many of the books donated were rare and/or signed by the author. Some of the highlight of this donation include:
  • Children of War, Children of Peace : Photographs by Robert Capa
  • Lee Friedlander : Sticks & Stones
  • Photographs by Allen Ginsberg
  • William Eggleston's For Now
  • Proud Flesh by Sally Mann
  • Joel-Peter Witkin's Enfer ou Ciel
  • Perfect Documents: Walker Evans and African Art, 1935
  • The Hyena and Other Men by Pieter Hugo
  • The Architect's Brother by Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison
  • Koudelka Gypsies
  • On This Earth, A Shadow Falls by Nick Brandt
The list reads like a who's who of 20th and 21st century photographers. All of the books, catalogs and journals Mr. Cormier donated are listed in the library's catalog, SALSA. Cormier also donated a number of photographs to the museum over the years, a few of those will be on view in Hunting + Gathering : New Additions to the Museum’s Collection.

Happy Labor Day - 9/1/2014

Today's guest blog post comes from Tia Harvey of Seattle. Tia is a recent graduate of the University of Washington with a bachelor's degree in Art History.
Have you ever noticed murals that decorate post offices, schools, and other public buildings? Most of the murals depict skilled workers such as farmers in wheat fields, men working on railroads, lumber mill workers, or workers on construction sites. Paintings like Tom Lea’s, Employment in Public Works can be found anywhere throughout the United States. This phenomenon is not a coincidence. At the start of the Great Depression, October 29, 1929 (or better known as Black Friday) the American stock market crumbled, leaving many without a job. By 1932, at least one-quarter of the workforce had lost their job. When newly elected Franklin D. Roosevelt took office in 1933 he sought to stabilize the economy and provide jobs to the suffering in a series of federal programs called the New Deal; in turn giving us one of the most successful programs our nation has seen, the Works Progress Administration (WPA). One way the WPA provided jobs to Americans was through art.
Tom Lea
Employment in Public Works, 1934
On long term loan from the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
The WPA Federal Arts Program (FAP) provided over 3,000 jobs in just 4 months and over 15,000 pieces of art ranging from murals to sculptures in government buildings. Many famous artists such as Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko were part of the FAP whom were provided a means of living during desolate times and according to painter Stuart Davis, artists employed during this period had possessed “a new orientation and a new hope and purpose based on a new sense of social responsibility.”
Carl Morris
Lumber Mill and Agriculture at Eugene Post Office, 1942
Oregon State Archives
To me, the Federal Arts Program helped provide Americans with solidarity of their economically crumbling country in two major ways. First is solidarity of the government. As experts on New Deal Art, Marlene Park and Gerald E Markowitz speculate in their book, Democratic Vistas: Post Offices and Public Art in the New Deal, the government’s interjection of public art establishes the presence of the government in our everyday lives. Secondly is the glorification of workers. Depictions of workers are often of a group of strong, unyielding men undaunted by the days work.
Carl Mydans
CCC (Civilivan Conservation Corps) boys working, Prince George’s Country, Maryland, Nov 1935
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs
FAP artists sought to paint everyday life. The handwork and hard work of individuals resonates in all of us regardless of class. The art of this time serves as a reminder of how our nation was started and how it recovered from the one of the worst economic downturns in history.


Capturing the Moon's Beauty - 7/25/14

Today's blog post comes from Elisa Macomber.   Macomber is an artist and feng shui consultant ( living in Santa Fe, with a degree in Art and Design from Frostburg State University.
The moon, with its simple roundness and illuminating light, has always held an intriguing power over us, affecting our moods and the tides of the ocean. It is said that during full moons, more natural disasters occur as well as an increase in pregnancies! Superstitions aside, there is no mistaking the profound effect it has on us all, with its glorious and soft moonlight that has inspired many artists to visually capture its black and white juxtaposed beauty.
Since New Mexico has the perfect landscape to fully view the next super moon coming up on August 10th, perhaps some artistic inputs and scientific facts will inspire you to appreciate the power of the moon. The name “super moon”  has been erroneously mistaken for its size while low on the horizon; it was actually termed that because of the moon being at its closest point in its orbit to Earth.
Many photographers and artists know all too well how evasive the moon can be, due to its 28-day cycle and ever-changing weather patterns that hide it, whereby taking care to plan the perfect time to visually capture of the moon coming up from behind a cloud or a mountain on a clear night. Unlike a tree or mountain remaining still, the moon continuously changes from Earth as we look at it in the dark sky, making it more elusive to get a good, long look at it.
Ansel Adams
Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941 (printed 1980)
15 3/8 x 19 1/8 in. (39.1 x 48.6 cm)
gelatin silver print
Gift of the Museum of New Mexico Foundation, 1982
Ansel Adams's popular photograph, Moonrise over Hernandez, NM, is one such example of a “quick discovery” because to really capture the moon, the timing must be right, the light must be right, the clouds must not be covering the moon, and Adams, according to his assistants and family, scrambled together the camera and tripod off the side of a lonely dirt road while they were traveling back to Santa Fe for the night. Adams was frantic in trying to get the image captured in time and he succeeded, knowing fully well that a few seconds later would have resulted in a not-so-luminous image of the moon, hovering over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The moon, almost centered in the photograph,  seems to radiate its brilliant light over the clouds and the landscape, leaving the top portion of the photograph in pitch blackness.
Ray Belcher, a New Jersey native, who took Moonset, a photographic image that shows the orbital path of the moon, rather than the moon in still motion, also reflected that “the picture reflects a moment of being and what happens in that moment.” It is clear that the picture evokes movement, the feeling that one is spinning along with the sky. The contrast between the rocky landscape and the streaked sky offers a lonely yet stirring feeling of being out in the middle of nowhere.
Ray Belcher
Moonset, 1978
12 x 9 1/2 in.
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Gil and Eileen Hitchcock, 1984
Many “moonscape” works of art hold a quiet yet evoking feeling over us, since we only can view its luminescence at nighttime. With its whitish gray shape of an orb hanging in the sky alone, it is no wonder it continues to be a source of inspiration for creative artists, over many generations. To see other examples of artistic moonscapes, take a look at the following works here:
Douglas Walter Johnson
Moonset, Winter Dawn
Paul Caponigro


The French Connection - 7/14/2014

Today’s blog post comes from Sharifa Lookman, an undergraduate student in Art History at Wesleyan University and summer intern at the New Mexico Museum of Art.
The acclaim of New Mexico’s artistic culture derives from the work of artists such as Georgia O’Keefe, who immortalized the Abiquiu landscape in paintings, to Maria Martinez, who examined her heritage through traditional Pueblo pottery. A transformative component of New Mexico’s artistic identity that, unlike the aforementioned artists, cannot be solely attributed to one hand, is the Taos Society of Artists. The Taos Society of Artists was established by a group of explorative American painters who, upon arriving in Taos, were infatuated by its unique culture and seemingly virgin landscapes. Pioneered by Joseph Henry Sharp in 1915, a Cincinnati based artist who first visited the region in 1893, this cooperative was soon joined by Ernest Blumenschein, Bert Phillips, Oscar Berninghaus, E. Irving Couse, and W. Herbert Dunton. This was a commercial society with the mission of selling artwork through traveling exhibitions, a mission that eventually helped the modest town evolve into an international art center. Of these six artists, four traveled to Paris where they studied the Western historical tradition. Though equipped with this canonical understanding of Western art, these artists found it difficult to properly articulate the unique imagery of New Mexico. This stylistic and aesthetic struggle instigated conflict and confusion in defining both artistic style and cultural identification. As evidenced by their work’s style and imagery, these artists attempted to define realistic and romantic styles while struggling to represent the cultural differences between Europeans and indigenous New Mexicans.
                                                        Ernest Blumenschein                                                         
Mountains Near Taos, 1926-34 
Oil on canvas 
Dallas Museum of Art
Paul Cezanne
Mont Sainte-Victoire seen from Bellevue, 1885
Oil on canvas
Barnes Foundation of Philadelphia
Within their work these artists all exhibit a mastery of painting techniques that can only be attributed to careful academic study. In addition to the influence of the old masters, their works recall the palette and compositional technique of their European contemporaries. One contemporary in particular, whose work each artist would undoubtedly have been exposed to in their studies, is Paul Cézanne. At roughly twenty years older than these artists’ median age, Cézanne’s transformative work was the subject of debate and analysis when these young artists engaged in their Parisian studies. This European influence is easily illustrated, both in defiance and emulation of, in Ernest Blumenschein’s Mountains Near Taos when compared to Cézanne’s Mont Sainte-Victoire seen from Bellevue. Mountains Near Taos references the light of Mont Sainte-Victoire in its sculptural quality. In both works it is the contrast between light and dark that establishes form, particularly in the mid-ground houses. Notwithstanding, however, Cézanne’s light source is quite vaguer than the directness of Blumenschein’s, though the sun does appear to be off canvas to the right in both pieces. The arrangement of Blumenschein’s composition nearly identically quotes that of Cézanne’s. Like Cézanne he depicts a land fractioned into green and brown squares, a mid-ground dotted with yellow ochre houses, and a large-scale mountain range that consumes roughly half of the composition. Despite these similarities, it is important to acknowledge the stylistic differences. Though both are representational, Cézanne’s piece is of a proto-cubist aesthetic while Blumenschein’s imagery is more inclined to realism. This divergence concisely illustrates the necessity of marrying artistic styles in an effort to properly represent the nonconformity of the New Mexican landscape.
Joseph Henry Sharp
Taos Indian Portrait, 1914
Oil on canvas
Gift of Joseph Henry Sharp, 1914
In addition to defining an artistic style capable of visually representing New Mexico, artists struggled to respectfully depict its indigenous culture. Joseph Henry Sharp, who is colloquially termed the father of the Taos art colony, had an intent interest in Native Americans. True to his training in European techniques, Sharp created portraits with acclaimed anthropological accuracy. His European sensibilities were assets in such cases, but they proved to be crutches when realistically depicting the people’s culture. Many foreigners to New Mexico perceived it as an exotic nation, though it was part of the United States, and thus imposed national and international aesthetics on a culture that they found to be raw and malleable. The artists claimed to have sympathy towards their Native American models, which they likely believed in naivety. Despite his enthusiasm for Native Americans, Sharp did not possess an extensive knowledge of their culture and would dress up his models (in indigenous garb of his own collection) that actually derived from a different tribe. In turn, his pieces were realistic, but not real. Many historians attribute the many scowling faces and sorrowful glances of Sharp’s subjects to this notion that they were angry and offended to be forced into another tribe’s attire and then painted. Though perhaps overly inferential, this interpretation is validated in Sharp’s Taos Indian Portrait where the figure’s annoyance is palpable and his grimace stern.
New Mexican art was transformed and enriched with the introduction of European artistic techniques. With them newcomers brought wisdom gained from the great European painting masters and subsequently introduced the possibility of increased skill and international acclaim to New Mexico. With them, however, they also introduced a cultural bias that manipulated the physical and emotional façade of preexisting indigenous cultures. This was a difficult transition for many, but it was through this effort of the Taos Society of Artists that, through many trials, we were able to discover a style with the necessary technique and cultural accuracy to depict the rare beauty that is unique to New Mexico’s landscape and people.


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