The interstate highway system, a series of concrete arteries that connects our nation, too often gives little hint of the diversity and unique qualities found in the great regions that make up the United States. For example, a traveler on Interstate 25, pushing 80, lost in a cloud where his favorite music is stored, might glance out the window at the St. Francis exit and keep on going, indeed increase the pressure on the accelerator. Why stop in a state the color of a dusty boot? The answer is simple.
Behind that boot is a rich palette created by a magical light. A temptress, La Luz has inspired locals and visitors alike, especially artists, who have experienced and explored a wide range of beautiful, tantalizing, and contrasting colors and textures.
At night, the velvet skies are filled with stars that bejewel the heavens. At dawn, the horizon is outlined in silver, edged with blue.
Once the sun rises above the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the brilliant morning light rushes into the valleys like a river of diamonds, greeting the new day with boundless promise. The royal blue sky, so near at seven thousand feet, creates a perfect awning. Beneath the sky are colorful rock formations, sculpted by Nature’s sometimes careless, sometimes careful tools: time and the environment. In the background, the mountains are rugged and forested. At the tree line: green in the spring and summer, quilted with patches of gold in the fall, and blanketed with pristine snow, icy crystals alive with color under an inviting winter sun.
When the thunderstorms come during the summer, double rainbows arc across the sky, their delicate colors vivid against the somber grays seen in clouds the texture of thick cotton.
In the evenings, to the west, the sky is a fresco: alive and compelling, exploding with color. Rich oranges, yellows, reds and browns blend in a spectacular display until the day is done. From sunrise to sunset, this is a land of color.
During the summer of 2015, Nature’s bountiful gifts to northern New Mexico will be celebrated. Organized by the cultural institutions on Museum Hill, the “Summer of Color” features exhibits at a host of museums and galleries throughout the city.
At the Museum of Art, the exhibition Colors of the Southwest will showcase the special qualities of the Southwestern United States that have attracted artists for generations, said Carmen Vendelin, Curator of Art. “Western art is typified by color and light. When you come out here, you see it in the art. These qualities are unique. It’s part of the mystic. Color and light is what attracts artists.”
Colors of the Southwest will encompass an array of art created from the early twentieth century to the present including: paintings, photographs, prints, watercolors and ceramics. “In every media, you see a love of color. In this exhibition I wanted to show that universality,” Vendelin said.
Included in the show are iconic works by: Victor Higgins, Gustave Baumann, Sheldon Parsons, Dorothy Morang, Louise Crow, Andrew Dasburg, Fremont Ellis, Robert Daughters, William Penhallow Henderson, Kate Krasin, Eddie Dominguez, Helmuth Naumer, Warren Rollins and Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie.
The exhibit will present fresh and thought provoking pieces as well. “I’m also featuring art work that has never been shown before,” Vendelin said. “There will be a mix of styles, a broad overview and interesting art work.”
The work will be exhibited in a manner that will highlight different artists’ points-of-view. For example, Vendelin plans to place a Stuart Davis black and white painting near an Agnes Martin painting that features pale, delicate colors. “I’ll argue that Davis is doing black and white to control the expanse of space,” she explained. “Davis didn’t want to simply report on what he observed. He was a modernist. He wanted to flatten and abstract.”
Prior to arriving in New Mexico, Agnes Martin painted in black, white and brown, Vendelin said. “So for Martin, being here really opened her up and changed what she was doing.” Martin is not the only artist whose work shifted under the New Mexico skies.
Sheldon Parsons, a very successful portrait artist back east, abandoned that genre and took up landscape painting. Vendelin added that changes in E. Martin Hennings work, as a result of living in New Mexico, also will be evident in the exhibit, which will total 73 pieces of art.
Ceramicist Eddie Dominguez will give a gallery talk this summer at the museum.
Colors of the Southwest at the Museum of Art runs from March 6 – September 13, 2015.
Other Must See Exhibits
On Museum Hill:
Museum of International Folk Art – The Red That Colored the World
New research and original scholarship explores the history and widespread use of cochineal, an insect-based dye that produces brilliant reds. Use of the dye originated with indigenous peoples of the Americas before the arrival of Columbus and then spread throughout the world. Visitors will be able to see cochineal bugs and their camouflage. May 17 through September 13, 2015.
Museum of Indian Arts and Culture – Turquoise, Water, Sky: The Stone and Its Meaning
For more than a thousand years, people in the Southwest have used turquoise for jewelry and ceremonial purposes and traded valuable stones both in and outside the region. In this exhibition, the museum’s vast collection of Southwestern turquoise jewelry will be highlighted. All aspects of the stone, ranging from geology, mining, history, authenticity and value will be examined. On display through May 2, 2016
Museum of Spanish Colonial Art – Blue on Blue: Indigo and Cobalt in New Spain
Blue was an integral part of the colonial world. Found in images of the Virgin Mary, household blankets, ceramics and friar’s tunics, this exhibit will explore the use and importance of blue dyes and pigments in colonial life and its continued popularity in the traditional arts of today. A diverse collection of stunning pieces will demonstrate the ubiquitous popularity of blue over the centuries. May 8, 2015 through April 2016.
Santa Fe Botanical Garden –Monarch – Orange Takes Flight
The newest member of Museum Hill is a garden full of diverse plants that celebrate our region’s rich botanical heritage. For the Summer of Color, orange will predominate in the container gardens on view. Orange also represents the endangered Monarch butterfly. A public program will inform visitors how to attract the king of the butterflies to your yard. Other programs will be presented as well. May 30 through September 13, 2015.
International Folk Art Market Santa Fe – Green: Hope, Sustainability and Preservation
Master folk artists from around the globe will again gather to sell their art: jewelry, basketry, textiles, woodwork, ceramics and more. As a symbol of hope, sustainability and preservation, green will be the theme. In Tibet, green communicates peace and ease. In India, it is a symbol of purity, love and beauty. In Egypt, green represents rebirth and renewal. July 10 through July 12, 2015.
Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian – Will celebrate the opening of its newCenter for the Study of Southwestern Jewelry. The new wing will include the first museum gallery in the nation devoted to Navajo and Pueblo jewelry and related traditions, including flatware, hollowware, lapidary and stone carving. Jewelry has been a major Native art form in the Southwest for centuries. Its universal appeal is linked to identity and status in all cultures. The new wing opens June 6 and 7, 2015. The collection will remain on permanent display.
Around Town and the Plaza:
New Mexico History Museum/Palace of the Governors – Adobe Summer
Pearly white, sandy tan, cinnamon red, chocolate brown, Santa Fe’s adobe buildings reveal the earth’s colors. A summer long series of programs will explore the ins and outs of adobe construction, maintenance and history with a focus on the 400-year-old Palace of the Governors, a National Historic Landmark and National Treasure.
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum – Georgia O’Keeffe: Line, Color, Composition
Georgia O’Keeffe’s work is compelling and powerful because of her mastery of the essential elements of art. This exhibition reveals her disciplined drawing practice, dramatic color palette and innovative sense of composition. The presentation offers new insight into the significance of line in her work from preliminary sketches to the fluid outlines that define regions of her canvas and divides her compositions into dynamic zones of color. May 8 through September 13, 2015.
Nearly 50 galleries (to date) from Canyon Road to the Railyard and beyond, all members of the Santa Fe Gallery Association, will present a wide lineup of exhibitions, explorations and artist talks that will celebrate an extensive spectrum of colors. There will be a special exhibit at the Roundhouse, the state capitol, where the Capitol Art Collection is on permanent display.
Also, joining the Color of Summer is the Canyon Road Merchants Associations. The 85 galleries along the historic street filled with old world charm, boutiques and restaurants will participate in the Summer of Color by hosting special exhibits and Friday night art openings.
Just Outside of Town in La Cienega:
El Rancho de las Golondrinas – El Color Morado/The Color Purple
The outdoor living history museum will round out the color wheel with an historical look at purple. The dye was extremely rare. It came from crushed sea-snails, brazilwood or from combining the new world insect cochineal with rare indigo plants.
Join us for the Summer of Color – an extravaganza that could only take place in Santa Fe, where, according to Mayor Javier Gonzales, artistic inspiration benefits the health, cultural awareness, happiness and productivity of everyone, citizens and visitors alike: A place where life is vibrant.
Where is the Art? - 2/15/2015
Travelers to Museum Hill may notice that the parking area looks a little emptier. Martí Anson's "Flour Factory," which has stood at that location since 2008 seems to have disappeared. Fans of the piece will be pleased to know that the work remains in the New Mexico Museum of Art's permanent collection.
The story of this piece begins in the town of Mataró in the Catalonia region of Spain where artist Anson was born. At the time the Spanish artist was participating in SITE Sante Fe's seventh International Biennial in 2008 there was a public uproar over the proposed demolition of the 19th century C. A. Fabregas y de Caralt factory on the outskirts of Barcelona. Inspired by this outpuring of support, Anson decided to take the building to New Mexico by building a replica of it for the SITE exhibition. Similar to the situation with the original building, the people here became attached to the piece and decided to keep it after the SITE exhibition ended. Thus, it was given to the New Mexico Museum of Art for our permanent collection. However, the site-specific piece was never intended to last permanently, and our repsonsibility as a museum requires us to preserve the objects in our custody. When it came to the museum's attention that it needed a lot of conservation, staff consulted Anson and decided together that it would be best to demolish it in its current state and leave open the possibility of rebuilding it. Anson explained, the art is "not in the bricks." Rather it is the idea of making this scaled down model of the Spanish flour factory. The object itself is just a document of the artist's thinking. Therefore, the art can remain in our collection as a concept without a physical manifestation.
As further testament to the artist's process, Brandon Sotor made the video below, published on the Santa Fe Reporter's YouTube channel.
Governor’s Gallery - 2/1/2015
A Texas politician once told me that the legislative process is like making sausage, in other words, not always a pretty sight. I’m not going to weigh in on that comment: I’ve yet to make a law or a link, but I must say that in New Mexico a trip to the state capitol is a visual delight.
There are two art galleries in the Roundhouse. The Governor’s Gallery, an outreach facility of the New Mexico Museum of Art, is located on the fourth floor in the governor’s suite. The second gallery, the Capitol Art Collection, exhibits art on the grounds and in the public venues throughout the building. That collection is supported by the Capitol Art Foundation, a non-profit, and the legislature.
Given the significance of the Museum of Art’s coming 100th anniversary, the exhibit in the Governor’s Gallery is especially timely and informative. Christine Mather, author of Santa Fe Style and a curatorial consultant, organized the exhibit, entitled: “That Multitudes May Share: The building of the New Mexico Museum of Art.”
Kenneth Chapman, New Art Museum, Santa Fe - South Front, 1916.
10 1/4 x 27 in. Watercolor on paper.
Museum acquisition, before 1918. 1833A.23D
The New Old Santa Fe architectural style, which sets us apart from the rest of the nation, is directly tied to the museum’s construction. The arrival of more artists, who put the Southwest on the map, is also related to building the museum, which opened its doors in 1917.
All of it came about because of economic development. Santa Fe had been left behind when the railroad bypassed the capital prior to statehood in 1912. As a result, the city had been in an economic slump for three decades: population was stagnant.
Once New Mexico joined the union, the new state legislature allowed local communities to create plans for economic development. In Santa Fe, those efforts were spearheaded by Edgar Hewett, an archaeologist and educator, who would become the museum’s first director, Mayor Arthur Seligman, Frank Springer, a wealthy lawyer, landowner and politician, and archaeologist Sylvanus Morley, among others. “They wanted to attract people to Santa Fe. They did it in part by attracting artists to Santa Fe to show the world what New Mexico was really like in its most romantic version,” Mather said. The artists would need a venue to display their works.
Mayor Seligman formed a board that devised the “Santa Fe Plan” to promote development and tourism. “They hit upon the idea that what was unique about Santa Fe was the blend of Anglo, Hispanic and Indian cultures,” Mather said. The city would be defined in terms of its ancient adobe buildings with flat roofs.
By the way, roofers were not among the skilled craftsmen the founders deliberately sought. Unfortunately, when one gazes into the future, one rarely foresees all eventualities, and, of course, there are always plusses and minuses.
The Governor’s Palace, where artists had studios, was renovated. A new art museum, designed to become the centerpiece of the New-Old Santa Fe style on the Plaza, would be built nearby. At the time it was built, the construction was up-to-date, using modern methods, high-fired brick and cement mortar. The vigas, latillas, and murals in the St. Francis Chapel, along with the building’s façade - a blend of styles from Mission Churches on varies Pueblos - added the romance.
Another positive result came from the construction of the Museum. “Santa Fe has the second oldest historic ordinance in the country,” Mather said. “The concept of historic preservation is deep.” That ideal has led to a unique ambiance that continues to attract visitors and newcomers.
Over time, the “Santa Fe Plan” was wildly successful. “People came and lived here and thrived. Santa Fe became a tourist destination,” Mather said.
What Mather has done to illustrate the rich history of the Museum and the city is gather photographs, paintings, old postcards, architectural plans and even furniture crafted at the time the museum was built. The artisans created the chests and chairs in a Spanish Colonial style. The exhibit’s accompanying text clearly explains how a unique moment in history brought about a design solution that would influence the future of art and New Mexico for generations.
The Department of Cultural Affairs has placed cards throughout the capitol reminding legislators and New Mexicans that art and cultural industries pump five-point-six-billion dollars into our economy annually. That’s jobs and salaries. The beauty provided by our art and culture is priceless.
“That Multitudes May Share: The Building of the New Mexico Museum of Art” will be exhibited through March 27th. The Governor’s Gallery is on the 4th floor of the Roundhouse, which is located at the corner of Old Santa Fe Trail and Paseo de Peralta.
Transcendental Painters Group - 1/15/2015
Art underwent dramatic changes in the early 20th Century, and New Mexico artists played a major role in the metamorphosis. Artist Raymond Jonson founded a group in 1938, which called itself the Transcendental Painters Group. Members included Jonson, Bill Lumpklins, Emil Bisstram, Ed Garman, Florence Miller Pierce, Horace Towner Pierce, Agnes Pelton, Stuart Walker, Dane Rudhyar, and Lawren Harris. Its approach to art was to create non-objective paintings - "abstractive" works -that broke away from traditional approaches, thus : "transcended" them. Thus TPG disbanded in 1942 largely because of the Second World War's plummeting effect upon its general enthusiasm. But the abstract approach to art has remained a vital influence in the field of art to the present day. The New Mexico Museum of Art is honored to own several works by these artists to continue their legacy.
Really Fun! Really Cool! Really Great! Ellen’s Kids Have the Last Word - 1/1/2015
On December 21st, the day of the New Mexico Museum of Art’s Annual Holiday Open House, featuring the Baumann Marionettes, Ellen Zieselman, who is retiring, stood on the museum’s steps one last time, encouraging everyone who passed by to come on in. “Hey, it’s free,” said she.
In a world where paintings and sculptures are routinely sold at auction by Sotheby’s or Christie’s for millions of dollars, a free afternoon spent at a state museum, where families can view art, see a puppet show, and make their own stick puppets is more than a bargain; it’s a treasure, a living legacy to be passed from one generation to the next.
Santa Fe is a city blessed with incomparable museums. What stands out about our museum, and the New Mexico Museum of Art is the people’s museum, are the institution’s open door traditions. Those democratic principles were fired into the first brick laid when the museum was built nearly one hundred years ago. The doors have remained open ever since: to artists, art lovers, tourists and to young people eager to learn.
During her career as Curator of Education, Ellen has worked tirelessly to train docents and introduce young people to art, which she defines as: “an expression of individual creativity.” It’s not been all sweat and heavy lifting, though. Ellen has a tremendous sense of humor and clearly enjoys what she’s doing.
Since she announced her coming retirement, there have been toasts, testimonials and tears among docents, staff and colleagues. Museum Director Mary Kershaw acknowledges that filling Ellen’s shoes will be a tough task. After all, Ellen owns eleven pairs of Converse Sneakers, her favorite footwear. Who but a centipede could fill that many shoes? On the other hand, that many shoes leave scores of footprints. Like petroglyphs, footprints can leave lasting impressions.
Just take a look at the kids Ellen has introduced to art over the past quarter century. She teaches young viewers to look inside themselves as they view a painting. She encourages them to freely express themselves as she asks: “What do you see?”
That question is a natural “gotcha,” creating a healthy bond while boosting self-esteem according to Kershaw. “Ellen empowers the students to look at art from where they are and that is one of the most powerful connections you can build. Ellen does that really, really well.”
Ellen hasn’t sat in her office, a box like space Pandora would covet, or remained in the temple. Over the years, she has taken her show on the road, visiting schools throughout the area.
“The work that we do in the schools where Ellen goes out and actually teaches art, art history and looking at pictures, is really inspiring for children,” Kershaw said. “Art should be inspiring and art should be for everyone.”
That’s exactly what Ellen does: she inspires, according to Lisa Nordstrum, a history teacher at Santa Fe Prep, where Ellen has worked with 7th and 10th grade students for the past two years.
The minute she walks into the classroom, the students realize that this visitor will not force them to sit through a snoring, boring lecture on art history, interesting only when the power point presentation fails.
“You notice Ellen the minute she comes in a room,” Nordstrum said. “The first thing I look at is her feet, her sneakers. What Converse color is she wearing today? That’s her signature. Those shoes represent who Ellen is. She’s vivacious and engaging with a bright personality.”
Ellen’s also really fun and really cool, according to three of Nordstrum’s 7th grade history students. Sydney Manningham, Sylvia Carter-Smith and Emma Lawrence are all highly intelligent and poised young ladies who know exactly what they’re looking for in a teacher. After all, they’ve been observing teachers all of their lives. Ellen gets their stamp of approval.
“She talks in a way that we can understand. She makes art interesting and fun,” Sydney said. “Art is a visual, but you can have your own thoughts and opinions about it.”
Sylvia, who has also studied with Ellen in Hebrew School at Temple Beth Shalom, where Ellen is director of youth programs, agrees with her classmate. “Ellen has this presence. She’s real strong; she has this competence that makes you pay attention. She relates to children.”
Emma believes Ellen’s approach to teaching is what makes her cool. “Ellen brought a whole new idea about how we think about art. She brought in new ideas in a really fun way. I think that’s really special about her. Ellen’s a really great teacher.”
Ellen describes her teaching technique as problem solving. Because of her keen intelligence, she finds ways to support the curriculum and, better yet, expand it, Nordstrum says. “I’ve been teaching my students about primary sources this year. Ellen showed up with archival photographs and cameras. After we looked at the photographs, the kids went out with the cameras and created their own primary, in the moment, source.”
“Oh, that was so cool. Really cool,” Sydney, Sylvia and Emma said, speaking at the same time, while nodding in approval.
Ellen’s longstanding passion for art history, teaching and interacting with people, especially kids, is contagious. Nordstrum describes Ellen’s classroom presence as a one of kind experience. “Ellen is the first speaker who has come into my classroom, and the next day the kids have asked: ‘When is Ellen coming back?’ It isn’t: Is Ellen coming back. It’s WHEN is Ellen coming back,” Nordstrum said. “I think that speaks volumes right there.”
When asked what she considers her greatest achievements in her 25 years at the museum, Ellen first listed the book she wrote, The Hand-Carved Marionettes of Gustave Baumann, as a significant achievement. The puppets - Warts, Freckles and Miguelito - would surely agree.
But there’s another achievement in which Ellen takes pride. “Overall, I’d say what I find most gratifying is when I go to the supermarket or go into a coffee shop and there is a kid in his late teens or early twenties who says: ‘Oh, I remember you from the museum.’ That happens to me quite often. I would say I’m really very proud of the impact I feel I and the docents and this institution have made on the people of Santa Fe and New Mexico.”
Ellen Zieselman may have moved on but her rich legacy will remain in the museum’s many galleries. Ellen’s kids will return, retracing her footprints, all the while keeping the museum’s foundation solid and strong for the next hundred years. Their kids, no doubt, will follow.
Because art not only adds beauty to our lives as Ellen points out, art can teach us to take another look, a closer look, at someone else’s vision and point of view. That can only expand and enrich our lives in this crowded yet beautiful world.
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.
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 : http://www.okeeffemuseum.org/current-exhibition.html.
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.
“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.
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.
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.