Cypher Space - the Museum of Art Blog

The City of Santa Fe Arts Commission and Mayor Javier M. Gonzales have announced the New Mexico Museum of Art will recieve a 2017 Santa Fe Mayors Award for our collaboration with the neighboring New Mexico History Museum, Lowrider Summer. Our contribution to Lowrider Summer consisted of the excellent exhibition Con Cariño : Artists Inspired by Lowriders and a series of events including the spectacular Lowrider Day on the plaza. In case you missed Lowrider day on the plaza, NM PBS captured some highlights for all to remember.

 

Beaumont Newhall - 8/1/2017

No discussion about the history of 20th-century art in New Mexico would be complete without mentioning the legacy of the University of New Mexico's photography program. UNM has attracted some of the biggest names in 20th-century photography to New Mexico.

One of their many prestigious faculty members was photographer, curator and art historian, Beaumont Newhall. Newhall joined the UNM art history department in 1971 after he had made a name in the field as Curator of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and Director of the George Eastman Museum.

Newhall moved to Santa Fe in 1975 and stayed here until his death in 1993. During that time, he became involved with the museum in multiple capacities. Newhall came here several times as a guest curator and lecturer, and his own photographs became part of our exhibitions and collection.

In 1984, the Museum was one of several venues for the Smithsonian's traveling exhibition, Beaumont Newhall: A Retrospective. During the run of the show, prominent scholars in photographic history presented original research on Newhall's contributions and influences in the field for a groundbreaking symposium held here and at UNM.

In 1989, Newhall curated a traveling exhibition about Edward Weston's photography. The museum hosted both the exhibition as well as a lecture by Newhall about Weston. In 1992, Newhall curated the exhibition, Proto-Modern Photography at the Museum. Finally, when Newhall passed away, we put together an exhibition in his honor, Beaumont Newhall: Colleagues and Friends.

Today, the Museum holds several of Beaumont Newhall's photographs in our excellent art collection. Newhall's personal library, currently at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, will greatly complement the art and institutional archives we already own. Even better, his library will remain in Santa Fe and be available to the public at our library.

Laura Gilpin - 6/1/2017

Fred E. Mang, Jr., Laura Gilpin taking photographs along dirt road, 1971 
Courtesy Palace of the Governors Photo Archives (NMHM/DCA)
 

That Santa Fe would become a popular destination for photographers should come as no surprise to anyone who has visited. The abundant sunshine, the gorgeous landscape and the cultural diversity provide the elements to some of the most renown American photographs. One of the earliest photographers to call Santa Fe home was the late, great Laura Gilpin. Her senstive portraits of American Indians and southwestern landscapes were popular during her lifetime and continue to endear people to this day. 

 
Laura Gilpin, Storm from La Bajada Hill, New Mexico, 1946, gelatin silver print, 16 x 20 in.
Collection of the New Mexico Museum of Art. Museum purchase, 1976 (3635.23PH)
Photo by Blair Clark © 1979 Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Forth Worth, Texas
 

Her Colorado upbringing instilled an appreciation for the western landscape which expanded when Gilpin visited the Museum of Art on a stop in Santa Fe on the way to Mexico with her father. Her early works featured portraits and the vistas of Colorado Springs. After a 1922 trip to Europe, Gilpin experimented more with sharp-focused photography, and became interested in creating photography books. In 1924, the Pictorial Photographers of America recognized Gilpin with her first New York show. Two years later she had her first of several one-woman exhibitions held here. Gilpin settled in Santa Fe in 1946 to work on a book project photographing the Rio Grande in its entirety. By the time of her death in 1979 she had been honored with a New Mexico Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts, a major traveling exhibition sponsored by the Western Association of Art Museums, an honorary doctorate from the University of New Mexico and countless other awards. Posthumously she continues to be the subject of solo exhibitions, books, and, most recently, a plaque on the sidewalk just outside of the museum.

Gilpin's work will be included in our centennial photography exhibition that opens on November 25, 2017.

E Boyd - 5/1/2017

Today E Boyd is mostly remembered as a scholar of Spanish colonial art, but it was her talent as a painter that lead her to research the subject in which she would become an authority. Born in Philadelphia, PA as Elizabeth Boyd White, she signed her paintings and preferred to be called by the gender-neutral "E Boyd". Boyd studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy for Fine Art and later at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere in Paris. After she moved to Santa Fe in 1929 she exhibited her work regularly at this museum from 1933-1951. In 1933 she co-founded and began exhibiting with the Rio Grande Painters, a group that included Charles Barrows, Eleanor Cowles, Anne Stockton, James S Morris, Gina Schnaufer, Paul Lantz, and Cady Wells.

E Boyd, Church at Laguna, New Mexico, n.d.11 × 14 in. watercolor
On long term loan from the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration. Collection of the New Mexico Museum of Art 1770.23P
 

After the Rio Grande Painters disbanded in 1936, Boyd received funding from the Fine Arts Program of the U.S. General Services Administration to research and complete watercolors documenting designs from 18th and 19th century New Mexico. These watercolors were used to make the hand-colored woodcuts that formed the 1938 publication Portfolio of Spanish Colonial Design in New Mexico. When Cady Wells donated his collection of santos to the state he recommended his friend Boyd as curator in charge of it. From that point on she dedicated her life primarily to the art of others. Boyd's office and the collection of santos she cared for resided here before they moved to the Museum of International Folk Art. Watercolor paintings by Boyd and Wells are currently on view in the galleries in Cady Wells : Ruminations and Imagining New Mexico.

Olive Rush - 4/1/2017

Olive Rush, Portrait of Mary Austin, ca.1932. Oil on panel. 38 3/4 x 24 in.
Collection of the New Mexico Museum of Art.
Gift of the School of American Research (Indian Arts Fund), 1976 (398.23P)
 

Continuing our look back at some of the artists who have been an important part of the museum's 100 year history, we look to Olive Rush (1873 - 1966). Rush is sometimes referred to as "the first lady of Santa Fe" due to her active involvement in many civic organizations. She began exhibiting her paintings at this museum as early as 1920 and continued regularly, with the largest showing occuring in a 1957 retrospective. The museum owns several of her works. For a more complete look at Rush's life, the School for Advanced Research (formerly known as the School of American Research) has filmed and published this lecture. The Museum of New Mexico Press recently published the first book on Rush, Olive Rush : finding her place in the Santa Fe art colony.

As the museum's archivist I am often asked about the exciting things that have happened at the museum during our 100 year history. While several books have been published about the art collection and the architecture of the building, there has never been a comprehensive overview published about all of the museum's activity. In honor of our upcoming centennial celebration the staff here have compiled a historic timeline that demonstrate key events, from the famous to the infamous to the lesser-known. It was very difficult narrowing down what to include on the timeline, but it is my hope that going through the event the reader will get a sense of the diversity of activities that have and continue to occur at the museum. Enjoy!

Evan C. Douglas hand-colored photograph of the museum not long after it was first constructed
Marjory Hansen Collection, New Mexico Museum of Art Library and Archive

Rick Dillingham - 2/1/2017

The artist with his pottery.
Photo Courtesy Linda Durham.
 

Pottery is a human invention made from the earth dating back centuries, making it a frequent source of research for anthropologists. New Mexico's rich cultural history and underdeveloped space made it an attractive location for those interested in studying anthropology in the 20th century. One person of particular note was ceramicist Rick Dillingham who received his B.F.A. from the University of New Mexico in 1974 and an M.F.A from Scripps College. Rick Dillingham's academic study of Southwest pottery informed his own creations in a way that blended the fields of anthropology and art.

Rick Dillingham
Untitled Ceramic Vessel, 1985-1986
ceramic, gold leaf, enamel, glue
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Mel Pfaelzer, Mr. Jack Satin, and Mr. and Mrs. John Metzenberg, 1987
 

Dillingham authored several books on Pueblo pottery, including Seven Families in Pueblo Pottery (1974) and its expanded version Fourteen Families in Pueblo Pottery (1994) and Acoma & Laguna pottery (1992). This scholarship also influenced his own work. His ceramic gas cans comment on the centrality of gasoline to modern life. These vessels and/or cans were patterned after Pueblo ceramic water jars that were essential to Pueblo life for a thousand years.

Rick Dillingham
Gas Can, 1972
Post fired reduction (American Raku)
Bequest of the Rick Dillingham Estate, 1994
 

He is best remembered for his signature "broken pottery" technique involving the deliberate destruction of pottery by his own hand, the decoration and coloring of the shards, and their reconstruction when his artistic applications were completed.

Dillingham lived with AIDS for over ten years before it ended his life at age 41. Around 1992 he made a series of pots reflecting on this disease metaphorically painted black and lined with silver.

Dillingham’s talents as a ceramicist and a scholar of Native American Pottery make him an ideal artist to behold within our own collection. The museum is fortunate to have acquired Dillingham's own pottery as well as his personal collection of art made by others such as Beatrice Wood, Viola Frey, and Peter Voulkos.

Women's Board -1/1/2017

The Women's Board in October 2013
 
The year 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the New Mexico Museum of Art. During this year we will continue our look back at some of the people who have been part of the museum's celebrated history. Today, we look at not a single person, but a group of people who have been instrumental in the museum's success : the Women's Board of the Museum of New Mexico and School of American Research. The Women's Board has served the Museum from the very begining. The purpose of the Women's Board is to contribute to the general public's particpation in and enjoyment of the museum's programs by perpetuating the traditional hospitality of New Mexico. These are the smiling faces you see serving food at opening receptions for major exhibitions and special events.
 
The predecessors to the Women's Board were the Woman's Board of trade in Santa Fe and the Woman's Auxiliary Committee of the Archaeolgical Society, both of which raised funds for the restoration of the Palace of the Governors and installation of exhibits there. On March 24, 1917 the organization was given its present name.
 
When the New Mexico Museum of Art was created in 1917, space on the second floor was explicitly reserved for use by the Women's Board. Although the museum currently uses it as exhibition space, it is still refered to as "the Women's Board Room." Over the years the Women's Board has given teas, receptions, dinners and parties in honor of distinguished visitors to Santa Fe. During World War II museum activities were suspended , and the Women's Board Room was turned over to the American Red Cross for war relief work.
The Women's Board Room of the New Mexico Museum of Art, around 1920
 
Next time you visit the Women's Board Room, be sure to check out the plaque listing the names of the women who served on the Women's Board from 1910 - 2013. In some families, three generations have served the museum through membership on the Women's Board.

Chuzo Tamotzu - 12/1/2016

 
Photo of Chuzo Tamotzu by Anne Noggle, n.d.
gelatin silver print
Gift of Louise Tamotzu, 1983
 
When the museum opened its doors in 1917, the country had recently entered the international conflict now known as World War I. The war weighed heavily on the minds of the museum's supporters. Attorney and major donor Frank Springer quelled concerns that it was not a good time to open an art museum in his opening address, stating that art serves as a reminder of mankind's better nature, making it even more important - not less - in a time of uncertainty and conflict.
 
The atrocities of World War I gave way to World War II, and again the museum found itself having to defend the importance of an art museum. This time a local artist who had served in both the Japanese and American militaries headed the call. Cognizant that he lived so close to where the Atomic bomb had been developed, in 1953 he organized an exchange of children's art between students of the Santa Fe Public Schools and those in Hiroshima to promote better understanding and goodwill among the nations. The show traveled through New Mexico, stopping here at the art museum as well as venues in Raton, Gallup, Alamogordo, Portales, Lovington and Los Alamos. Decades later that exhibition was continuously cited by the artist and his widow as one of his prouded accomplishments in a career that had many accolades. With the upcoming 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, many institutions are looking back to the World War II era. Interestingly, some of the Japanese children's drawings were donated to Bowdoin College Museum  of Art in Maine and they will be exhibiting them soon.
 
Chuzo Tamotzu was a Japanese-born painter who lived in New York City before settling in Santa Fe in 1948. His formal education was in political science at Senshu University in Tokyo. He taught himself sumi-e (Japanese ink brush painting) and left Japan in 1914 to further his study of art throughout Asia and Europe. He came to U.S. in 1920 where he befriended several other artists, such as Philip Evergood, Yasuo Kuniyoshi and John Sloan . When Sloan became President of the Society of Independent Artists, Chuzo served on the board. Chuzo was also a founding member of the Artists' Equity. 
Chuzo Tamotzu drawing of John Sloan
The Smoker, mid-20th century
ink on paper
Bequest of Melinda Miles Phister, 2010
 

A critic of the Japanese military, he and fellow Japanese-American artists denounced the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Tamotzu volunteered to serve the U.S. military and was assigned to the Office of Strategic Services (a wartime intelligence agency, precursor to the CIA).

Chuzo Tamotzu
From Roof, 1952
oil on canvas
Gift of Arnold D. Kates, 1965
 
When Tamotzu moved to Santa Fe he rented John Sloan's former studio. He soon began exhibiting regularly at this museum. Shortly after his death in 1975 the Governor's Gallery at the State Capitol honored him with a solo exhibition. In 1981 we curated a retrospective exhibition held at the Santa Fe Armory for the Arts while the museum was closed for renovation.
 
Tamotzu's art is held in the collections of the New Mexico Museum of Art in addition to Metropolitan Museum, St. Louis Art Museum, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden of the Smithsonian.

Victor Higgins - 11/1/2016

Victor Higgins, Walking Rain (Pablita Passes), circa 1916-1917
Oil on canvas, 39 3/4 x 42 5/8 inches
Gift of Robert L.B. Tobin, 1992.
 

Sometimes a picture is more than it appears initially. Sometimes it represents a moment in time, a glimpse into the life and mind of the artist. So it is with the painting Walking Rain (Pablita Passes) by Victor Higgins. At first glance, the viewer's eye goes straight to the lovely rainbow at the top of the canvas. Because the large New Mexico sky takes up the bulk of the image, it appears this is just a lovely landscape painting. A closer examination, with the help of a little research, reveals there is more to the painting. At the bottom left we see a cluster of black figures. Who are they? What are they doing?

According to El Palacio Vol IV No III, the painting, recipient of the 1917 William Randoph Hearst Prize at the Art Institute of Chicago, was made at the hour when it became known that a Hispanic girl who had posed for Higgins died from fever. The little black figures are the townspeople discussing her passing, a scene that looks like a traditional northern New Mexico velorio or wake. The black clothes and shadow caused by the storm above reflect the somber mood. Higgins' painting serves as a memorial to the girl, capturing the relationship between the people and the land of New Mexico as well as between the artist and his model.

Victor Higgins Papers, New Mexico Museum of Art Library and Archives
 

Higgins was born in Indiana and studied painting at the Art Institute of Chicago where this painting was first exhibited. He became a resident of Taos and was elected a member of the Taos Society of Artists. Higgins married twice, once to Sara Parsons, the daughter of artist Sheldon Parsons, and once to Marion Koogler McNay, founder of the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas. However, art historians typically describe Higgins as a loner whose true love was art. He liked to paint outdoors, en plein air, and his work is considered more modernist than other members of the Taos Society of Artists. Walking Rain (Pablita Passes) is just one of many paintings by Higgins the museum is lucky enough to own. The museum library and archives also has an extensive collection of Higgins' personal papers in the archives which were used by Dean Porter to write the book Victor Higgins : An American Master



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