Billy Schenck, Coming Down from the Mountain, n.d., oil on canvas, 27 x 48 in.
Collection of the New Mexico Museum of Art.
Gift of Ernest J. and Edith M. Schwartz, 2010 (2010.36.10)
© Billy Schenck. Photo by Blair Clark
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 new Center 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.