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Untitled (New Mexico Landscape with Trees), 1958. Fremont F. Ellis (1897-1985). Oil on paper, 21 ¼ x 25. Nedra Matteucci Gallery, Santa Fe, NM

Why Santa Fe?

by Connie Buffalo

M

ention Santa Fe to most people and there is an immediate association with art and the Southwest. If this is what happens for you, then you have vindicated one of the most carefully planned art marketing campaigns in 20th century art history. Historically, Santa Fe is the second oldest city in the United States. According to Marsha Bol, PhD, Director of the New Mexico Museum of Art and Joseph Traugott, 18 • Fine Art Magazine • Spring 2009

author of The Art of New Mexico, How the West is One, and Curator of Twentieth Century Art for the New Mexico Museum of Art, expansion decimated many of the native populations and their cultures in its wake. As the railroad encroached onto the last frontiers of the Southwest in 1879, the U.S. Congress established the Bureau of American Ethnology and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., to document the native cultures facing the onslaught of “progress.” In doing this, they unknowingly launched an endeavor

that would impact the future of Santa Fe. Scholars, historians, anthropologists and archeologists descended on the Pueblos surrounding Santa Fe in an effort to collect artifacts and cultural portraits of these little known tribes. Illustrators such as Frank Hamilton Cushing published essays illustrated with scenes from native life in Century Magazine in the winter and spring of 1882-83 for mainstream America. The portrayals added a new dimension to the evolving perception of the Native American. Cushing’s essays described industrious,


agrarian people living at Zuni Pueblo who practiced their religious rituals and lived in peaceful contrast to the fierce warriors of the Plains tribes fighting for their land. The stories and artistic depictions of the early chroniclers, while often culturally inaccurate, fed a growing sympathy toward Native Peoples and instilled a curiosity for more information on these Southwestern tribes. After New Mexico officially became a state in 1912, a period of rapid growth followed. “The Santa Fe Plan,” devised by a specially appointed planning board established a tourism and development strategy whose insight continues to influence modern Santa Fe. The plan defined Pueblo Spanish Revival architecture. It combined the look and feel of the past Colonial period with modern construction and functionality. The style later known as “the Santa Fe style,” dominated the construction of Santa Fe and created the small-town village architectural style that has become the hallmark of Santa Fe. The railroad had bypassed the city and gone directly onto Albuquerque threatening the economy of the mountainous Santa Fe town of 7,000. Cher Falkenstien-Doyle, Curator of the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, explains that the art of New Mexico had been widely distributed through the early traders, curio production and mail order catalogs. This exposure and demand for more, combined with the attraction of the area to artists seeking new subject matter, creative freedom, and the increased art output of Spanish and Native American artists, led to the decision that art would be the major focus for tourism. Edgar Hewett, an archaeologist and educator crafted an elegant strategy for stimulating the Santa Fe economy while preserving the art and history of the region. In 1917, Hewett helped found and administered the Museum of New Mexico Art Gallery to showcase both art and artifacts. (It was later renamed the Museum of Fine Arts in 1962, and the New Mexico Museum of Art in 2007) Robert Henri, the early modernist, convinced Hewett that the Museum should have an “open-door” approach that invited any artist living in New Mexico to exhibit his or her work without constraint. This Open Door Policy was a radical shift from the prevailing Academy system that required artists to attend recognized art schools and obtain permission to show their art from traditional jurors and patrons. The more liberal Santa Fe approach appealed to artists hungry for new opportunities. Santa Fe’s receptivity to self-taught, exploratory

Near Richard’s, 2007. James Shay (1948- ) Casein on Panel, 68 x 50. Selby Fleetwood Gallery, Santa Fe, NM

artists soon attracted modernist artists, poets and an active arts community that established Santa Fe as a prolific alternative art center. In 1906, the Native artists on San Ildefonso Pueblo were encouraged to revive their pottery by Edgar Hewett. At the same time, two teachers at the Pueblo, Elizabeth Richards and Esther Hoyt, expanded the artistic outlaw reputation of the region by violating the federal policies in government Indian schools that banned the practice of Native religions and languages in favor of assimilation. Students at the San Ildefonso Pueblo were encouraged to create watercolor

pictures that represented events from their own lives. While initially not received as mainstream art, the native art evolved into first-hand representations of their cultures and became the seed of what was to become Native American pictorial expression. The talents of native artists were fostered and honed by Dorothy Dunn in 1932, through “The Studio,” at the Santa Fe Indian School. Native American arts training became more formalized in 1962 with the opening of Institute of American Indian Arts, a school dedicated to the art education of Native American students. Fine Art Magazine • Spring 2009 • 19


Hummingbird Series #4, 2008. David K. John (Navajo). Acrylic on Canvas 72x48. Kiva Fine Art Gallery, Santa Fe

From the turn of the century, Eurowestern artists began coming to Santa Fe, often for the popular sanitariums that promoted cures for tuberculosis, and often for the sheer freedom that the southwest art community provided. While Spanish and Native American art and artists formed the historical foundation of New Mexican art and its many expressions from pottery to paintings, there were other groups of western artists who also formed art communities that influenced New Mexico art. Hewett began renovating the Palace of the Governors, originally built in the 17th century for use as a cultural headquarters. The cultural and historic preservation agenda married with the picturesque landscapes painted by the regional artists and created a compelling attraction for eastern visitors. It provided an environment for what became known as the “Santa FeTaos Art Movement.” In 1915, Hewett exhibited the work of five outstanding painters. Gerald Cassidy, Carlos Vierra, Kenneth Chapman, Sheldon Parsons, and Charles Rawles’s show was a great success. It paved the way for continued artist collaboration promoting New Mexico as an art center and launched the demand for more exhibitions. The “ Taos S ociet y of Ar tists” formed in 1915 to promote their work and establish a conservative, professional, qualified membership. It was a group of well-established artists including the now highly collectable Oscar E. Berninghaus, 20 • Fine Art Magazine • Spring 2009

Ernest Blumenschein, E. Irving Couse, W. Herbert Dunton, Bert Geer Phillips and Joseph Henry Sharp. They were featured in Hewett’s 1916 exhibition and led to the justification of a permanent exhibit space in what is now the Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe. In 1917, Mable Dodge Sterne traded her popular social-activist, modernist salon in New York for a home in Taos, New Mexico. She divorced her husband and married Tony Luhan from the Taos Pueblo. Groups of New York artists followed her to New Mexico and formed another influential art force. The works created by painters such as Andrew Dasburg, Raymond Jonson and Emil Bisttram became testimonials of the creative environment. She was visited by other artists, writers and photographers in the 1920’s such as Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Ansel Adams, John Marin, Georgia O’Keeffe, Rebecca Salsbury Strand and D. H. Lawrence. From 1921 to 1923, two more painter groups formed. The “Cinco Pintores,” (The Five Artists) were composed of Josef Bakos, Fremont Ellis, Walter Mruk, Willard Nash, and Will Shuster. They were a Bohemian group of young artists whose flame burned brightly until 1926. The third group, the “New Mexico Painters” was a group of more liberal artists that formed in 1923. More modernist in exploration, they, along with the other groups, were affected by the politics, and independence of the artistic nature. In 1925, the Spanish New Mexican

artists were organized into The Spanish Colonial Arts Society by writer Mary Austin and artist/writer Frank G. Applegate. According to the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art. “Its purpose was to preserve and perpetuate the Hispano art forms that have been produced in New Mexico and southern Colorado since the region was colonized by Spain in 1598.” In 1926, the Society initiated its first Spanish Market at the 1926 Santa Fe Fiesta. It was a successful version of Hewett’s promotion of Native American art. Various schools and initiatives were created to help develop as well as preserve the rich variety of Spanish New Mexican art. The outcome of these efforts may be seen at the annual Santa Fe Spanish Market which features outstanding artists in painting, Santos, Straw Appliqué, Colchas, Tinwork, Bonework and contemporary interpretations of traditional Spanish art forms. The Santa Fe-Taos art fraternities were complemented by the increasing visibility of the talented Native and Spanish artists. Together they represented a microcosm of

Cui Bono? (Latin for Who Benefits?) ca. 1911 Gerald Cassidy (1869-1934). Oil on canvas 93 ½ x 48 Collection of the New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe, NM. Gift of the artist, 1915


An Old Garden in Taos, 1928. Joseph Henry Sharp (1859-1953). Oil on canvas, 20x24. Nedra Matteucci Gallery, Santa Fe, NM

what was happening in the world over time. Competing ideologies of freedom versus prejudice, indigenous versus assimilation, mass production versus hand-made, Bolshevik sympathy versus conservative values all manifested through a prolific outpouring of art. Santa Fe and Taos provided an environment that stimulated creativity. All the art forms from Representational to Minimalist, Formalist to Abstract Expressionism evolved and often coexisted creating a dynamic tension that only heightened artistic expression. Collectors from all over the country recognized the power of these Southwestern art enclaves and began acquiring the artist’s work throughout all of its evolutions and variety of expressions. Why does Santa Fe enjoy the largest

per capita concentration of artists, performers and writers of any city in the United States? Its history certainly has combined with the environment to produce an ideal confluence of synchronicities. Santa Fe, a town of around 70,000, attracts one to two million visitors annually. Its creative industries generate over $1.1 billion annually, of which $114,267,000 is generated by the sale of art. There are several important factors that differentiate Santa Fe as the third largest art market in the United States, following New York and San Francisco; the quality of the art, the concentration of art, the education of art, the diversity of art and the very land itself. The quality of art is legendar y. Collectors comprise the majority of buyers year round. They come for the highly-prized

Portrait of Dieguito Roybal, San Ildefonso Pueblo 1916. Robert Henri (1865-1929) Oil on canvas, 65 3/8 x48 7/8. Collection of the New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe, NM Gift of Robert Henri, 1916

early and contemporary Spanish and Native American art, the New York Santa Fe-Taos masters, and the contemporary emerging art. According to Anne Bodelson-Brown, Director of Research and Acquisitions for the Nedra Matteucci Gallery, collector activity has been so strong for major well-known artists such as William Matthews, Wilson Hurley, Gerald Cassidy, Gene Kloss and Carlos Vierra, that collectors are now seeking out the “tier two” artists from the early Southwestern period and the Taos Society of Artists. Bodelson-Brown feels that this is an ideal time for younger collectors who want to add art to their collections that represent the lesser known works of the great and emerging masters.

Indian Couture: A Book of Dance and Dress. Teri Greeves (Kiowa). Size 13 cut beads, bugle beads, sterling silver, Swarovski crystals, brain-tanned deer hide, silk brocade 2 ½” x 9 ¼“ x 7” (closed). 2 ½” x 91/4” x 41 ¾” (open). Jane Sauer Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico Fine Art Magazine • Spring 2009 • 21


Earthbound No. 2, 2008. Christina Chalmers (1948- ). Oil, lead, beeswax on panel. Selby Fleetwood Gallery, Santa Fe, NM

Another factor in Santa Fe’s popularity is the easy access to galleries. Santa Fe is the only major art city where over 200 galleries can be found within a two-mile radius. The galleries are divided into closely knit art districts that concentrate thousands of artists into picturesque galleries on winding streets. Santa Fe is a city that knows and lives its art. Whether a visitor walks into a gallery or one of 12 world-class art museums, he or she is met with a depth of information on the artist, history, context and materials used. Perhaps because of the high artist population or simply because of the love of the art, art education flows like the blood of this city, and the collectors are affected by it. That educational trend is most apparent in Native American Art. Where the early turn-of-the-century artists sometimes sacrificed meaning of the art for esthetics and a misleading portrayal of the natives as “Noble Savages.” That scenario has reversed. Native American artists have become their own commentators on their culture and present their history, stories and impressions through their art with depth, respect and insight. Robb Lucas, Manager of the Case Trading Post located in the Wheelwright Museum, said that the buyers he meets purchase with more knowledge than ever before. They understand that the art piece they are looking at is considered to be alive by the native artist who created it. The buyers realize that each piece was created with prayers, a sense of tradition and unlimited imagination. They often recognize the families who pass on the art for generations and what each piece represents. Native American art when experienced in this context becomes “de-objectified” and 22 • Fine Art Magazine • Spring 2009

countries are invited to participate in a Santa Fe site-specific installation that pushes the limits of art. Santa Fe is also attracting international artists and galleries to its annual Art Santa Fe show. The exhibit brings 59 galleries, 19 countries and 1000-plus artists to town. About 5000 attended last year’s event organized by Charlotte Jackson and had the opportunity to be exposed to the newest expressions of international art. The Sandia Mountains from Algondones, 2007. Wilson All of this creativity resides Hurley (1924-2008) In Memoriam. Oil on Canvas 49 3/8 x 80. in the New Mexican high desert Nedra Matteucci Gallery, Santa Fe, NM over 7,000 feet above the world personal. It carries the relationship with the of the ordinary and is the context artist, the tradition that is represented, and within which Santa Fe’s artists unleash the image itself. their imaginations. The sky — clear and Santa Fe traditionally was a collaboration deep blue — starts low on the horizon and of three cultures, the western, the Hispanic humbles the land and its inhabitants with its and the Native American. Now international great expanse. Once visitors smell the forests galleries have been added such as the Pushkin after a rain, watch storm clouds moving from Russia. Each culture expresses itself across the desert floor for hundreds of miles uniquely in styles ranging from extremely in every direction, and drink in the brilliant traditional to very modern. The cultural arts sunsets, they relate to the art of Santa Fe in are spotlighted during annual cultural art an expanded way. Art on the canvases, in the celebrations on the Plaza that draw thousands sculptures, pottery, baskets, carvings, jewelry, for events like Spanish Market and Indian and the mountains, clouds and stars begin to Market. meld together as one indivisible experience. Collectors and casual visitors can choose The secret of Santa Fe art is in this personal from this extensive diversity of art. Perhaps integration of beauty, imagination, deep that’s the excitement of the Santa Fe art heartfelt emotions, and form. The internet market. The art fulcrum swings from turnwill carry the images, but the sensations of-the-century historical art and artifacts to must be experienced for the art to become contemporary cutting edge art that would be truly alive. well received in any major art market. Jane This is total immersion of the senses Sauer, owner of 13 Moons Gallery, a wellenhanced by performance arts of every kind. known Canyon Road destination gallery, The famous Santa Fe Opera, theaters, Chamber says that over 70% of her contemporary art Orchestras, and concerts are interspersed with sales are to collectors. The modern art that art street festivals almost every weekend. At she represents is in such demand that she sunset, the traditional fragrances from the New was invited to exhibit at the coveted Beijing Mexican restaurants draw hungry crowds to International Art Show, extending the their tables and remind them that everything awareness of Santa Fe artists into China. — even the food — is art. Selby Fleetwood, owner of Selby When anyone mentions Santa Fe Fleetwood Gallery, also on Canyon Road, again, you’ll know they’re asking about more sees a trend in contemporary artwork as than a world-class art market. Santa Fe is a stronger move away from the historical a “whole-body experience” collectors want representational work of Santa Fe to a to take home. It’s an art center where the minimalist style. 98% of her clients come past whispers its secrets through brilliant from out of town. Many have lived with artists and the future is created daily by traditional art for 20 years and now are new visionaries fulfilling the dream of those expanding into eclectic collections which who came from New York almost 100 years bring more contemporary pieces together ago and the ancestors of the land. Past and in their homes and offices. present, the Santa Fe artists continue to Santa Fe has learned from its originators evolve one the most successful strategic and continually reinvents itself through endeavors in the history of art in America. innovative art initiatives. Site Santa Fe is one For more information on the history of Santa of the most experimental venues in Santa Fe art, please see The Art of New Mexico: How the West Is One by Joseph Traugott, www.shopmuseum. Fe — a non-profit that in addition to special com Gallery information may be accessed through contemporary art exhibits, produces an The Collector’s Guide to the Art of New Mexico at International Biennial. Artists from over 16 collectorsguide.com

Profile for Fine Art Magazine

Santa Fe  

by Connie buffalo ention Santa Fe to most people and there is an immediate associa- tion with art and the Southwest. If this is what happens...

Santa Fe  

by Connie buffalo ention Santa Fe to most people and there is an immediate associa- tion with art and the Southwest. If this is what happens...

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