Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Taos, Day 1

This morning, as we were having breakfast, we looked out the window and saw Mr. Bunny Rabbit right beside the RV, just nibbling away at the grass by the cute little A frame cover over the picnic table.  I guess it was breakfast time for him, too!

Then we stopped at the visitor center, and watched a video about Taos, its history with the Ancestral Puebloans, their descendants, and then how the first artists--Ernest Blumenshein and Bert Philips-- discovered Taos, and how it became an artist colony, and ultimately how it came to change with the times.  It was very interesting to see how the natural beauty of the Taos Valley, with the towering Sangre de Christo Mountains have attracted people like a magnet, how the environment shaped the people, and how the people shaped the makeup of the place.  The Taos Pueblo, one of the longest continuously inhabited settlements in the country, was originally built by the Ancestral Puebloans in the first century, and now many of those who live there continue many of the traditional and ancient ways of life.  When the first artists came, they painted not only scenes of the landscape, but also many individual native people.  One Native American on the video made an interesting point about how when the artists began asking individuals to pose for them to paint, they paid them, and while, as she said, it provided needed money for them, it also irrevocably changed their way of life in some ways.  The artists first came to the natives to paint them in their own surroundings.  Then they started having the native people come to their studios to pose for paintings, and this seemed to be a turning point.

We bought combo tickets to see 5 different museums, and started with the Fechin House, which is now home for the Taos Art Museum.  This is a house built by a Russian artist named Nikolai Fechin, started in the late 1920's and finished in 1933.  It is a gorgeous house, with adobe walls, really thick for insulation, and the woodworking on window treatments, doors, staircases and the beams in the house is really exquisite, all done by Fechin.  In addition to his painting, he was an extraordinary woodcarver, and did a number of wood sculptures too.

Before we went to the first museum, though, we went to the Presbyterian Church we had seen the day before, to walk the labyrinth and to check out the details on their Celtic worship service.  Well, we learned that, while it is usually every Thursday night, it's been cancelled tomorrow night because there is a concert in the Kit Carson Park right next door tomorrow with Mumford and Sons, and they're expecting 11,000 people to come to Taos tomorrow for the concert.  For some context, the year round population is only 6000, and the largest concert they've ever had before attracted 4000.  So it will be crazy here, they're closing the streets in the downtown area, and we don't know if we'll be able to get to any of the places we want to see.  Today we drove the RV into town, but tomorrow, if we go to town at all we'll ride our bikes.

Anyway, we met a woman at the church who was working on signs to use the church parking lot to charge for parking, as a fundraiser.  She's an elder there and told us about the congregation, which was started in the 1870's, and which is now housed in a beautiful southwest style building, designed by a famous architect, John Gaw Meem.  She said they only have about 50 pledging units in the congregation, and how they're struggling financially.  The minister does double duty, serving this church and another one nearby.  We asked her if we could walk the labyrinth, and she said of course.  We went out and walked it, praying for Trisha's assistant at the Craddock Center, Tammy, as she deals with a cancer diagnosis.  It is a beautiful labyrinth, with lovely red rocks, but, I guess due to their shortage of funds, was in need of a little attention.  So, after we walked it, we cleaned it up, picking up all the sticks and branches that had fallen into the paths, and pulling all the weeds that had grown up in it, and the surrounding garden area.  We figured that would be our contribution for being able to walk the labyrinth.  The minister heard about us being out there pulling weeds, so he came out and jokingly asked us if we had a permit to be doing this work!  We had a nice chat with him.  He, like Trisha, had come to the ministry as a second career, and had served several Navajo churches on different reservations before coming here.  He was interested to learn that Trisha had been the Director of the Craddock Center, as he of course had heard of Dr. Craddock, and, like many ministers, allowed as how he's quoted Dr. Craddock often in his sermons.  He told us that when Meem designed the building he oversaw construction in 1952, and when they gave him the check for his services, he promptly tore it up!

Then we went to Cid's Foods, a Whole Foods sort of place, with lots of great fresh foods to stock up.  And we saw a sign for a farmer's market, so we went there next and, though the guy said most of the stuff gets bought much earlier in the day, we did find some good lettuces there.  So, now that the fridge was full, we went on the the gallery.  After the Fechin House, we drove out to the Millicent Rogers Museum.  She was an heiress to some of the Standard Oil fortune, and a fashion icon in New York, with a particular interest in jewelry.  She came to Taos in the late 1940's, and became enchanted with the Navajo and other tribal cultures, so she settled here, and developed an extensive collection of native jewelry, weavings, pottery and other art works.  She died in 1953, and in the 1960's a couple donated their home to house and showcase her collection.  It has not only the things she collected, but many other art works of other fine artists.  It was really spectacular to see.  Fortunately they allowed photographs so long as we didn't use a flash, so we got some good pictures of some of the art.  We were especially intrigued by the many representations of Our Lady of Guadalupe, particularly as each one depicted her with an angel below her, holding her up.  Our Lady of Guadalupe is often referred to as the New World version/vision of the Virgin Mary--often thought to be something of a transitional figure representing the link between the Aztec mother goddess, Toantzin, and the newly imposed Catholic religion's view of Mary.  Legend has it that she appeared to an indigenous man named Juan Diego shortly after the Spanish conquered the Aztecs, and she has since been associated with compassion and nurturance.  She is always shown with a full body halo, unlike any other figure, and always with an angel at her feet, appearing to hold her up.

But one of the craziest things happened while we were there.  As we were walking through, my phone rang--scared me actually, because it was so unexpected.  I started to just turn it off, but for some reason decided to answer it.  So I found a secluded place where I could talk without disturbing anyone else.  The woman identified herself as being on the board of the Canyonlands Rodeo in Moab, Utah--I had a sense of what was coming next, but it was so unexpected I was a bit flustered.  She asked me with whom she was speaking, and I gave her my real name, forgetting for the moment that I had used Santa when we were at the rodeo.  See, while we were there waiting for the rodeo to start, the announcer was encouraging people to go out to the lobby and buy raffle tickets.  So Trisha said we should do this and I  bought 3 $1 tickets.  You had to fill out each ticket with your name and phone number, so I put Santa and my cell number.  Well, today when I told her my name was Jack, she hesitated, and when she said she was calling about the raffle drawing, I remembered I had put Santa down, so I told her that, and she was relieved--she told me we had won a  gift card from City Market, the grocery store in Moab where we had shopped.  I was floored, and asked her if there were any City Market stores in other cities, since we were no longer in Moab.  She said City Market is owned by Kroger, and she would have to check, but she thought the gift card would be valid at any store owned by Kroger.  How crazy is that??? So she said she would mail it, and I told her to just put Santa on the envelope, since the folks at the Cherry Log Post Office would know who it was for!  What a trip!

We were going to go out to see the unique houses we had seen coming into town yesterday--found out the main one is called Earthship, an ecofriendly 3 bedroom, 2 bath home that uses natural sources for heat and light, and uses only about $100 a year for utilities!  But we were beginning to flag, so we just came back to the campground to rest, and I could do a little more laundry, for the things I couldn't get to last night.  Then we had a delightful dinner at Orlando's--we had asked in one of the galleries for a recommendation of a good Mexican restaurant and this was it--we had also seen it written up in some of the guide magazines, and it was very good!

So who knows what tomorrow will bring.  The woman at the campground office told us there was not a hotel room to be had in town, so we'll see how crazy it is!

Today's pics:

Mr. Rabbit, enjoying his green breakfast--just like we were!
 The labyrinth at First Presbyterian Church--you can make out some of the weeds along the paths.

 After we had pulled all the weeds from the labyrinth and on either side of this walkway, from the gravel.
 Front of the church.
 Beautiful sculpture in the yard of a gallery across the street from the church.
The Fechin House
 His studio, in back of the house
 A Christmas tree made of horseshoes, outside the Millicent Rogers Museum

 These massive beams in the museum building were beautiful!
 they even accommodated a tree that was in the path of the building

This is a Navajo Chief rug, only 50 of which have survived.  It is different from the rugs the Navajo had been making up until around 1865, when these came into prominence.  It looks almost like paint was just splattered onto the fabric, but when you get close, you can see that it is all intricately woven.  Amazing!

A Navajo church shawl
An Acoma seed pot.  Acoma were known for this black on white design.  We bought a very small seedpot from one of the local potters when we were in Acoma.
Beautiful wooden angel

A gorgeous Navajo snake bracelet, from Millicent Rogers' collection.
These were just some of her bracelets.  There were several photographs of her in the museum, and she always had on loads of Navajo jewelry, usually at least a half dozen of these bracelets on each arm, maybe a very large squash blossom necklace and a huge brooch.
 A native loom, circa 1820
 Straw applique, called "poor man's gold,"  they did this a lot on black lacquered backgrounds, with intricate designs made from the straw
 Some stained glass panels
 Carved wooden depiction of Our Lady of Sorrows--doesn't her face reflect that?
The Trinity--fascinating how each culture depicts the same icons in images that look like them--we all do it!  Taos is interesting, too, for its diversity of cultures in its history--the Native Peoples were here for eons, then came the Spanish Conquistidors, and here you can see the Spanish influence.
 Our Lady of Guadalupe
 Mary, appears to be holding a drawing of Jesus
 Wooden carved figure of Mary--lovely hands!

 Above:  Our Lady of Saint John of the Lakes, and below: a panel describing why she is famous
 Several different depictions of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Intricate woven panel
 Sangre de Christos Mountains

No comments:

Post a Comment