Friday, June 7, 2013

Taos, Day 2--Galleries and Museums

Well, yesterday turned out to be not at all as we had feared, traffic wise.  The RV park where we're staying is on the main drag, but south of town, on Highway 68.  As it worked out, some of the places we wanted to see are south of town, a bit farther out than where we're staying.  Our first stop was the Adobe and Pines B & B--when we were at the Presbyterian  church to walk the labyrinth the day before the woman we met there told us that this B & B had a labyrinth too, so we wanted to see it.  It's only a mile or two farther out of town, and it is just a beautiful, beautiful little place.  We almost missed the turn, as the sign is small, unobtrusive, and you turn down this gravel road under a canopy of beautiful trees, alongside a pasture, and then get deeper into the trees, and, suddenly you see the labyrinth on your left, and the B & B is nestled back in the woods just past it.  We always have to pay attention to clearances and space to turn the RV around, so at first we weren't sure there would be room on down by the building, and found a place to pull off the road.  As we were walking to the labyrinth, we met a man who was doing some yard work and asked him if we could walk the labyrinth, and he said yes, and also showed us where we could turn the rig around when we were ready to leave.

This labyrinth is really different from any we've seen thus far, and really, really beautiful.  It's a modified classic style, and the paths are quite wide, wide enough to accommodate people passing without having to step off the path, which is nice.  They built it with big flat red rocks like you would use to make a flagstone patio delineating the paths, stacked two or three high, and the paths are covered in crushed pecan shells.  We had never heard of this or seen it, but it makes a wonderful, cushiony path that feels really great to walk on. We were both wearing our toe shoes, so we could really feel this surface well on our feet--like walking on a cloud!  It was so comfortable, and it just added to this incredible, magical feel about the whole experience, giving you an almost indescribable connection to the earth as you walked.  All around the outside edge they had about a 2 ft. wide stone lined ring, filled with flowers all ablaze in riotous colors--blues, lavenders, purples, yellows, reds.  And in the center there was this big slab of red sandstone, like a ledge, really, and you could walk out on it to stand--and then, you realized that you were standing over a small pond, with a fountain flowing out from under the ledge down into this pond--this was really incredible.  So we had a fantastic and deeply spiritual walk--if you looked up, you saw these beautiful flowers, if you looked off in one direction, near the labyrinth they had this large Zen sand garden, with 3 gorgeous standing rocks, if you looked off in the distance you could see the snow capped Sangre de Christos--when you were on one side of the center, you could not hear the fountain, but when your walk took you to the other side, you could hear the peaceful flowing of the water--wow!  After we walked, we wanted to find the owner of the B & B to thank her for the walk, and the whole setting of the place is just something else.  We passed a raised bed garden of more flowers and herbs, then a beautiful central courtyard with the rooms around it, almost in an arc, and the courtyard was bounded on the other side by a small rock lined stream.  Some folks were sitting out in the courtyard, enjoying the morning light, filtering through the trees, just so peaceful.  We found the owner in the kitchen, and she came out to talk with us and we had a nice visit.  She told us they were getting ready to have a wedding out on the labyrinth in a few days--they would set up chairs on the lawn, and the couple would walk the labyrinth, coming out to the little ledge to stand to exchange vows--that's got to be about the most unique setting for a wedding, and I can only imagine how magical and special that will be!

Then we went to see the church of San Franciso de Asis--St. Francis of Assissi to most of us--nearby.  This church was built by Franciscan priests, completed in 1772--it has twin bell towers, and the sides and rear of the structure has these great, rounded buttresses.  It's an impressive structure, and we had seen pictures of the rear of the building in several shops around town.  At first we couldn't understand why there were so many depictions of the rear of the church, both photographic and painting, but we learned from talking to the proprietor of a bookstore in the plaza why--the way the sun hits the building at different times of the day just creates these dramatic patterns with the shadows and shifting scenes.  It was the inspiration for paintings by Georgia O'Keefe, photos by Ansel Adams and others.  It also seemed odd to us that the rear of the church was facing the highway, but this shop owner also explained why that is--when the church was built, the Santa Fe Trail was to the front of the building, and the highway was not built until the 1930's.  As we approached the church, we could see several people doing work on the exterior, applying this adobe, a mixture of mud and straw.  Turns out that the winter takes its toll on this surface, and they have to remus parts of it every year--the first week of June is the remudding time; the bookstore owner told us that sometimes it can be done in a week, sometimes it takes longer, depending on how much damage there has been.  It's an unusual surface, but they want to keep it like it always has been.  We noticed a group of young people helping with the work--our first thought was that it may have been a church youth group, but when I asked one of them, she told me they were high school students from California, this was an immersion week for their social ethics class--and they were there helping and learning--some local natives were patiently showing them how to mix and apply the mortar.  All pretty cool stuff!

We just happened into this bookstore, and the man who owns it was very informative and we had a wonderful talk with him.  His shop is along this plaza, which at one time was the center of this little community.  He told us that the building across the street was once a movie theater, but had been converted into a house that Dennis Hopper owned and lived in when he moved to Taos after making Easy Rider.  He showed us this large foormat book about Georgia O'Keefe, with pictures of her drawings of the buttresses on the rear of the church, and told us about Hopper making the movie Backtrack, in which there was a scene with Jody Foster standing on the porch of his house, looking across through the plaza at the church, with this book open to this page, so the scene has both the church and O'Keefe's drawing of the church in it.  Never saw the movie, but want to find it on Netflix to see this!

Then we headed off to continue our visits to the other three museums from our combo ticket, as we had seen just two of them the day before.  Fortunately, the route took us onto another road, sort of going around the town, away from the gathering crowds for the concert.  First stop was the Martinez Hacienda, built in 1804 by Don Antonio Severino Martinez, a merchant who was also mayor of Taos.  The building has 21 rooms, built around two large courtyards.  It's been restored and furnished in period, but much of it is original.  It's filled with exhibits of Spanish colonial life and culture and was really interesting.  Really enjoyed this place.  Since we had parked in a nice shady spot and it was noon when we finished the tour, we had our lunch there in the parking lot, nice breezes blowing, a footbridge over a creek nearby where we had met a group of early teenage school kids when we were coming out of the hacienda---this was the last day of school, so they apparently were celebrating--we saw a pizza delivery car pull up and they had pizza and cokes, sitting on the bridge!

The last two museums on the tour were back in Taos town, but a bit on the edge, so we were able to get to them pretty easily.  First we went to the Harwood Museum of Art, which is also now part of the University of New Mexico, and we saw some students and classrooms there as well.  This museum houses Taos art from the 18th century to the present, with paintings, sculpture and a large collection of Hispanic religious art, which we really enjoyed.  There are works by some of the original members of the Taos Society of Artists, as well as contemporary and abstract works.  There is one really interesting installation of paintings by Jim Waggoner--a couple named Trudy and Ed have apparently been big collectors of his work from his earliest days, before he became widely known, and they have loaned or donated a large part of their collection to the museum.  They had so much of his work in their home that they had to store a lot of it, so they decided to set up the display in the museum as a replica of part of their house, so you walk into a representation of several rooms of their house, with his work all over the walls, along with some of her boots, jewelry and clothes set up in the bedroom, and pottery on the dressers and tables--really a very interesting way to display it.

As we came into the parking lot, there were all these signs saying parking only for the museum, all others would be towed, and we weren't sure how they would know we were actually in the museum.  When we finished going through the museum and came back down to the gift shop, the ladies there asked us what we were driving, as they were about to call the tow company, since parking was at such a premium due to the concert.  They were really nice and we had a nice visit--they were intrigued by the idea of Santa and one woman said she never knew Mrs. Claus was in such good shape and had such a Southern accent!  She said after we came in they put cones blocking the entrance to the parking lot so she walked out to move them for us to get out.  As we were walking out, she asked us where we were going next, and when we told her the Blumenshein Museum, she said, oh that's just a block down--you can just leave your RV here and when you come back, just come in and get me and I'll come out to move the cones--that was a break, since there's no parking by the next museum.  It was the home of Ernest and Mary Blumenshein.  Ernest was the cofounder of the Taos Society of Artists, and this became their permanent home in 1919.  Part of this adobe home were originally built in 1797, but the Blumensheins added on to it over the years.  Apparently the home was originally a part of a larger building, containing other dwellings and shops.  As the storyboards explained, whenever someone would move out of one of these places, the Blumensheins would buy it, and put a doorway into the newly acquired space.  So it's a rambling array of 13 rooms, containing their original furnishings and showcasing their art.  Both of them were painters, and their daughter also was an artist, focusing on portraits of her friends.  Ernest was originally from New York but grew up in Ohio where his father was the conductor of the symphony in Dayton, and also an organist for a Presbyterian Church, so you know Trisha loved that!

Anyway, though we had first thought we might go visit some other places, having been to three museums just about filled our sensory ability to take it all in, so we just headed back to the RV park.  Fortunately we found a way around the increasingly crowded downtown area and got back to the park with no problems.  It was beginning to cloud up and look somewhat threatening for a storm, but I stretched out in the recliner outside and quickly fell asleep while Trisha took a nap inside.  Later I went for a nice long bike ride, finding some back roads away from the highway--a great way to see some of the residential areas--so many of these southwest style houses have walled courtyards, reflecting the pueblo and Spanish colonial influence, but I suppose these walls also serve to block some of the fierce winds that come every afternoon.  The sky was looking darker and darker, and I even started feeling a raindrop or two, so I headed back to the campground.  When I got back, the place had really filled up, particularly the tent sites, full of young folks coming for the concert.

We were really concerned as the wind started picking up, rocking the RV and blowing clouds of dust and sand all over the place.  A young family in the site next to us were all on their bicycles heading to town for the concert when it began to really storm.  It looked like it would really threaten to make for a rainy, messy time, or even possibly cancelling the concert when it started to thunder and lightning.  These folks next to us indeed did come back soon, but just to wait it out in the hopes that it would pass. Fortunately it did clear, just about the time the concert was to start, and from the looks of all the happy faces walking around the campground this morning, it must have been a good time by all.  Us geezers were quite content to stay here in the cozy comfort of our little carouse, enjoying a wonderful dinner of sauteed onions and mushrooms over black rice and quinoa, and Trisha had the rest of her huge burrito from the restaurant where we ate the night before.  She said it was almost better this time around, loving the whole beans and posole and the combination of red and green chile sauces--so different from what you can find back home.

Anyway, later this morning we'll pull out of here, see a couple more places in Taos--Trisha just discovered a wonderful looking yarn shop and another church that looks interesting--and then head to Ghost Ranch for a couple of days.  There's way more to see and do here than you can fit into just three days, so we may very well come back when we get back from Asheville.

Some pics:
Scenes from the B & B labyrinth--first is of the Zen garden

Beautiful big turquoise rock
Crushed pecan shell path

At the church, some of the mud and straw adobe mixture the workers were using on the exterior walls

 if you look closely, you can see the straw sticking out

Statuary in the courtyard of the church

 Workers, including the high school students
 Rear of the church, where they were doing extensive remudding
Door to one of the shops in the plaza--the turquoise is often used to ward off evil spirits

 At the Martinez Hacienda, some shots of the adobe brickwork and the plaque explaining the process

 All the rooms had these neat corner fireplaces
Candlelabra, the only light; love the way they did the ceilings
 Small chapel, where traveling priests would hold mass, and perform baptisms
 Our Lady of Guadalupe
 Look at the way Mary and Joseph are holding Jesus' hands--had never seen this rendition before
 Storage bins in the granary
Trade room, with some of the items offered for trade

 Kitchen--big fireplace on the right, and this long shelf next to it.  They would shovel hot coals from the fireplace all along the stone shelf to be able to cook multiple pots of food.  The bed over the shelf provided a warm place to sleep.

The weaving room, with a display of modern quilts along with a few original pieces
 Child's doll crib

 Children's play area with miniature bunches of chiles, garlic and basket

 Only room in the house that had wood floor--all others were dirt, but this one was done with wood planks adzed out, to use for flaminco dancing.
 Original needlework piece
 Lots of looms

 Room with religious art.

 Farm tools

 Saddle shop and other leather works

Cool walkway between the two courtyards--they hung meat in this corridor

 Outside the Harwood

 Georgia O'Keefe original
 Beautiful face and hands on this war chief, done by either Berninghouse or Blumenshein, I can't remember which.
 Jesus Christ Superstar?  or Superman???? What a hoot!

 Sorry I blew the focus of this one, but she must have been an early rendition of the tooth fairy--she's holding a big tooth in those long tongs!
This was in the mockup of Trudy's bedroom, a painting by Jim Waggoner, showing Adam and Eve, with Adam saying "You try it first."  Needless to say, Trisha loved this concept!!
 Trudy's dresser
 The rear of St. Francis church
 Incredible poppies along the street on the way to the Blumenschein home

 Blumenschein courtyard
 A little Christmas shop in the courtyard that, sadly, was closed  But this little sign says All hearts come home for Christmas--love that thought!
 These were outside the house in the courtyard.  Unfortunately, they didn't allow any photos inside

 Our campsite, with the neat little A frame over the table
 The gathering storm.

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