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Santa Fe, Art ..great, bad and really awful.

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Tuesday 9 September 2008

Santa Fe, Art ..great, bad and really awful.

I knew there was going to be a lot of art here but never expected so much and I saw only a tiny proportion of what was on offer. The biggest surprise was a visit, only prompted by a tip from some very nice Canadians we met, to the State Capitol building. The beautiful circular building houses not only the New Mexico State Legislature and all its associated offices but a huge and accessible art collection, created by the Capitol Art Foundation whose mission is "to collect, preserve, exhibit, interpret and promote appreciation of works of art that reflect the rich and diverse history, cultures and art forms of the people of New Mexico."

It was a strange feeling to be wandering around the three floors which are open to the public, peering at marvelous paintings, sculpture, prints, furniture and craftwork, sometimes displayed above the desks of receptionists or next to filing cabinets or coffee machines while the busy life of an office carries on around you. What a lovely space to work in and a great way to use public spaces. The nice thing about this collection is its great variety, the works are not just chosen to go with the decor!
A great find was two or three lovely prints tucked away in a corridor by Gustave Baumann.

I was so pleased to find these as I know very little about his work. If we had been able to get to the New Mexico Museum of Art we would have been able to see more of his work. (museum website here)

Sadly The Georgia O'Keeffe museum was closed for a rehang but to compensate the crestfallen visitors (me amongst them) who turned up at the door, the museum had laid on "behind the scenes" tours of the research centre, normally out of bounds for tourists. It was a fascinating insight into her working methods, we saw her materials, her sketches and her collections of natural objects, feathers bones and rocks which she had included in work. The guide was delightful, knowledgeable and non intrusive. It gave me much to think about in terms of my own work and I am mulling it all over. I will write more about her as I go along. The breadth of her work, her organised and disciplined way of working were all extremely impressive. Here is one that I missed!

We didn't get to Canyon Road either where the street is lined with galleries but I had done my homework and I have to admit that I find many of the modern "Western Art" works quite depressing, as most are bad copies either in style or content of the excellent artists who came before. Mawkish sad eyed Indian children, and endless mediocre landscapes which are done without any feeling for the land and the people and are no doubt churned out from photographs. Wherever in the world quality artists have worked and lived, the camp followers and copyists arrive post haste, to cash in on the reputation of true past masters and mop up tourist money. There is some very well executed art here and I do hope to go back to see more. But this is mostly market driven, commercial imitative art. There is nothing wrong with that but it shouldn't be flagged up as the work of "modern masters".
It would be ungallant of me to publish pieces that I think are badly done and after all, one man's masterpiece is another's complete horror but, painting "scenes" of the past is more in the realm of an illustrator, who "illuminates". Many of these paintings are very poor in terms of illustration and just do not make the grade as good paintings....and not only do they copy the original artists who made this area so popular but they copy each other too!! ....amazing!
However I would love to go and stay for a while just to see if any of the old magic that Blumeschien saw is still there. I think it probably is... how I would interpret it to make it my own I do not know..yet.
I would also like to have a big bucket of money to spend on the beautiful antique turquoise jewellery, rugs, wallhangings and ceramics too!
These images are from a shop in Fort Collins, Colorado called "Meanwhile back at the Ranch" (see more here). Its a very good job I don't live nearby.

Just gorgeous...

We were to see and learn much more about rugs and turquoise at Jacob Lake a few days later...another post to come.

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