Excursions: Taos

During my vacation to northern New Mexico last September, I took a few days to explore Taos. After all, many of the artists in our collection, from Howard Cook and Barbara Latham to Gene Kloss and B.J.O. Nordfeldt, had lived and worked here, so I wanted to see this place for myself.

It was a beautiful time of year to be up there, warm but not overwhelmingly hot. Much of the time was spent hiking, as I wanted to experience the landscape for myself. The sage was particularly striking, and reminded me of one of our paintings in the collection, Rabbit Hunting in the Sage by Barbara Latham.

I also spent plenty of time checking out the architectural icons. Here's the San Francisco de Assisi church, one of the most famous buildings in Taos.

The back side of the church in particular, with its simple form and lack of superfluous decoration, has inspired many a Modernist artist, from John Marin to Ansel Adams.

I also spent some time at the Taos Pueblo, where many of the artists in our collection used to visit in order to watch the dances. It's been continuously inhabited for over 1,000 years, though these days only about 20-25 people live there now. Most of the tribe now lives outside of the Pueblo in order to use modern technologies, from running water to wifi.

Houses can only be passed down through family members, which is one of the reasons why so many of the houses are currently in disrepair. Younger members accustomed to contemporary life don't want to take up the physical burden of rural living, but the older members currently living there are getting too old to make repairs. Apparently the tribe is looking into turning the Pueblo into a heritage site that would enable people outside of the family to look after the buildings.

I also visited the Harwood Museum of Art...

...and stopped by the house of Ernest L. Blumenschein, which is located next door.

While I did sketch up in the area, I only made one drawing of a "famous" site, the back side of San Francisco de Assisi. Artists have drawn this church to death over the years, so I doubt I'll do anything with it myself, but drawing it did help me appreciate its smooth, geometric forms.

I enjoyed my trip, though I'll be the first to admit that the Taos I visited is not the town that the artists in my collection knew. It's become commercialized, and seems to cater more to tourists these days than it does residents. It's not as theme park-like as Santa Fe, but part of me worries that it will be someday. Having lived in tourist-driven economies most of my life, I have an ambivalent relationship with them. Sure, they bring in visitors and their money, but they also tend to leave their own residents feeling alienated.

At least, that's how I have often felt.