Excursions: Los Poblanos

When your visit to a new place starts out with a tree-lined boulevard like this, you know it's going to be something special. The place in question is Los Poblanos, which my boyfriend and I finally visited last month.
A historic inn and lavender farm located minutes from downtown Albuquerque, this place is a bucolic haven within a state that's already replete with some pretty interesting places.

Los Poblanos was founded in 1934. While today it is known as an organic farm, back in the 1930s it was known for its La Quinta Cultural Center, designed by John Gaw Meem and decorated by some of New Mexico's best-known artists via the WPA. This was, in fact, the reason why I had wanted to come here...
...so that I could see this fresco by Peter Hurd first-hand.
I first learned about Los Poblanos through Peter Hurd, or more accurately through his letters in the anthology My Land is the Southwest. I read about it while doing some research for a Hurd-Wyeth retrospective that RMAC is putting together next year with the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania,

Completed in 1937, this is Hurd's first finished true fresco, or painting directly on wet plaster. It's a challenging technique because you really only get one shot at the plaster, and since you can only paint on the wet surface, not the dry wall around it, you have to complete the composition piecemeal. In other words, you'd better do you homework ahead of time and have preparatory cartoons that are thorough and accurate, because you can't go back and fix the mural once you've started it.
Hurd decided to paint the story of San Ysidro, a popular saint in New Mexico, especially within the Spanish Catholic tradition. A devout farmer who had a hard time keeping up with his tilling because of all the time he spent praying, Ysidro benefited from the assistance of an angel, who tilled the fields for him while he prayed. Whereas ancient Sumerians constructed portrait statues that prayed for them while they worked, Yisdro had the divine come work for him, enabling him to continue his devotions uninterrupted. Not a bad gig at all if you ask me.
As mentioned earlier, Hurd painted this in the fall and early winter of 1937. This is why he wasn't able to attend the Roswell Museum's official dedication in December (though Henriette Wyeth was there), and now that I've seen the work in person, I can understand why. For a first fresco, I think it's pretty damn good. I love the gestural quality of the hatching lines, which echo his energetic egg tempera painting of the period. The colors are also quite marvelous, bright and vibrant with primary blues and reds. The sky is particularly accomplished in its subtlety, a quality Henriette observed in her letters of the time.

Of course, there's much more to see at Los Poblanos. Gardens abound on the property, so after checking out the fresco we made a point of wandering through them. Since we went in April, everything was in bloom, from wisteria to roses, so the estate was a veritable olfactory feast.
There's also a nice shop on the property,which we naturally had to check out. I'm not much of a gift shop kind of person, but I did end up getting a nice tote bag. One can always use tote bags.
We stayed in a nice little cottage complex along the periphery of the estate. There are several clusters of these buildings around the property; ours was one of the newer ones.
Early the next morning I woke up at sunrise so that I could do some early morning sketching. The lavender won't be in full bloom until July, but you can already see it growing in the fields.

As you can see, I felt quite inspired by the place, finishing all these sketches during the chilly morning. I've already turned the first one here into a plexi drypoint, and have plans to attempt my first multi-layered intaglio/monotype in years with it.

I suppose one reason why I loved this place so much is that it reminded me of Shelburne Farms, a place I visited frequently during my time in Vermont, and the inspiration behind what I consider some of my best prints. Like Shelburne, moreover, Los Poblanos was designed as an experimental farm, something it's working to reclaim today. My boyfriend, in turn, said it reminded him of Wakulla Springs Lodge in Florida, a place that he loved for its extensive nature trails and fabulous Art Deco design. Either way, we definitely plan on coming back, if only because it provides such a pleasant respite from the everyday routines of Roswell.


  1. Woodbury, adventurous travel is the heart of inspiration. -DAC


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