Back to Santa Fe

With fresh resolve to see the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, we headed into Santa Fe only to be waylaid by the new Railyard Galleries, a wonderful use of industrial space for a series of cavernous, cutting-edge galleries that are revitalizing an area of Santa Fe that had seen better days too long ago. Beyond the largest of these, a handsome building with a shed-like clerestory was being readied for a future Farmer’s Market. Fortunately we’d only put an hour’s worth of coins in the parking meter, or we’d never have arrived at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum at all.

In a short film we viewed first, O’Keeffe spoke of her discovery of the southwest as the place in which she truly felt at home, and about her approach to reducing a landscape to its simplest emotional content. It enhanced what we’d been feeling, ourselves, driving through the desert, and made the exhibit feel more personal. So many great museums have O’Keeffe paintings, but unfortunately, this museum hadn’t as many on display as we might have hoped, though there were enough to represent the different periods of her work. Like all ‘in person’ paintings, the brush-strokes and surface textures gave more intimacy and immediacy to the eye than a reproduction ever can, almost like the breath of the artist on one’s shoulder.

The museum also had a visiting show ‘Marsden Hartley and New Mexico’ with paintings of the same region and era, but his heavy blacks and choppy browns just didn’t match the light-filled joy and celebration of her mountains, canyons, and skies.

We next went to the Institute of American Indian Art, where a docent noticed my turquoise necklace and explained why it had been getting compliments in Santa Fe. Turns out, it’s a good example of fine old Santo Domingo Pueblo beadwork, which had somehow turned up in a store of new and used jewelry in Oneonta, NY where I’d found it. (definitely an ‘Antiques Road Show’ experience!) We saw some wonderful contemporary art by the next generation of Native Americans, and in one small wing, a breath-taking collection of gouache paintings by Valjean McCarty Hessing.

Loving the late light of the Plaza, we strolled back to search out some dinner (no tables at the Shed) and got a balcony table at the Ore House for crab cakes and blackened chicken salad, where a cool breeze blew a few bits of lettuce from our plates while we watched the light turn golden on the Plaza.

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