A Short Trip to Santa Fe

 

I grew up in Santa Fe but moved away in 1980, only occasionally returning for visits. These visits became a lot more occasional when I moved to Texas. I recently went back to visit my mom. I love Texas, but Santa Fe is really breathtakingly gorgeous:

The beauty of the town amazes me every time I return. And it’s not just the scenery. The architecture is sublime and perfectly blends with the environment. And the art! Santa Fe has been an art center for three cultures for more than a century; there is magnificent, beautiful, and whimsical public art everywhere.

Such as a granite bust of a native American in the middle of a roundabout.

A shy bronze deer peeking from behind a bush.

Fanciful stick creatures playing on a roof.

A school of fish circling around chile ristras between municipal buildings.

And ridiculous stuff as well.  Like a giant horse head:

And I do mean giant:

This item has been taking up space in the front yard of a gallery on Canyon Road for years, collecting comments from art enthusiasts. If any of you are in need of a massive horse head to complete your collection, I’ll bet you can make a deal.

Unfortunately, with so much art around, you also run into a lot of bad art.  An iteration of this piece of public art seems to be replicated ad nauseam:

It will usually have a silly name, like Crossroads [IV].

A Question of Balance [VII], in the foreground, with Aspirations [XV] behind.  Or maybe it’s the other way around.

Agony of the Dispossessed [VII].

The Mother of Us All [XXVIII].

The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even [L].

Fecalith [II].  (Actually, that’s an appropriate name for this piece of . . . art.)

The real name for all of these is Oddly Shaped Hunks of Metal Painted in Varying Colors and Welded Together in Random Patterns [Insert pretentious Roman numeral here]. Or, referencing another French Surrealist, This is not an art [n.].

I know that artists working with metal need to practice their craft and develop skills. The result of that does not need to be on display. Once you can produce a piece that actually looks like something, throw the rest of that stuff in the recycle bin. Unfortunately, some creative welders seem to spend their entire careers producing random conglomerations of metal, giving them grandiloquent titles and dumping them on street corners.

It is also insulting to the native artists in the area. There are dozens of nearby native American pueblos and tribes, each with its own unique art history. Not to mention Mexican and Spanish colonial traditions. And the many US artists who were drawn here by the scenery, the architecture, and the culture. Random hunks of metal thrown together and plopped beside a street, usually at public expense, have nothing to do with the artistic traditions of New Mexico.

There’s also stuff like this:

It’s OK, I guess, but it has nothing to do with New Mexico.

Then there’s this ghastly thing:

Soon after it was installed, an art critic set fire to it, melting the hands:

Fortunately, the damage did not make the thing any more repulsive than it already was, as that is not possible.

Finally, what is the most appropriate art, to create at public expense, on the grounds of the community college? An examplar of the high desert, thousands of miles from the nearest ocean? Why, a life-sized statue of a blue whale, of course:

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  1. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Well, it’s all. . . um….interesting….

    • #1
  2. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    JosePluma, Local Man of Mystery: It is also insulting to the native artists in the area.  There are dozens of nearby native American pueblos and tribes, each with their own unique art history. 

    Mrs. Tabby and I have been struck by the wildly different levels of esteem art buyers give to the products of different pueblos (or tribes). Pots, jewelry, and baskets by some tribes are sold for a few dollars each as simple souvenirs in roadside stands. But pots, jewelry, and baskets by other tribes sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars each as “art.” To me (admittedly a guy with degrees in engineering and law, so hardly art-trained) they all look very similar, and I can see no logical reason why one is “art” worthy of a high price, and the other is simple “folk craft” to be sold cheaply. But, boy, if the right art critics declare the artistic work of your tribe as “art” you can reap some big rewards. (Our daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren live near Santa Fe, so we have looked around the area.)

    • #2
  3. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    I loved Santa Fe! I haven’t been there in years. Agree re the “art.”  It all depends on who gets to decide I guess.

    • #3
  4. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Now we know what Calvin (the one who used to do snow sculptures) did when he grew up.

    • #4
  5. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    What’s the over/under on the number of conservatives there?  Eight?  :)

    • #5
  6. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Jose, I just missed you.  I moved in as a kid in 1979, licing in the Alameda barrio then out to Rodeo Road (which I think I see int he first photo.  Recognized the Canyon Road photos before you mentioned them just from the housing, whimsy, and tightness. 

    My folks used to run with the artsy crowd, which despite the Marxism of the hippies still relies upon patronage from Old Money which is also flamingly popular in SF.  In Santa Fe as in Heaven, an artist without a millionaire is still called a stocker at the local Piggly Wiggly. 

    I suppose the “fierce urgency of now” crowd is shoving its way into things with even less talent than displayed in “Too Heavy To Recycle (CDLXI)”.  After all, art has no merit scale and needs no justification — kneel before my skin color, bigot!  But this still requires powerful friends, or else they’re Fiercely, Urgently stocking beans at Piggly Wiggly Now.

    It is a remarkable, beautiful city.  Full of characters unfit to live in less delicate environments.  Oh, and of course the vast majority who just go about their business making the wheel turn.

    I didn’t live there all that long.  More like I did a couple of stints.  Now most of my direct connections are gone, likewise for (much more recently) Albuquerque.  In both places, I still know some people, but I no longer have so much as a ball-point pen in Santa Fe, and ABQ just has a storage locker.  I need to grab that crap.

    • #6
  7. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    We LOVE Santa Fe!  My wife and I have been there many times, and me more because my job required me to visit Los Alamos four times a year for a couple years.  Nice city, great Mexcian restaurants, and lots of stuff to see and do within walking distance of downtown hotels.  Heck, my wife even has a relatine buried in a cemetgery just outside town (we visted).

    If you’re into art, there are many art galleries to visit, as well as the Georgia O’Keefe Museum.  One trip, we ended up buying 3 paintings worth . . . well, I’d better not say.  They’re now in our living and dining rooms . . .

    • #7
  8. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    I seem to remember a gallery owner in Santa Fe who hid a million bucks in gold (?) and put out clues on how to find it in the West. Predictably, people died trying and the guy, who is now dead, caught a lot of grief.  He claimed eventually that somebody did find it.  Not a movie.

    • #8
  9. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    Jose,

    You’re a kindred spirit.

    • #9
  10. Caryn Thatcher
    Caryn
    @Caryn

    I was in grad school in Santa Fe, 1990-91, and haven’t been back since.  From your photos it’s changed and not changed.  The art scene was pretty whack-a-doodle back then, too.  Great food, though.  Really great.  

    • #10
  11. JosePluma, Local Man of Mystery Thatcher
    JosePluma, Local Man of Mystery
    @JosePluma

    By the way, the line about the giant horse head was originally “…collecting comments from avian art enthusiasts.”  Either whomever edited it didn’t get the joke or it wasn’t that funny. 

    • #11
  12. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    I seem to remember a gallery owner in Santa Fe who hid a million bucks in gold (?) and put out clues on how to find it in the West. Predictably, people died trying and the guy, who is now dead, caught a lot of grief. He claimed eventually that somebody did find it. Not a movie.

    Remember those old Canadian Club ads where people were given clues to find buried cases of the whiskey?  I wonder how many were actually found . . .

    • #12
  13. JosePluma, Local Man of Mystery Thatcher
    JosePluma, Local Man of Mystery
    @JosePluma

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Now we know what Calvin (the one who used to do snow sculptures) did when he grew up.

    Hey!  Certain people (me and @markalexander, for instance) think the snow sculptures were the best part of Calvin & Hobbes. 

    • #13
  14. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    I seem to remember a gallery owner in Santa Fe who hid a million bucks in gold (?) and put out clues on how to find it in the West. Predictably, people died trying and the guy, who is now dead, caught a lot of grief. He claimed eventually that somebody did find it. Not a movie.

    Here we go.

    The man, Forrest Fenn, is buried in Santa Fe.  Another landmark.

    • #14
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