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The Art and Allure of Santa Fe, New Mexico

by Marlene Shyer
Santa Fe, New Mexico Pueblo Revival

Santa Fe calls itself “The City Different,” and that's just half of it. It's also the city remarkable, and of course, the city cool.

Marlene Fanta Shyer

There is something wonderful around every corner in Santa Fe, the colorful capital city of New Mexico. Although the buildings are no higher than three or four stories, and every structure is painted in various shades of café con leche, surprises lie beneath the lookalike adobe roofs.

What’s inside the buildings is the razzle-dazzle most of the two million visitors a year come to see: two hundred and fifty galleries featuring every imaginable type of creative expression. Santa Fe is also the oldest capital city in the United States, with historical monuments, a cathedral, mission, and the lively Plaza. The Plaza is the village square, and starting there, most everything is in walking distance.

Georgia O’Keeffe, its most illustrious local resident, said it well about the city: “The sky is different, the air is different, the wind is different.” It’s part of the narration of her short biopic shown at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum (www.okeeffemuseum.org). She’s a celebrity here and worldwide; her “Jimson Weed” broke records for women artists at Sotheby’s, selling for $44 million in 2014. Similar enlarged images of flowers are here, and also the famous “Black Place” landscapes, created as part of a painterly duet with the modern artist Michael Namingha. Her 5000 square foot Spanish Colonial adobe home and studio is a fifty minute drive away and offers guided tours.

Tai Modern - Santa Fe, New Mexico

Tai Modern (Art by Homma Hideaki)
Photo: Gary Mankus

It took quite a few centuries, but these days other women artists are also featured prominently in Santa Fe. Emily Mason’s abstractions, for example, are displayed in the LewAllen Gallery (www.lewAllengalleries.com) in close proximity to the works of her husband, Wolf Kahn. He is considered the most important American landscape painter working today. This gallery is one of the top-tier spaces in town and many works sell to international collectors.

The TAI Gallery (www.Taimodern.com) is devoted mainly to the fine art of basket weaving. There are some contemporary paintings on the walls but the imaginative bamboo pieces on display are museum quality, not meant to hold potatoes or onions! For one example, a Homma Hideaki (artist) here had a price tag of $29,500.

The Blue Rain Gallery (www.blueraingallery.com) has a definite Southwest soul. Many of the paintings are of recognizable Native American men and women and their blankets, guns, buffalo, traditional trappings, and there’s also a great deal of Pueblo pottery. There’s quality jewelry for sale here too, some very contemporary.

These high-end galleries are located in the recently developed Railyard Arts District (www.railyardsantafe.com). The Santa Fe commuter railroad tracks run through this new-wave area with its fresh talent in art, beer, a Saturday farmers’ market, music, antiques, you-name-it. You can picnic here too.

A whole different world awaits in the Canyon Road area. Better described as a lane, Canyon Road is partially unpaved and pebbled, with shoulder-to-shoulder galleries that range from amazing to zany. Different strokes, different prices. If you have the time, you might spend a whole year seeing them all. For a cool sampling, check out the Wiford Gallery (www.wifordgallery.com), with its outdoor kinetic moving sculptures that look like large outerspace whirligigs.

Pippin Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Butterfly Wings by Aleta Pippin at the Pippin Gallery

Or check out the Pippin Gallery (www.pippincontemporary.com). Home of choice contemporary paintings like the Bassmi paint blots and Karwacki stripes, there are also choice sculptures that will turn any lawn into a 21st century showplace. The sculptures, some painted in primary colors, are generally made of steel and all are eye-catching.

Another stop to make on Canyon Road is the Selby Fleetwood Gallery (www.selbyfleetwoodgallery.com). Hard to forget is the Kevin Box sculpture of large scissors cutting paper out front. It rises among greenery because Box often likes to place his works in a botanical context. He and fellow artist Susan Stamm Evans are both locals. Her unearthly stone-face piece haunts the garden. This gallery is significant for another reason: the building is actually 250 years old and made of adobe that is raw, original, and unpainted.

The Gerald Peters Gallery (www.gpgallery.com) and Book Store is/are actually two stylish places, divided by a parking lot. One gallery is devoted to contemporary works, the other is geared to the historical. Check out the eye-catching glass or ceramic statues created by Karen LaMonte here. The prices at Gerald Peters begin at around $2,000 and end at the-sky’s-the-limit. If you can afford these prices, you’re probably off on your yacht. But no problem, you can order online.

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