I was headed back out West for a little while and decided to take a spontaneous road trip out to New Mexico. Santa Fe was my final destination; as I had never really experienced the city before. Sure I’ve driven through Albuquerque and even Santa Fe on numerous road trips, but I had never really taken the time to stop and explore what the state has to offer. I know that New Mexico has a pretty good art scene; so I figured why not check out some of their galleries and exhibitions.
The first place I went to was Meow Wolf. I didn’t know a whole lot about the place other than it was artist installations and that it was very popular. Someone recommended I check it out so I went with very little expectations or knowledge about the place. I later discovered that they have other locations in Colorado and Nevada so that took away just a bit of the individuality of the exhibition. However, when we arrived we were told that the whole exhibit took over a year to create and was a collective effort by hundreds of different local artists. The hallways in the lobby where filled with witty comic drawings and paintings done by several artists. There were a few eccentric murals as well. All of the work seemed to be very contemporary with bright neon colors and use of bold text. As I mentioned I had no knowledge of what the exhibition was so I assumed it would be a continuation of work like this. The exhibition featured a seemingly ordinary family home complete with a whole living room, dining room, kitchen, and an entire upstairs with bedrooms and bathrooms. This is absolutely not what I was expecting, but I was excited. In general the narrative suggested that there was time travel into different dimensions, and this was apparent in the rest of the exhibition. I crawled through the fireplace in the home and was transported into a room that looked otherworldly. The entire exhibition was a web of rooms that were unique in their manner. Each room was created with multiple mediums and was incredibly detail oriented. It seems impossible to emulate the experience in words but it was mesmerizing. People were walking through the refrigerator, coming out of ice machines, appearing from bookshelf’s, and kids were sliding down the laundry shoot into a secret room. The whole experience felt like something out of Alice in Wonderland. Meow Wolf is listed as a tourist destination, but it really is more than that. The amount of energy it took for these artists to execute the precision and draw of this exhibition is incredible. Often times I feel as though artists aren’t appreciated for the work that they create. With that in mind the one thing I wish Meow Wolf would have done differently is make more of a point to credit the artist who made this attraction possible. Other than that Meow Wolf was a great experience and I highly recommend checking it out.
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
Georgia O’Keeffe was an American impressionist artist who painted very ordinary subjects like flowers and landscapes, but she added visual interest by utilizing unique angles and perspectives. Her paintings attempted to bring to light the human experience through its subject matter and fluidity of the artwork. Georgia O’Keeffe was an avant-garde artists and is often viewed as the “mother of modernism”. About midway through her career O’Keeffe strayed away from traditional realism in her paintings and sought after finding meaning through abstraction. Her work is very interesting because it was constantly evolving. I find it interesting that Georgia O’Keeffe pushed the bounds of what it means to be an artist. So often artists become self-trapped in creating artwork that is too consistent. We find ourselves searching for meaning in the same things or creating different variations of the same subject because it’s what viewers enjoy. However, in Georgia O’Keeffe's artwork we see two polarizing motifs which is the serenity of the Southwest and the liveliness of New York City, created at different periods of her life. Both of these locations are so different from one another that the polarity of their meanings work to say something much bigger about the human experience, when analyzing her entire body of work. It is evident from her work in New York City especially, that O’Keeffe aided the precisionist movement as well; which is ultimately the embrace of industrialism. This cubist-realism form of art was utilized to express the rise of interest in heading West around the 1920s & 30s. The paintings that O’Keeffe created here in New Mexico directly speak to this fantasy. Her use of abstraction coupled with the unique landscapes of the Southwest aided her influence on the modernist art movement.
The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum houses the largest portion of her work that is viewable to the public, however it does not house all of O’Keeffe's works. I know some of her work is also displayed in the National Gallery of Art as well as the Tate Modern in London. Before entering the museum I assumed that most of the work displayed was going to be from her time in New Mexico, however this was not the case. There were a number of works from early on in her career including watercolors and charcoal drawings, to her more notable pieces of work. Overall the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum provided a well rounded selection of her artwork. Additionally, the museum displayed readings on her work in both English and Spanish which I felt was appropiate. They also had a small exhibit on the conservation efforts on one of her pieces that was damaged at fault by a leaky roof. There was also useful insight into her relationship her conservator Caroline Keck as well. Not to mentioned there was a small exhibition on one of O’Keeffe art residence, Josephine Halvorson. I found this interesting as the museum decided to display work of whom were close to Georgia O’Keeffe. This was also seen in the few gelatin silver prints from her husband Alfred Stieglitz. However, one thing I found interesting was the fact that there were two Ansel Adams prints in the gallery as well. The museum did not make a clear connection between his relationship with Georgia; in fact the prints seemed to be arbitrarily thrown into the collection. Perhaps there was supposed to be a draw between Adams work in New York to O’Keeffe's work with the city, but it was very unclear. Although that connection was unclear I still found the museum insightful and enjoyable.
Overall I would say that there is a definite art scene in New Mexico, especially in Santa Fe. I wish I would have been able to spend more time in the city because it seems as though there are a lot of galleries and other museums. Not to mention there are also a lot of small artisan shops in the city as well. I very much appreciated the amount of art that was displayed in Santa Fe and hope to visit again soon.