Cypher Space - the Museum of Art Blog

Olive Rush - 4/1/2017

Olive Rush, Portrait of Mary Austin, ca.1932. Oil on panel. 38 3/4 x 24 in.
Collection of the New Mexico Museum of Art.
Gift of the School of American Research (Indian Arts Fund), 1976 (398.23P)

Continuing our look back at some of the artists who have been an important part of the museum's 100 year history, we look to Olive Rush (1873 - 1966). Rush is sometimes referred to as "the first lady of Santa Fe" due to her active involvement in many civic organizations. She began exhibiting her paintings at this museum as early as 1920 and continued regularly, with the largest showing occuring in a 1957 retrospective. The museum owns several of her works. For a more complete look at Rush's life, the School for Advanced Research (formerly known as the School of American Research) has filmed and published this lecture. The Museum of New Mexico Press recently published the first book on Rush, Olive Rush : finding her place in the Santa Fe art colony.

As the museum's archivist I am often asked about the exciting things that have happened at the museum during our 100 year history. While several books have been published about the art collection and the architecture of the building, there has never been a comprehensive overview published about all of the museum's activity. In honor of our upcoming centennial celebration the staff here have compiled a historic timeline that demonstrate key events, from the famous to the infamous to the lesser-known. It was very difficult narrowing down what to include on the timeline, but it is my hope that going through the event the reader will get a sense of the diversity of activities that have and continue to occur at the museum. Enjoy!

Evan C. Douglas hand-colored photograph of the museum not long after it was first constructed
Marjory Hansen Collection, New Mexico Museum of Art Library and Archive

Rick Dillingham - 2/1/2017

The artist with his pottery.
Photo Courtesy Linda Durham.

Pottery is a human invention made from the earth dating back centuries, making it a frequent source of research for anthropologists. New Mexico's rich cultural history and underdeveloped space made it an attractive location for those interested in studying anthropology in the 20th century. One person of particular note was ceramicist Rick Dillingham who received his B.F.A. from the University of New Mexico in 1974 and an M.F.A from Scripps College. Rick Dillingham's academic study of Southwest pottery informed his own creations in a way that blended the fields of anthropology and art.

Rick Dillingham
Untitled Ceramic Vessel, 1985-1986
ceramic, gold leaf, enamel, glue
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Mel Pfaelzer, Mr. Jack Satin, and Mr. and Mrs. John Metzenberg, 1987

Dillingham authored several books on Pueblo pottery, including Seven Families in Pueblo Pottery (1974) and its expanded version Fourteen Families in Pueblo Pottery (1994) and Acoma & Laguna pottery (1992). This scholarship also influenced his own work. His ceramic gas cans comment on the centrality of gasoline to modern life. These vessels and/or cans were patterned after Pueblo ceramic water jars that were essential to Pueblo life for a thousand years.

Rick Dillingham
Gas Can, 1972
Post fired reduction (American Raku)
Bequest of the Rick Dillingham Estate, 1994

He is best remembered for his signature "broken pottery" technique involving the deliberate destruction of pottery by his own hand, the decoration and coloring of the shards, and their reconstruction when his artistic applications were completed.

Dillingham lived with AIDS for over ten years before it ended his life at age 41. Around 1992 he made a series of pots reflecting on this disease metaphorically painted black and lined with silver.

Dillingham’s talents as a ceramicist and a scholar of Native American Pottery make him an ideal artist to behold within our own collection. The museum is fortunate to have acquired Dillingham's own pottery as well as his personal collection of art made by others such as Beatrice Wood, Viola Frey, and Peter Voulkos.

Women's Board -1/1/2017

The Women's Board in October 2013
The year 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the New Mexico Museum of Art. During this year we will continue our look back at some of the people who have been part of the museum's celebrated history. Today, we look at not a single person, but a group of people who have been instrumental in the museum's success : the Women's Board of the Museum of New Mexico and School of American Research. The Women's Board has served the Museum from the very begining. The purpose of the Women's Board is to contribute to the general public's particpation in and enjoyment of the museum's programs by perpetuating the traditional hospitality of New Mexico. These are the smiling faces you see serving food at opening receptions for major exhibitions and special events.
The predecessors to the Women's Board were the Woman's Board of trade in Santa Fe and the Woman's Auxiliary Committee of the Archaeolgical Society, both of which raised funds for the restoration of the Palace of the Governors and installation of exhibits there. On March 24, 1917 the organization was given its present name.
When the New Mexico Museum of Art was created in 1917, space on the second floor was explicitly reserved for use by the Women's Board. Although the museum currently uses it as exhibition space, it is still refered to as "the Women's Board Room." Over the years the Women's Board has given teas, receptions, dinners and parties in honor of distinguished visitors to Santa Fe. During World War II museum activities were suspended , and the Women's Board Room was turned over to the American Red Cross for war relief work.
The Women's Board Room of the New Mexico Museum of Art, around 1920
Next time you visit the Women's Board Room, be sure to check out the plaque listing the names of the women who served on the Women's Board from 1910 - 2013. In some families, three generations have served the museum through membership on the Women's Board.

Chuzo Tamotzu - 12/1/2016

Photo of Chuzo Tamotzu by Anne Noggle, n.d.
gelatin silver print
Gift of Louise Tamotzu, 1983
When the museum opened its doors in 1917, the country had recently entered the international conflict now known as World War I. The war weighed heavily on the minds of the museum's supporters. Attorney and major donor Frank Springer quelled concerns that it was not a good time to open an art museum in his opening address, stating that art serves as a reminder of mankind's better nature, making it even more important - not less - in a time of uncertainty and conflict.
The atrocities of World War I gave way to World War II, and again the museum found itself having to defend the importance of an art museum. This time a local artist who had served in both the Japanese and American militaries headed the call. Cognizant that he lived so close to where the Atomic bomb had been developed, in 1953 he organized an exchange of children's art between students of the Santa Fe Public Schools and those in Hiroshima to promote better understanding and goodwill among the nations. The show traveled through New Mexico, stopping here at the art museum as well as venues in Raton, Gallup, Alamogordo, Portales, Lovington and Los Alamos. Decades later that exhibition was continuously cited by the artist and his widow as one of his prouded accomplishments in a career that had many accolades. With the upcoming 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, many institutions are looking back to the World War II era. Interestingly, some of the Japanese children's drawings were donated to Bowdoin College Museum  of Art in Maine and they will be exhibiting them soon.
Chuzo Tamotzu was a Japanese-born painter who lived in New York City before settling in Santa Fe in 1948. His formal education was in political science at Senshu University in Tokyo. He taught himself sumi-e (Japanese ink brush painting) and left Japan in 1914 to further his study of art throughout Asia and Europe. He came to U.S. in 1920 where he befriended several other artists, such as Philip Evergood, Yasuo Kuniyoshi and John Sloan . When Sloan became President of the Society of Independent Artists, Chuzo served on the board. Chuzo was also a founding member of the Artists' Equity. 
Chuzo Tamotzu drawing of John Sloan
The Smoker, mid-20th century
ink on paper
Bequest of Melinda Miles Phister, 2010

A critic of the Japanese military, he and fellow Japanese-American artists denounced the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Tamotzu volunteered to serve the U.S. military and was assigned to the Office of Strategic Services (a wartime intelligence agency, precursor to the CIA).

Chuzo Tamotzu
From Roof, 1952
oil on canvas
Gift of Arnold D. Kates, 1965
When Tamotzu moved to Santa Fe he rented John Sloan's former studio. He soon began exhibiting regularly at this museum. Shortly after his death in 1975 the Governor's Gallery at the State Capitol honored him with a solo exhibition. In 1981 we curated a retrospective exhibition held at the Santa Fe Armory for the Arts while the museum was closed for renovation.
Tamotzu's art is held in the collections of the New Mexico Museum of Art in addition to Metropolitan Museum, St. Louis Art Museum, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden of the Smithsonian.

Victor Higgins - 11/1/2016

Victor Higgins, Walking Rain (Pablita Passes), circa 1916-1917
Oil on canvas, 39 3/4 x 42 5/8 inches
Gift of Robert L.B. Tobin, 1992.

Sometimes a picture is more than it appears initially. Sometimes it represents a moment in time, a glimpse into the life and mind of the artist. So it is with the painting Walking Rain (Pablita Passes) by Victor Higgins. At first glance, the viewer's eye goes straight to the lovely rainbow at the top of the canvas. Because the large New Mexico sky takes up the bulk of the image, it appears this is just a lovely landscape painting. A closer examination, with the help of a little research, reveals there is more to the painting. At the bottom left we see a cluster of black figures. Who are they? What are they doing?

According to El Palacio Vol IV No III, the painting, recipient of the 1917 William Randoph Hearst Prize at the Art Institute of Chicago, was made at the hour when it became known that a Hispanic girl who had posed for Higgins died from fever. The little black figures are the townspeople discussing her passing, a scene that looks like a traditional northern New Mexico velorio or wake. The black clothes and shadow caused by the storm above reflect the somber mood. Higgins' painting serves as a memorial to the girl, capturing the relationship between the people and the land of New Mexico as well as between the artist and his model.

Victor Higgins Papers, New Mexico Museum of Art Library and Archives

Higgins was born in Indiana and studied painting at the Art Institute of Chicago where this painting was first exhibited. He became a resident of Taos and was elected a member of the Taos Society of Artists. Higgins married twice, once to Sara Parsons, the daughter of artist Sheldon Parsons, and once to Marion Koogler McNay, founder of the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas. However, art historians typically describe Higgins as a loner whose true love was art. He liked to paint outdoors, en plein air, and his work is considered more modernist than other members of the Taos Society of Artists. Walking Rain (Pablita Passes) is just one of many paintings by Higgins the museum is lucky enough to own. The museum library and archives also has an extensive collection of Higgins' personal papers in the archives which were used by Dean Porter to write the book Victor Higgins : An American Master

Donald Beauregard - 10/1/2016

Donald Beauregard on Rainbow Bridge Expedition, 1909
Photo by Stewart Young,
Courtesy Stan Jones.
With October being Archives Awareness month, now is a good time to look at some of the stories within the museum's fascinating archives collection. As the museum's Archivist, I have the pleasure of learning the back stories to the beautiful artwork in the museum.
Donald Beauregard, Portrait of the Artist, circa 1910,
Oil on canvas, 32 x 20 in.
Gift of the Honorable Frank Springer, 1925.

One of the more tragic stories that dates back to the museum's founding is that of Donald Beauregard, the orginator of the St. Francis murals in the Auditorium. Beauregard was a young man from Utah who went to Paris in 1906 to study art at the prestigious Julian Academy for two years. He first came to New Mexico in 1910 on an archaeological expedition with the University of Utah and School of American Archaeology. It was there that he met Frank Springer. Springer was the principal donor of the private funding that created the art museum. He was so impressed by Beauregard's success he commissioned him to do murals of the life of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of the Southwest, for the Panama-California Exposition of 1915 in San Diego.
Unfortunately, Beauregard succombed to stomache cancer at the young age of 31, and was only able to complete two of the murals. However, he did finish the overall designs, and Carlos Vierra and Kenneth Chapman completed the murals from his drawings. In addition to his generous monetary donation to he museum, Frank Springer also donated his collection of Beauregard's art.
Renunciation of Santa Clara
Donald Beauregard, Kenneth Chapman, 1917
Oil on canvas
Gift of the Honorable Frank Springer, 1917
The story of Beauregard's brief life is preserved in the letters he sent to the museum's founder, Edgar Lee Hewett. These letters were later used by author Carl Sheppard to write the book The Saint Francis Murals of Santa Fe : The Commission and the Artists published in 1989.

Lloyd Kiva New and IAIA - 9/1/2016

If you haven't seen the exhibition Finding a Contemporary Voice: the Legacy of Lloyd Kiva New and IAIA, you still have until October 10th. Since its founding in Santa Fe in 1962, the Institute of American Indian Arts has had some of the most renowned Native American artists as its students and faculty. 

Finding a Contemporary Voice: the Legacy of Lloyd Kiva New and IAIA is the continuation of a relationship between this museum and the IAIA that began back in 1966 when students of the IAIA held an exhibition here titled Young Indian Painters. That show included works by artists Earl Biss, T. C. Cannon, Linda Lomahaftewa and Kevin Red Star.

To learn more about the remarkable history of the IAIA, there are a number of resources on the Internet such as this timeline and digitized resources from the IAIA archives. There are also several books celebrating this unique institution, including the recently published The sound of drums : a memoir of Lloyd Kiva New, a copy of which is available in the gallery of Finding A Contemporary Voice for visitors to read.

Fritz Scholder, Arts Faculty at the Institute of American Indian Arts at 4:15pm, 1968,
oil on canvas, 54 1/2 x 71 1/2 in. Collection of the New Mexico Museum of Art.
Gift of Fritz Scholder, 1968 (2271.23P) © Fritz Scholder Estate. Photo by Blair Clark


New Mexico Painters - 8/1/2016

One of the many treasures in the museum archives is a single sheet of paper that gives insight into a short chapter of 20th century New Mexico art history. It is the original charter document establishing the New Mexico Painters society in 1923.

The New Mexico Painters were a short-lived artist collective consisting of Frank Applegate, Jozef Bakos, Gustave Baumann, Ernest Blumenschein, William P. Henderson, Victor Higgins, B. J .O. Nordfeldt and Walter Ufer. It was an attempt to unify artists from the rival Santa Fe and Taos artist colonies. The New Mexico Painters first exhibited together at the Montross Gallery in New York City in October 1923. By 1924 the group had grown to 13 members, with John Sloan, Andrew Dasburg, Theodore Van Soelen, Randall Davey, and Walter Mruk joining. The New Mexico Painters disbanded around 1927.

Compared to the better known Taos Society of Artists (of which Blumenschein, Higgins and Ufer were members) and Cinco Pintores, the New Mexico Paintes society has been mostly forgotten over time. Ironically, the few times that this group is mentioned is in reference to the Taos Society. The New Mexico Painters were formed only a few days after the Taos Society refused to admit Jozef Bakos and William P. Henderson. According to art historian Robert R. White, the formation of the New Mexico Painters was a reaction to this rejection and directly lead to Blumenschein's resignation from the TSA.

In 1999 the Gerald Peters Gallery in Santa Fe organized an exhibition of works from artists of the New Mexico Painters and reproduced this document in their catalog.

The New Mexico Museum of Art is lucky to have such a revealing document in our collection.


Don Usner's Chimayo - 7/1/2016

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