Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Folk Art Makes Me Happy
My Kinda Wagon Wheel
One of the first stops on my trip to New Mexico was Tinkertown, on the way from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. It's a whole building outfitted with miniature mechanized displays as well as random sculpture and overall bottle encrustation. Just my cup of tea! The motto of the place was, "I did all this while you were watching TV." It was a wonderful place to visit, although a bit poignant as the artist, Ross Ward, died just a few years ago from Alzheimer's at only 57. I met his widow (who ran the gift shop), who felt like the place was a way of keeping him alive.
The antlers above were in a box in a mining museum in the town of Cerillos, just outside of Santa Fe. You could definitely imagine tumbleweeds blowing through this town. It was quiet and empty and a little bit eerie. But the antlers were fun and very O'Keeffey.
Speaking of O'K, I visited her winter home in Abiquiu, as well as the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe. There is nothing like seeing an artist's work in the context of where she painted it. After seeing the terrain, You gain an insight and an understanding you would never have otherwise. I remember a tour in Arles of sites where VanGogh painted. All those works that seemed so swirly and abstract suddenly made sense -- they looked exactly like the countryside.
The Museum of International Folk Art was one of the best museums I've ever seen. Worth the trip in itself. Every room was crammed full of the stuff you find in nooks and crannies around the world, art that people make out of what is right there in front of them, as they are living their lives and playing around with their world. An exhibit on Carnaval, the party before Lent, and its manifestations around the world was especially cool; I really enjoyed all the costumes and music styles that each country developed.
The best part of the museum visit, however, was a tour I accidentally joined. I thought it was the 2 PM docent tour of the museum, so I gathered with a clump of people at 2 PM. The tour guide, Dr. Nunn, was one of the curators and said she was going to do a very casual, behind the scenes tour. I thought, wow, they are so laid back here in New Mexico. Turns out this was a special, anthropological tour which was part of a conference in town that week. I only realized this when I saw everyone else had special name tags around their necks when we were already downstairs in a storage room. No one seemed to be offended at my presence, so I hung around until the end when they were going to have a collective chat about the postmodern implications of anthropological whisker-growing or something like that (ha ha). But I got to meet two local folk artists, Arturo Lopez and Arlene Cisneros who explained their pieces in the museum as we asked dorky questions like, "What is that weird thing that Mary is holding in your sculpture?" The answer: scapulars. Oh. How often do you get to ask an artist in a museum stupid questions like that?
Thus concludes the end of this portion of our cultural tour of Santa Fe. I know I promised adobe but I don't have those photos yet. Hang in there.