A question that nags at the back of my mind, “What is authentic and what is kitsch?” Where does “environmental design” end and “fakery” begin? Being here in Santa Fe it’s hard to avoid these comparisons. What’s “real” adobe and true Santa Fe design and what is the “Santa Fe Style” brought to you by “Schmaltzy Retailers Plus”?
I love the “real” southwest, the blend of Hispanic and Native American sensibilities and ethics. Their designs are simple, clean, uncomplicated, and organic. I hate the tacky “reincarnation” of these designs. I’ll throw up if I see one more cheesy Kokopelli sign or one more “yard shadow” of a leaning cowboy silhouette.
I’d only selected four galleries to visit today because I didn’t want to overwhelm myself with images and schlock. I can’t tell you how I chose the four – it was a web search – and they were the ones that looked most intriguing. Boy did I choose well!
After a wondrous breakfast at Horseman’s Haven where I consumed Huevos con Chorizo covered in the most divine Green Chilie sauce, I headed downtown. My first stop was the Gerald Peters Gallery.
As I turned into the crushed gravel parking lot I knew I’d hit a jackpot. The building was adobe – it had a large veranda – fired Mexican tile – and pots of blooming desert plants leading to the entry. One step inside and this vast landscape greeted me.
All the tension left my body. This is the desert I know and love. THIS is authentic. Not some stylized over worked color scheme.
The artist is Arturo Chevez. This is the first time I’ve seen his work, but he is beyond talented. I was struggling to figure out why his work spoke to me so much. In reading a little bit about him, I realized the word I was searching for was “authentic”. He paints the way I hope I write, with careful attention to detail and realism.
There were several other artists whose work I also enjoyed. Two pieces by William Shepherd attracted my attention. The first, Roaring Judy, would fit in perfectly with Blue’s project, “Collected Horizons”. The second (which I cannot find an image of) was titled, “Surface Events”. It is something Talla Paula would fall in love with – and her daughter wouldn’t be far behind. This is one set of rocks that I wouldn’t mind having in my home. Here’s a similar piece.
G. Russell Case was the final artist to capture my heart at this gallery. There were a few of his pieces hanging in a small room with a decorative tin ceiling and old, worn leather chairs – that invited one to sit down and sink into the moment. I did just that, staring at his vistas and the other cowboy art hanging on the white washed wood walls. The chairs – classic in design – worn with years of comfortable sitting – are what I’ve always envisioned in “my library”. Sitting there – soaking in the experience I wished I had my laptop, some Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys playing in the background while I sipped some bourbon or scotch. I can’t imagine a more peaceful place to let my mind wander down the roads of creativity.
Leaving the PG Gallery, I headed next door to the Nedra Matteucci Galleries. Here was another sprawling building. Room among room tucked in here and there, with the occasional doorway opening out onto a garden full of water features, sculptures, and trees with leaves making music as the wind blew through the leaves. Clicking on these links will show you why I instantly lost my heart here.
I thought I was safe and would be able to keep my lust under control – until I stepped into a room full of William Matthew’s work. This image, (Snowy Day #26) stopped me cold. Here are the men (#3, 7, 21, 25, 27) and landscapes (#6) I dream about.
As I thought about art – I thought about writing. Am I drawn to these types of paintings because they tell a story I understand? Or do the images allow me to create my own stories? Is this really “my” world – or just the one I’ve absorbed through osmosis. Pondering these thoughts, I came to this painting.
It’s a great illustration of what I want to learn in this craft called writing. Having the skill to frame my tales so that some of the story is just outside of what I tell. To draw images so strong that I can leave out a detail or two – like the cow’s head – and yet still have it be a complete scene. Or maybe – what this picture really represents is a good ending, one that allows the reader to continue the story in their minds after I’ve ended my part.
As I left Nedra’s a light rain began to fall. I decided I’d seen the best, so I headed back to the hotel. How decadent to take an afternoon nap, maybe find a wi-fi café and surf the net when I wake up, before heading out to dinner.
This is the life, a few fine things, savored and memorized.