Monday, July 17, 2017

Many apologies to my readers! It's been a terribly long time since I last posted, but I have a good excuse for neglecting my blog.  I completed my Ph.D. at the University of Oklahoma, and had to conserve my ability to write in a relatively coherent manner for my dissertation.  However, our upcoming Turquoise Gala, Fall Travel Program, and some exciting new exhibits have inspired me to get back on the grind and post an update. As usual, we have quite a lot of activity here at the museum. If you want to stay up to date with everything going on at the Millicent Rogers Museum, I recommend that you sign up for our newsletter, follow us on Facebook and Instagram, and check our website often.

Turtle Dance by Dorothy Brett, Millicent Rogers Museum

A few weeks ago, the Harwood Museum returned pieces they had borrowed from our collection for their traveling Mabel Dodge Luhan and Company exhibit, and the return of these pieces is the inspiration for this blog post.

Colcha Stitch Embroidered Flower Design for Dorothy Benrimo by Rebecca Salsbury James, Millicent Rogers Museum

It has long been understood that the world is very small when it revolves around Taos and there are very few degrees of separation between individuals.  In a previous post, I discussed the vigas in Turtle Walk, Millicent Rogers' home in Taos, that were painted by Dorothy Brett and Trinidad Archuleta (note the similarities to the Brett painting pictured above).  Brett, an aristocratic lady from British high society, first came to Taos in 1924 with her friends Frieda and D.H. Lawrence, the famed writer.  The three friends were invited to stay with Mabel Dodge Luhan, a wealthy American who is renowned, in part, for introducing many artists, writers, and their eccentric companions to Taos.  In 1926, Rebecca Salsbury Strand (later James) visited Taos with her photographer husband Paul Strand upon receiving an invitation from Dodge Luhan.  Salsbury James returned to Taos in 1929 accompanied by her close friend Georgia O'Keeffe, and the two women proceeded to make many return trips to the area before ultimately settling permanently in 1933 and 1940, respectively.

My Three Fates by Dorothy Brett, Albuquerque Museum
Mabel Dodge Luhan is on the far left, Frieda Lawrence is in the center with D.H. Lawrence in the back leaning against a tree, and Dorthy Brett is on the far right.

Brett was close friends with Rogers and would often correspond with her friend's youngest son, Paul Peralta-Ramos (the founder of the Millicent Rogers Museum).  After Rogers' death, Brett continued to write and would encourage Peralta-Ramos to be more courageous, daring, and creative like his mother.  She would also take great pleasure in sharing gossip about their various mutual acquaintances in Taos.  In one letter, she regaled him with a story about Frieda Lawrence's false teeth, which had gone missing and were later found in the trash.  

Millicent Rogers and Dorothy Brett in the plaza during Fiestas de Taos, c. 1952,
Millicent Rogers Museum

Millicent Rogers and Frieda Lawrence at Turtle Walk, c. 1951,
Millicent Rogers Museum

Part of the floor at the Millicent Rogers Museum,
which was once the front entrance to the home of Claude and Elizabeth Anderson.
The Andersons donated their home to the museum in the late 1960s.
Millicent Rogers, Frieda Lawrence, and Dorothy Brett carved their initials into the floor one evening at a party.
The living room in the Anderson home or what is now gallery 10 in the Millicent Rogers Museum.
Pictured in the foreground is a bench that Rogers purchased from Dodge Luhan.

The collection of the Millicent Rogers Museum includes several of Brett's paintings, and most of these works were either owned by Rogers or her son.  Peralta-Ramos was instrumental in growing the museum's collection over the years and befriended many artists and collectors in Taos.

Portrait of Millicent Rogers by Dorothy Brett, Millicent Rogers Museum
According to Searching for Beauty: The Life of Millicent Rogers by Cherie Burns, Rogers would frequent the La Fonda hotel in Santa Fe when she needed to recover from bouts of illness.  On one of her final visits to the hotel, many of her Taos friends paid visits and she was gifted an embroidered colcha from Salsbury James.  Unfortunately, this colcha is not included in the museum's collection.  However, you can learn more about Rogers' stays in Suite 500 at the La Fonda hotel in the books referenced above and pictured below.

La Fonda Then and Now, published October 2016
The museum owns two of James' colchas, and the one pictured at the top of this blog post was dedicated to Dorothy Benrimo.  Benrimo was also an artist and co-authored a photography book on grave crosses in northern New Mexico with James.  The colcha was donated to the museum by Benrimo along with several santos from the artist's personal collection.

San Ignacio de Loyola retablo by José Raphael Aragon, 1820-1865,
gift of Dorothy Benrimo, Millicent Rogers Museum
The Millicent Rogers Museum's collection is capable of telling many intricate and interconnected stories, and I look forward to sharing more of this amazing collection and the history of Taos with you.

Friday, February 3, 2017

February can be the slowest time of year in Taos and especially here at the museum, but thanks to a bounty of snow in the ski valley, we've been busier than usual.  Our Crossing Paths: Beadwork from the MRM and E. Irving Couse Collections exhibit closed on Tuesday and we're getting everything ready to open our 15th Annual Miniatures Show and Sale next week.  This annual event is a local favorite and demonstrates our ongoing commitment to supporting the local arts community of Taos.  Each fall, we send out an open call for all Taos County artists to submit works for our Minis Show.  (If  you are a Taos County artist and you did not receive this notice, please email to be added to the email list.)  Then, the staff of the museum selects the best submissions that fit within our strict criteria for acceptance.  For example, all works must be “miniature” or 100 square inches, meet museum quality standards, be original, less than a year old, and not have been shown in any other exhibit.   We have such strict rules because we want to be able to exhibit as much artwork as possible.  The Miniatures Show and Sale includes paintings, drawings, photography, prints, sculpture, pottery, jewelry and more all produced by Taos County artists, and over 200 artworks were submitted for consideration.  These works are offered for sale as a way to support both the local arts community and the museum, and several artists in the past have even donated the full amount from the sale of their artwork back to the museum.  This event provides a great opportunity for emerging and established artists to exhibit their work side-by-side, and many local favorites will be included in the show. The opening reception will be held on Friday, February 10th from 5:30-7:30 with hors d’oeuvres served.  Tickets are $15 per person or $10 for members, and can be purchased in advance on our website.  Competition can be fierce on opening night as this event presents a unique opportunity to purchase a modestly-priced artwork by popular Taos artists all while supporting the Millicent Rogers Museum.  It is also a great way to add to your art collection no matter how full your walls have become by living in such a rich artistic community since each work is miniature.  The museum’s board of trustees will also award a Best in Show piece and attendees on opening night can vote for the People’s Choice Award in three separate categories: 2-D, 3-D and jewelry.  If you are not able to attend the opening reception, the exhibit and sale will continue until March 5th, and all artworks included in the show will be on view on the museum’s website and can be purchased after opening night either in person or by calling the MRM Store. 
David Anderson, gold necklace
Lydia Garcia, St. Jude

Judy Burch, Seeds of Change

Gustavo Victor Goler, Nuestra Señora de los Dolores Corazon

Angie Coleman, Taos Late Summer Sunset

Melinda Littlejohn, Little Singing Pot
(Winner of last year's Board of Trustees Best of Show Award)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Today is #givingtuesday in the non-profit world and an excellent opportunity to show support for your favorite charities and cultural institutions.  Taos has several excellent museums: the Couse-Sharp Historic Site, Taos Art Museum, the Harwood Museum, Taos Historic Museums, which includes both the Blumenschein House and the Martinez Hacienda, and last but not least, the Millicent Rogers Museum.
The MRM with surrounding views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Like all of the museums in Taos, the MRM supports the local arts community and promotes the unique cultural experiences of northern New Mexico.  Every year we host a variety of exhibits and events for our community, such as our annual Miniature Show and Sale, Taos Pueblo Artists Winter Showcase, Taos Art Club/Teen Art Studio Show, and Holiday Fiesta.  The latter is a free event for local families and is scheduled for this Saturday, December 3rd from 11 to 3 and will feature holiday crafts, snacks, face painting, pictures with Santa, and music and dance performances from local children's groups.

Artist Inger Jirby, Fashion Designer Patricia Michaels, and MRM Executive Director Caroline Jean Fernald
at the museum's annual Miniature Show and Sale

Raffling Off Artworks at the Taos Pueblo Artists Winter Showcase

The MRM presents an exhibition of the Taos Art Club/Teen Art Studio's
work each spring and also hosts drawing classes
at the museum each summer

The Taos Fiesta Royal Court with Santa at the MRM's annual Holiday Fiesta

This year we have been pulling treasures from the collections vault for our special exhibits of Santa Fe Indian School paintings, Native American beadwork, and drawings by Millicent herself.  For 2017, we plan to highlight exciting new additions to our collection in a series of special exhibits on artistic families in Taos, the importance of horses to the local culture of northern New Mexico, the history of feast days in the Southwest, and the spiritual significance of corn in Native American art.  We are also thrilled to unveil a new interactive exhibit that brings together our native plants gardens with artworks in the museum.

Painting by Joe Herrera on view in our Santa Fe Indian School Style exhibit

Buckskin shirt on loan from the Couse Foundation, on view in
Crossing Paths: Beadwork from the MRM and E. Irving Couse Collections

Drawing by Millicent Rogers illustrating a scene from the Little Mermaid,
on view in Millicent as Visionary
Retablo featuring the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe,
which will be included in our upcoming exhibit on Feast Days
Museums rely on charitable donations to fund their exhibitions, events, and daily operations, and the Millicent Rogers Museum is no exception.  Since its founding in 1956 by Millicent Rogers' youngest son, Paul Peralta-Ramos, as a tribute to his late mother, the MRM has had an active role in supporting the local community of Taos, advocating for arts education, and championing our mission of sharing and celebrating the arts and cultures of the Southwest with everyone.  I personally support several cultural institutions and organizations in Taos, such as the MRM (obviously!), Taos Historic Museums, and the Taos Opera Institute, just to name a few.  You can also support your favorite museums by simply visiting (your presence makes a difference!), bringing friends and family, and shopping in the museum's store.  I'm originally from Chicago and visit the city at least once a year if not more.  I have supported my favorite Chicago museums over the years through my regular attendance and through memberships, which are a great way to pledge your annual support to a museum in an amount you can afford (and it usually comes with nice perks!).  Just as I donate to several museums in Taos, I also support the Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Museum of Natural History, and the Newberry Library.  I have always given to institutions that I care about, and as one who works for a truly wonderful museum, I can assure you that even small donations, membership dues, and store purchases make a difference.  In honor of our 60th anniversary and #givingtuesday, I encourage you to show your support of the Millicent Rogers Museum by becoming a member, making a tax-deductible donation, signing up as a volunteer, or visiting the museum.  Thank you for helping in any way you can!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

This year, readers of the Taos News voted the Millicent Rogers Museum Store as the Second Best Place to Buy a Taos Souvenir--second only to Taos Pueblo.  We always recommend a trip to the Pueblo (and of course the MRM!) as an absolute must when visiting Taos.  It's even on our homepage.  Taos Pueblo has a rich history that goes back over a thousand years, and it is also home to many talented artists, such as Patricia Michaels, Jonathan Warmday Coming, Ira Lujan, Dawning Pollen Shorty, Debbie Lujan, Michael and Causandra Dukepoo, and John Suazo, whose work is featured in both our store and in our permanent collection.  In addition, we host these same artists and more at our annual Taos Pueblo Artists Winter Showcase at the museum during the Pueblo's ceremonial closure.

Patricia Michaels

Dawning Pollen Shorty giving an artist demonstration at the MRM

John Suazo at the Taos Pueblo Artists Winter Showcase
photo courtesy of Jim Cox
Both Millicent Rogers and Paul Peralta-Ramos, her youngest son and the museum's founder, valued the art, culture, and traditions at Taos Pueblo.  Since its founding in 1956, the museum has always reserved an honorary spot on our board of trustees for the Governor of the Pueblo and closes every year on September 30th so that the staff and volunteers can attend the festivities at the Pueblo's San Geronimo Day.  At this year's event, our office manager Kathleen Michaels' mother told us about how she remembers Millicent visiting the Pueblo and that, afterwards, she and her friends would pretend to smoke cigarettes with rolled up leaves, put choke cherry juice on their lips for lipstick, and "walk fancy." Millicent and her son Paul were friends with many of the artists at the Pueblo, and she even had some of her friends paint the interior of her home in Taos.  We have some of the original sketches for her painted vigas (exposed wooden ceiling beams) in our permanent collection, which I discussed in a previous post, and you can see lots of images of the interior of her home in this Wall Street Journal article.  

Millicent Rogers

Although she was renowned for her wealth and romantic escapades with famous men, such as Ian Fleming, Roald Dahl, and Clark Gable, Millicent was also a talented artist and designer.  She collaborated with notable couturiers of her day, such as Charles James and Elsa Schiaparelli, to create her signature Southwest look and even designed her own jewelry.  In fact, as part of our 60th anniversary celebration, we currently have a special exhibit that focuses on Millicent's life and includes both her original jewelry designs and her finished pieces.

Millicent Rogers with Lady Dorothy Brett in Taos Plaza

Charles James dress form in Millicent as Visionary exhibit
The mannequin is based on Millicent's measurements.

Millicent's original sketches and jewelry designs in Millicent as Visionary exhibit
A penchant for fashion and a knack for jewelry design runs in the family.  Earlier this year, Millicent's granddaughter, Christina Peralta-Ramos, gave a moving lecture on her grandmother's legacy, which was featured, in part, in a recent article in Trend Magazine, and the New York Times featured an article on Millicent's great-granddaughter Sascha Peralta-Ramos' jewelry line, Mary Millicent, which includes pieces modeled after some of her great-grandmother's work.  You can see her work in person at our museum store and online.  

Christina Peralta-Ramos presenting a lecture on her grandmother

The MRM Store recently collaborated with local jeweler David Anderson in recreating several of Millicent's designs by using her original molds.  In addition to being a very talented and detail-oriented jeweler, David is also the grandson of Claude and Elizabeth Anderson, close friends of Millicent Rogers who donated their home to the museum in the 1960s.  The museum continues to be located inside the Anderson's home, and we feature photographs of what it used to look like throughout the museum's fifteen galleries.  According to David . . .  "When Claude donated the house to the museum, our family would visit and look around at all the fantastic art. I didn't know that I would become a jeweler then but I was fascinated by the museum's wonderful and extensive jewelry collection."  Our store manager Nancy Colvert has been employing David's talents as a jeweler in completing repair work for the vintage Native American and Fred Harvey jewelry available in our store.  David was thrilled to take on the task of recreating Millicent's designs for the MRM Store, and did a lot of research to make sure he stayed true to what Millicent had in mind.  He found that, much like her collaborations with fashion designers, she would often commission works from famous jewelers, such as Paul Flato, and would design the majority of the pieces herself.  David notes that "Millicent used to also design jewelry when she was ill and bedridden.  I must say I have done the same and have notebooks full of jewelry designs. Her jewelry is big, bold and she wanted to make her own pieces to wear.  She had a huge spirit and could pull it off! I have seen her jewelry being worn by many different people over the past forty years, including my mother." We are honored that the Anderson family continues to be a part of the museum and Millicent's legacy!

Millicent wearing a heart-shaped brooch by Paul Flato

David Anderson's recreations of Millicent's  jewelry designs

Each piece is stamped with the MRM's original logo

The MRM's original logo, which is evocative of the sun rising over the surrounding Sangre de Cristo mountains

The original entryway to the Anderson's home, now a fire exit at the museum.  Millicent Rogers, Dorothy Brett, and several other friends of the Anderson family carved their initials into the floor.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

This weekend, the museum will host fourteen renowned art and antique dealers in our Fourth Annual Fall for Antiques Show and Sale.  Vendors will be traveling to the MRM from four different states, and will transform our galleries into mini-antique booths offering museum-quality items for purchase.    Here's a post I wrote a couple months ago about Mark and Linda Winter, who will be participating in this year's event and bringing a master weaver to demonstrate her skills.  It has been reported to be a very fun and exciting weekend here at the museum, and described as “not your typical antiques show” by one of the event organizers.  As the new(ish) director of the museum, I was asked to be the featured lecturer for this year’s event, and I have been working with our curator, Carmela Quinto, to create a presentation that is not your typical lecture.  If you’ve been keeping up with my blog posts or our newsletters, you will note that it is the museum’s 60th anniversary this year, and we at the MRM have been working hard to celebrate our history.  Many of our special exhibits this year, such as Millicent as Visionary, Santa Fe Indian School Style, and Crossing Paths, highlight works from the permanent collection that have not been exhibited for years or, in some cases, ever.  In the spirit of our fashionista namesake, Carmela and I have organized a Pueblo pottery “fashion show,” which entails pulling pots from our collections vault and walking them through the crowd during my presentation.  This allows visitors to see the pots up close and personal, and I think it will add a more energetic and exciting element to my talk.  I’ve really enjoyed this opportunity to familiarize myself with our pottery collection, and I look forward to sharing this experience with our visitors.  Here’s a sneak peek at a few of the pots we’ll be featuring at my presentation this Saturday at 2 p.m.  If you would like to learn more about our special events, exhibits, or our permanent collection, please see our website or sign up for our newsletter

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Various beaded items from the MRM and Couse collections
Note the large tab bag in the upper left has only been half cleaned to demonstrate the difference before and after conservation work
We recently opened a new exhibit at the museum, Crossing Paths: Beadwork from the Millicent Rogers Museum and E. Irving Couse Collections, and like many of our special exhibits, this show highlights artworks from our permanent collection.  This year marks the MRM's 60th anniversary, and we have taken this opportunity to pull works from the collections vault that have not been exhibited for decades (if ever!).  Crossing Paths focuses on the history of beadwork in northern New Mexico, which, unlike the majority of our collection of baskets, weavings, pottery, tinwork, and carved Santos, is an art form not typically associated with the Southwest.  However, the history of beadwork in the region is really quite fascinating.  The diverse community of Taos, New Mexico has acted as a center for cross-cultural interactions and exchange for centuries, if not longer.  Before and after the arrival of the Spanish into the region, Taos Pueblo was a significant center for trade between the Pueblo communities to the south and the tribal nations of the Plains to the north.  In addition, several Native nations from Oklahoma and Texas have ancestral ties to northern New Mexico, and have historically interacted and traded with the Indigenous communities in and around Taos.  Prior to the introduction of glass trade beads, or what is commonly seen on historic clothing from the broader Plains region, Native Americans adorned buckskin clothing with beads made from natural materials, such as porcupine quills, stone, shell, and clay.  Ongoing exchange with Europeans, beginning in the sixteenth century, brought new materials to incorporate into clothing, and the progressive influx of colonists and settlers increased trade connections throughout the world.  By the early 1800s, glass trade beads from Czechoslovakia and Venice had reached Native communities far into the North American continent well in advance of European and European-American settlers.  By the late 1800s and early 1900s, Anglo-traders had entered the scene, and the introduction of the Santa Fe Railway in the Southwest and their train cars full of curious tourists brought a substantial market for any and all Native American-made products, such as beadwork.  In previous posts, I noted that I used to work at the Couse-Sharp Historic Site, and we collaborate with them and several other local non-profits regularly.  (I have discussed the importance of collaboration in our most recent newsletter and in previous blog posts.)  I spent three months completing conservation work and  cleaning each and every bead in the majority of the Couse collection of beadwork with a Q-tip (or perhaps I should say several thousand Q-tips!).  Many of these works from the Couse collection are paired with beaded items that were collected by Millicent Rogers' youngest son and the founder of the MRM, Paul Peralta-Ramos.  Working so closely with these objects allowed me to really appreciate and understand the level of skill, quality, beauty, and variety of techniques in beadwork.  Can you blame me for wanting to show them off?

Pump drill from the Couse collection used in the Santa Fe Railway calendar pictured behind it

Beaded cradles from the MRM and Couse collections,
special thanks to Chelsea Herr for cleaning the rather large cradle on the left

Beaded buckskin dresses, saddlebags, and shirt from the MRM and Couse collections

Fully beaded moccasins from the MRM and Couse collections

Julian Martinez's beaded wearing blanket given to Paul Peralta-Ramos

Thursday, August 4, 2016

My last post focused on Summer Spinning, the Star York sculpture included in our live auction for our Turquoise Gala and how potential proceeds from the event could benefit our permanent collection of Southwestern textiles.  In addition to Star York's piece (and many other wonderful items!), we have three truly unique textiles featured in our live auction and four historic textiles from the Frank Waters estate in our silent auction.  The first piece is a round weaving by Mary H. Yazzie, a Diné (Navajo) weaver who is represented by the Historic Toadlena Trading Post.  Mark and Linda Winter, who run the trading post, donated this beautiful work to our live auction along with a book that includes an entire section on Yazzie, who comes from a long line of weavers and continues to pass on her skill to her children.  This piece is inspired by the designs created in sand paintings, or traditional Diné healing ceremonies, and depicts Mother Earth and Father Sky surrounded by four hogans.  Yazzie's expertise and the fine details of this weaving are hard to document in a photograph, and I highly encourage you to visit the museum and see it for yourself as creating a round textile on a square loom is no small feat!  We are currently exhibiting all of our live and silent auction items in our Turquoise Gala Auction Preview Show.  Yazzie's work is shown below with Mark Winter's Dances with Wool book and a Mexican colonial chest that I will discuss in a later post.

Mary Yazzie with  Mother Earth Father Sky 

The second textile from our live auction is also a donation from Mark and Linda Winter of the Toadlena Trading Post.  This piece is by Heber Johnson and features a large diamond pattern with an elaborate, interlocking design.  A copy of The Master Weavers a beautiful book on the history of weaving at the Toadlena Trading Post along with a photograph of Johnson will be included with the textile.

Heber Johnson with his weaving

Our third weaving that is included in our live auction is a pre-1860 Rio Grande striped textile dyed with indigo.  This historic piece was donated by the Frank Waters estate and was displayed in the famed Southwest writer's home.  

As noted, the four textiles for our silent auction are also from the Frank Waters estate.  The first three (pictured below) are from the Crystal Trading Post.  This trading post was founded by J.B. Moore who developed a mail order catalogue of weavings in 1903 and again in 1911.  Buyers could select the design that they wanted and a weaving would then be made to order.  However, these three examples probably date after 1930 when the trading post had closed and the mail order operations were relocated to California.

Our last silent auction weaving comes from the Frank Waters estate and features valleros, or pointed star designs unique to northern New Mexico.  All four of the silent auction and all three of the live auction textiles are on view at the museum.  The silent auction pieces are available for purchase now for the retail estimate plus ten percent.  To learn more about these or our other auction items, see our website.