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.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Thanks to Star Liana York and the Sorrel Sky Gallery of Santa Fe, we will be featuring a lovely bronze sculpture called Summer Spinning at our Turquoise Gala on August 20th.  This piece features a mother teaching her two young daughters how to spin and card wool for weaving.  My favorite part about this sculpture is that it spins on its base so you can admire the dynamic exchange between the figures as well as the variety of colors and textures from all angles.

We have two Star York pieces on view in the museum.  I discussed one in a previous post about Maria Martinez, and the other is located in our courtyard.

The artist was kind enough to give us lots of options for our gala, and we chose Summer Spinning because it connects with the museum's large collection of Native American and Hispanic weavings from the Southwest.  After the gala, the museum will use our proceeds from the sale of artworks, such as Summer Spinning, to fund a variety of projects.  These funds provide core support for the collection, staff, and museum upkeep, and they also allow for the museum to continuously grow and improve.  Like many museums, we can only exhibit a small fraction of our collection of over 7,000 objects at any given time.  We own some of the finest examples of Native American and Hispanic textiles as well as colchas, embroidery, and beaded clothing.  However, we are running out of space to store textiles in our collections vault as we need another storage rack and the materials for wrapping and rolling (the best way to store most textiles is to roll them).  We also need to rotate out some of the pieces in our textile gallery for cleaning and because exposure to light over an extended period of time causes fading.  

Funds from our gala support projects such as this, and they also provide essential resources for the planning and educational programming that coincides with all of our exhibits.  We often have school groups visit the museum, and the kids always enjoy making crafts similar to objects in the galleries.  In addition, we are developing a digital learning center that will not only make our exhibits more interactive, but will bring the museum's collection to school groups that cannot travel to us due to distance or budgetary restrictions.  Thanks to a collaboration with Artifacts Teach, our new learning center website (which is still very much in the works!) will feature high resolution images of significant objects in our collection that can be turned, zoomed in, spun around, measured, and studied.  You can actually get a closer look at some of the objects on the website than you can at the museum!  It will also have educational information about Southwest weavings, for example, fun activities, and games to make learning about our collection more engaging for the next generation.  A portion of the proceeds from our gala will support the continued development of our digital learning center and the equipment needed so school groups can use the program at the museum.  Star York's Summer Spinning will be on view starting this Friday, July 29th as part of our Turquoise Gala Auction Preview Show.  Come see the exhibit and learn more about the variety of ways we support the Best Museum in Taos through our fundraising gala!  

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

On August 20th, the Millicent Rogers Museum will be hosting our annual Turquoise Gala at the Sagebrush Inn in Taos.  This event is currently our main fundraiser for the year and will feature dinner, wine from Black Mesa Winery as well as a full bar, dancing, and live entertainment by Lonesome Town.  There will also be live and silent auction items available for bidding, and all proceeds go directly to the Millicent Rogers Museum.  We use these funds, in part, to care for the permanent collection, plan and install new exhibits and events, provide educational programming for local school groups, make essential improvements to the galleries, and develop new projects to make the MRM's collection accessible to everyone.  As I have noted in previous blog posts, several of the auction items were donated by the Frank Waters estate, and one such item in particular exemplifies how the proceeds from its potential sale could benefit the museum directly.

The painting pictured here is by Percy Sandy (Kai Sa) of Zuni Pueblo and will be available for purchase at our Turquoise Gala.  Sandy's work can be found in the permanent collections of the Gilcrease, Philbrook, Heard, and the MRM.  This piece depicts a Mudhead with a Zuni Shalako, and demonstrates a strong stylistic influence from Sandy's artistic training at the Santa Fe Indian School in the 1930s.  At the school, students were encouraged to document realistic representations of ceremonial dances and traditional activities from their own cultures.  They were also taught to paint in a similar style that can be characterized as having little to no background or setting, a flat application of color, little to no modeling, and heavy outlines.

The progression and evolution of this style in paintings by American Indian artists is addressed in our Santa Fe Indian School Style: Works on Paper exhibit.  Visitors to the museum encounter the exhibit as soon as they enter our doors as one of the works that we wanted to include was so large that our curator, Carmela Quinto, had to suspend it from the vigas in the museum lobby.

The large painting pictured above is by Pop Chalee (Merina Lujan) of Taos Pueblo.  Like Sandy, Chalee's piece depicts Mudheads and Zuni Shalakos.  

If you compare the two paintings, strong similarities are apparent in both the subject matter and style.  Chalee also attended the Santa Fe Indian School, and the conventions of the school's trademark style can be seen in both artists' paintings.  In 1949, Chalee began working for the Santa Fe Railway as an artist, guide, and Native American cultural ambassador. Part of her job was to teach travelers on the Santa Fe Railway's line about the various Native American communities in the Southwest.  Although this painting is now in the collection of the MRM, it was once owned by the Santa Fe Railway's advertising department, and would have been displayed in the company's Chicago headquarters or in one of their ticket offices.  The Santa Fe Railway's logo is still stamped on the back of the painting.

Chalee's work for the Santa Fe Railway certainly demonstrates her training at the Santa Fe Indian School.  However, she is primarily known for her tranquil, idyllic, and stylized scenes of frolicking animals in serene forest landscapes, as seen in this work from the permanent collection of the Gilcrease Museum.

Once again, by comparing Chalee's rendering of elegant deer in a natural setting to a work by Sandy from the MRM's permanent collection (currently not on view), you can see the similarities in the two artists' styles.  Our Santa Fe Indian School Style exhibit will be on view until May 2017, but we are already planning our exhibition schedule for next year.  One of our exhibits will focus on paintings in the permanent collection that depict scenes of local flora and fauna, such as in Sandy's deer painting pictured above.  A portion of the proceeds from our Turquoise Gala will fund the preparation, installation, and educational programming for next year's exhibits. For example, we would like to develop educational tours that connect the detailed renderings of plants in these paintings with the same species identified in our native plant gardens.  Yet another project that will be potentially funded by our gala will be the conservation  and restoration of artworks in the museum's collection.  For example, the large Chalee painting in our lobby has extensive water damage that can be viewed in the detail pictured below.

If you are interested in learning more about our current exhibits and educational programming related to our native plant gardens, read our July newsletter.  To purchase tickets to our Turquoise Gala, click here.  If you are unable to attend, but would like to bid on any of the available artworks, you can arrange a bid by proxy by emailing me at or calling (575) 758-2462, ext. 205.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

As noted in a few of my previous blog posts, we were very fortunate to have had numerous items from the Frank Waters estate donated to our upcoming Turquoise Gala.  I have written posts on a Rod Goebel portrait of Waters, a Dorothy Brett drawing, and a painting by Awa Tsireh of San Ildefonso, but we have many more artworks from the Waters estate that will be included in the gala.  We also have a turquoise ring owned by Millicent Rogers, an etching by Joseph Henry Sharp, a Gene Kloss print, a bronze sculpture by Star York, an Ira Lujan glass sculpture, and paintings by Mark Asmus, Tom Noble, Ned Jacob, Jerry Jordan, Bill Acheff, and Tony Abeyta.   One of the many pieces included in the Waters estate is a Maria and Julian Martinez black-on-black pot.

Julian Martinez is noted as one of the San Ildefonso Pueblo self-taught artists along with Awa Tsireh, Tonita Peña, and Crescencio Martinez.  In fact, we included one of his paintings alongside works by Awa Tsireh and Tonita Peña in our current Santa Fe Indian School Style exhibit and, like Awa Tsireh, comparable works can be found in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.  Julian worked as an assistant to Edgar Lee Hewett on archaeological digs for the Laboratory of Anthropology.  On one of these digs, Ancestral Puebloan pottery sherds of black pottery decorated with black paintings were unearthed, and Julian's wife, Maria, was tasked with recreating the process.  Maria and Julian had been collaborating on polychrome pottery for some time.  However, once they had perfected the black-on-black process (glossy black paint or slip against a matte black background with a high sheen), the pair became renowned for their unique pottery. Maria would make and polish the pots while Julian would paint and assist with the very complicated oxygen reduction firing process.

Thanks in large part to the Millicent Rogers Museum's founder, Paul Peralta-Ramos, we have one of the largest and most extensive collections of Maria and Julian Martinez pottery.  Visitors to our Maria Gallery are greeted by a beautiful bronze portrait of the famous potter by Star York.  The gallery includes ceramic works produced throughout the potter's lifetime, photographs with U.S. Presidents, memorabilia from when she attended World's Fairs, and dioramas of her firing process.  We also have an in-depth digital learning website where you can learn more about her process and even design your own pot! 

The piece that will be included in our Turquoise Gala is a medium-sized black-on-black vessel that features an Avanyu (water serpent) surrounding the rim. This pot has been stone polished to a high gunmetal sheen that gives the piece a glassy appearance and has the artist's signature "Marie" on the bottom. Although we would certainly love to add this work to our collection, it was donated for use in our live auction, which provides essential funds for a variety of programs and projects at the museum. If you would like to attend the gala, you can purchase tickets here.  If you are unable to attend but would like to arrange a bid by proxy, please email me at or call (575) 758-2462, ext. 205.  

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

In my first blog post, I discussed the pairing of a photograph of Millicent Rogers with a painting by Awa Tsireh in Millicent as Visionary, an exhibit dedicated to the parallels between Rogers' life and the vision of the museum. Awa Tsireh, also known as Alfonso Roybal and Cattail Bird, is often associated with a group of self-taught painters from San Ildefonso Pueblo, which includes Julian Martinez, Tonita Peña, and others. All three artists are included in our Santa Fe Indian School Style exhibit as precursors to the institutionalized method of painting that was established at the school. American Indian painters that produced work in the years between the two World Wars adopted an artistic style that can be characterized as having little to no modeling of the figures, flat fields of color, heavy outlines, and an absence of a background or identifiable setting. Although there are variations among individual painters, the general characteristics of this style became synonymous with Native American artists and was identifiable as a new artistic tradition in American art.  For example, Awa Tsireh's work demonstrates strong influences from both the painted designs on San Ildefonso polychrome pottery and the bold colors and repetitive, geometric motifs of Art Deco.  In fact, a recent exhibit of Awa Tsireh's work at the Smithsonian American Art Museum explored the span of his career in relation to other movements in art.  In addition to the pieces by Awa Tsireh in our Millicent as Visionary and Santa Fe Indian School Style exhibits, we have six more of his paintings in our permanent collection that date to the museum's founding and some of the works were part of Millicent Rogers' personal collection.  We recently received a major donation of a variety of works from the Frank Waters estate for our upcoming Turquoise Gala, which includes a piece that is very similar to the ones we have on view as well as several works in the Smithsonian's collection.  If you are interested in purchasing tickets for the gala, which will be held on August 20th at the Sagebrush Inn in Taos, you may do so on our website, by phone at (575)758-2462, or by visiting the museum's store.  If you are not able to attend the gala but would like to bid by proxy, please email me at

Photograph of Millicent Rogers dying velvet taken by her son,
Arturo Peralta-Ramos.  A group of five small paintings
by Awa Tsireh hangs on the wall in the background.

View of the Millicent Rogers photograph and the Awa Tsireh
paintings in the Millicent as Visionary exhibit.

Awa Tsireh painting included in the Santa Fe Indian School
Style exhibit.

Awa Tsireh painting donated by the Frank Waters estate to the Millicent
Rogers Museum's annual Turquoise Gala.  It will be available during the live
auction portion of the gala and all proceeds directly benefit the museum.