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.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

One of the many treasures that we have in our collection at the MRM is the Millicent Rogers archive, which was donated by her family and continues to grow.  We own the original Rogers family photos as well as the image rights, Millicent Rogers' hand-drawn jewelry designs, and even her childhood diary.  Examples of all of the above are included in Millicent as Visionary, a special exhibit honoring the museum's namesake.  One of several projects that we plan to support through funds raised at our upcoming Turquoise Gala is the digitization of these images and documents.  The Millicent Rogers archive has significance to a host of research subjects.

For example, Rogers was the granddaughter of Henry Huttleston Rogers, one of the founders, along with John D. Rockefeller, of the Standard Oil Company. Like Millicent Rogers herself, her grandfather provided financial support for a variety of friends and worthy causes who went on to become icons of American history.  Henry Huttleston Rogers supported Mark Twain during his career as a writer and sponsored Helen Keller's education. In fact, Keller dedicated her book, The World I Live In, to Rogers.

Likewise, Millicent Rogers advocated for Native American rights and bolstered the careers of numerous Native American artists by collecting their work. In a previous post, I discussed a turquoise ring from Millicent Rogers' personal collection that has been donated to our Turquoise Gala by her granddaughter, Christina Peralta-Ramos.  Like her grandfather, Rogers was close friends with many artists and writers, such as Dorothy Brett and Frank Waters.  The Frank Waters estate donated a variety of artworks for our gala, including a Dorothy Brett drawing.  Pictured above are images of the turquoise ring and a portrait of Rogers by Brett that is featured in our Millicent as Visionary exhibit.  Below is an image of the Brett drawing that will be available at our Turquoise Gala.

Rogers was also the muse for several notable fashion designers, such as Charles James and John Galliano, and donated the majority of her haute couture collection to the Brooklyn Museum, which now resides in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute.  Her own jewelry designs were influenced by her travels and interest in world art, and have subsequently inspired her great-granddaughter, Sascha Peralta-Ramos, to create her own jewelry line.  Mary Millicent designs are available at the MRM Store and were highlighted in a recent New York Times article.  If you are interested in helping the MRM continue to preserve this legacy, consider sponsoring our Turquoise Gala, purchase tickets to the event, or pledge an annual gift through our membership program.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Prior to my arrival at the Millicent Rogers Museum, I worked with the Native American pottery and beadwork collections at the E. Irving Couse and Joseph Henry Sharp Historic Site in Taos, and several of the pots that I had the pleasure of researching and cataloguing are included in a new exhibit in the site's Luna Chapel, the original location of Sharp's painting studio. One of our current special exhibits, Storytellers: Teaching Heritage through Song and Story, includes Tesuque rain gods from the Couse Collection, which I discussed in a previous post, and we will be including some of the Couse-Sharp site's beadwork in a new exhibit, Crossing Paths, opening this August.  Sharp's second studio at the site is undergoing a major renovation project, and will be restored to its original appearance thanks to a gift and long term loan of Sharp artworks and Native American studio props from the Tia Collection of Santa Fe.  The Tia Collection was also generous enough to loan an Allan Houser painting for our Santa Fe Indian School Style show, which can be viewed at the entrance to the exhibit.  In addition to the Couse-Sharp Historic Site, the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma and the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming both have significant collections of Sharp's artworks and personal effects.  Although Sharp is most known for his paintings of Pueblo Indians and New Mexico landscapes, he spent several years painting in Montana at the Crow Agency.  His work was brought to the attention of President Teddy Roosevelt who subsequently commissioned Sharp to paint all of the surviving Native American fighters from the Battle of Little Bighorn.  I was recently admiring the digital collection on the Buffalo Bill Center's website and saw that they own the original copper etching plate for one of Sharp's prints, Bull Thigh--Cheyenne, a participant in the famous battle, as well as print 44/227.   Thanks to a donation from the Nedra Matteucci Gallery in Santa Fe, we will be offering print 145/227 in our annual Turquoise Gala on August 20th.  You can view this piece in person during our Gala Preview exhibit, which runs from July 29th to August 19th.  If you are interested in attending the gala or would like to purchase this work, see our website.