Saturday, August 27, 2011

5 Museums, $25

Bedroom in the Fechin House Museum.
Fechin's Studio

Taos has many museums, some are privately owned like the Kit Carson and Governor Bent homes. But there are 5 owned by the county and one can purchase a 5 Museum ticket for $25, a 50% savings.  Some friends came up from Albuquerque the first week I was in Taos and we went to the Fechin House which also houses the Taos Art Museum.  Nicolai Fechin was an incredible artist, and somewhat of an insomniac. When the sun went down and the light faded in his north facing studio, he then went to work carving wood. The entire house is decorated with carved lintels, colums, shutters, doors, baseboards, gates, mantels and other surfaces of wood. It has two bathrooms, both decorated in the style of the 1920's with deep metal tubs, big pedestal sinks, yellow tile and copper plumbing. The kitchen has been left in it's original state, with the gas stove tucked into an awkward little nook and a "modern" refrigerator with the compressor on top. I couldn't imagine cooking in a kitchen that badly arranged, but since there was no air conditioning back then, the stove in the nook put it next to a window which could be opened on hot days.  It was interesting to see lots of old cleaning supplies like BonAmi powder, matches, Calumet baking brought back a lot of memories of my grandmother's kitchen.

Fechin House Fridge
Upstairs there are several bedrooms with light coming in from large multipaned windows. There are two solid cedar closets that are elevated with a trap door floor for storing sweaters and other wollens I would guess. The floors were beautiful dark pine and the walls were decorated mostly with drawings and etchings from Fachin and several of his friends. His daughter had donated the home to the town of Taos in the 60's after her mother passed away. Much of the furniture was original and created and/or designed by her father.

Another "Home" museum is the Blumenschein. Ernest, his wife Mary, and their daughter Helen were accomplished artists, though back in the 30s and 40s only Ernest was lauded as the great artist. Helen also deeded the home to the town with all of its furnishings. It's a lovely home, every wall filled with paintings of Taos artists and their more distant friends.

Pottery in the Millicent Rogers' collection.

Handwoven dress
and rugs.

Practically next door to the Blumenschein is the Harwood, a modern art museum with several installations by current artists. Although there were some paintings in the collection that I recognized from various contexts in my life, the more modern stuff escaped me entirely. A giant pile of shredded wool that was titled "My Brain", a block of black wood halfway up the wall, with a more rectangular black block nearby......a plastic case with half a doll's head....hmmm. And a room of large Agnes Martin paintings of white on white with a bench to sit on while looking at them. If I could get into some Zen frame of mind, I might enjoy watching shades of white shift around from the staring.

Belt Buckle from Millicent's collection.

They also have an impressive collection of Santos, Retablos, and other altar art from the last three hundred years, plus old carved Hispanic furniture, plus the wonderful wood carvings of Petrocino Barela.

Although the Millicent Rogers Museum used to be a home, it wasn't her home. Millicent was the grand daughter of one of John D. Rockefeller's partners, so she was raised with incredible wealth and good taste. Her collection of South Western Indian jewelry, pottery, carvings, drums, tinwork, furniture, and fabrics is mind boggling. The museum shows only small portions at a time, so that each time one will find different examples of art. Plus she was a talented designer and had many of her own pieces made by local artisans.

Quilters at the Martinez Hacienda
The last museum on the ticket is the Hacienda de los Martinez. It is an old formidable hacienda built in the large rectangular shape with two patios inside and a couple of cart entrances with heavy gates that can be closed for defence. The famous Padre Martinez was raised in this house. In the first patio there is a well, quite deep and dry now, evidence of lowering water levels in the valley. The hacienda faces a small stream edged with cottonwoods and willows. It featured a blacksmith shop, small chapel and even a room for the occasional visiting priest. Most of the rooms were used for storage of leather goods, grains, equipment, and tools, while people crowded into the 'bedrooms' when it was winter and they couldn't sleep outside. Some rooms had tiny kiva fireplaces in one or two corners and people slept on piles of sheep skins. In one of the larger rooms a series of old quilts were on display and a small group of women (and one man) were quilting using a suspended frame that hung from the ceiling.

Looking into Fechin's Studio from the garden.

Fechin House kitchen circa 1920
My reflection in a tin mirror at the
Millicent Rogers Museum
Products dating back to the 1920s.

Entrance to the Martinez Hacienda