Friday, August 2, 2013

Spellbound in New Mexico Part III

A scenic roller coaster of disparate extremes, the swirling two-lane High Road from Taos to Espanola was all that separated dense forest clouded by mountain wildfires, home to trout streams, elk, and bighorn sheep, from patches of high desert plunging down into arid valleys.
Spellbound in New Mexico
Part III: The Art of Santa Fe

By Augustus Mayhew

Beneath New Mexico's painted skies, intense heat conjures a mirage of spectacle and surprise, exhilarated as much by the pageant of natural wonders as lulled by the humdrum procession of casinos and pottery shops. Whether breathing the Land of Enchantment's high-altitude air, assimilating its social conflicts and contradictions, or comprehending the juxtaposition of cultures, customs and settings that makes for an altered state more surreal than anyone could imagine, New Mexico's magic is as tangible as one of Ansel Adams' monumental illusions of reality. Leaving a wake of nightly vivid dreams behind me, I drove from Taos south to Espanola by way of the High Road that climbs the Carson National Forest before spiraling down to Trampas, Truchas, and Chimayo, the path first taken by Spanish missionaries more than 250 years ago.

Beyond the Carson National Forest, the Pecos Wilderness wildfire created a hazy skyline.
Just as the last century's painters and photographers were attracted by the Southwest's phenomenal light and landscape, a considerable number of today's filmmakers have abandoned Hollywood back lots for Albuquerque streets and Santa Fe adobes, making New Mexico one of the top five locations in the world. "Housing casts and crews are an important part of our business," said Marisa Thompson, marketing and creative director for Heritage Hotels and Resorts, whose Albuquerque hotel hosted the Breaking Bad wrap party, a historic social event I regret missing.

As I was leaving my hotel in Santa Fe, several hundred journalists were rolling in on a press junket for Johnny Depp's film The Lone Ranger while Depp was reported just down the road filming his latest, titled Transcendence, at the nearby I-25 Studio.

One night at Café Pasqual's, two of my fellow diners seated at the family table described their visit to the site of Gus Fring's fast-food chicken restaurant Los Pollos Hermanos and Walter and Skyler White's car wash, settings from Breaking Bad, as if they had just visited Versailles. And, if anything, being in New Mexico left me with this pervasive feeling of being in a movie, whether because of the ultra-bright radiant light, the mix of illusionary 21st century adobes made to look like their 19th century prototypes, or finding myself surrounded by so many big-hat Texans behind the wheel of their hefty chrome King Ranch F-450 Super Duty Crew Cab trucks.

I arrived in beautifully staged old Santa Fe, checked-in to the Hotel St. Francis, then dashed over to LewAllen Galleries where Palm Beach sculptor Jane Manus was opening her show. Despite art fairs making much of the classic art market seem quaint, I spent some time on historic Canyon Road, a touch of the Left Bank with more than 100 art galleries still worth a climb. Then, on to Museum Hill, a truly breathtaking showcase for the Art of Santa Fe.

Lights! Cameras! Action!

The High Road from Taos to Espanola
Las Trampas. Considered one of New Mexico's best preserved 18th century Spanish Colonial Mission churches, San Jose de Gracia de Las Trampas was restored in 1970.
Las Trampas was established in 1751.
Las Trampas. San Jose de Gracia Church.
Las Trampas. San Jose de Gracia Church. A remarkable architectural treasure.
Firefighters from many of the western states converged to help New Mexico contain the fires.
Truchas may be best known as the setting for Robert Redford's film The Milagro Beanfield War. Since I just saw the movie, it appears not much has changed in Truchas. Beyond, the Pecos Wilderness fire continued to burn.
From Truchas, the road heads down the valley into the high desert around Chimayo.

Known as the "American Lourdes," Chimayo's mission church attracts hundreds of thousands of spiritual pilgrims who come and pray for a healing. Reportedly, Robert Redford had wanted to film The Milagro Beanfield War in Chimayo but residents were concerned it would change their way of life. Thus, Redford filmed in nearby Truchas.
The Santuario de Chimayo was built in 1816.
The church commands a resilient sense of presence.
The soil around the church is said to have healing powers.
Souvenirs are available.
A "Holy Chimayo" map provides the big picture.
Santuario de Chimayo, façade.
After taking this photograph of the church's colorful and elaborate altar screen, I was asked not to take photographs.
Near the sanctuary, a Native American cenacle was sited on the Santa Cruz River that runs by the church.
Gift shops line the surrounding streets.
Santo Nino Chapel, façade. Chimayo. This small chapel is located near the primary sanctuary.
Potrero Trading Post. Chimayo.
Arrow Motel, Espanola. During breakfast one morning at Casa Benavides, I asked a fellow guest, a native New Mexican, about Espanola's traumatized streetscapes of isolated, abandoned and abused buildings, that I observed on my drive up to Taos. He detailed the town's unfortunate role as a target of the Juarez and Sinaloa cartel. While I didn't disbelieve his tabloid tales, I happened on a recent Department of Justice report that indeed confirmed Espanola had the highest per capita drug fatality rate in the United States. Painful to see that a town with as much heritage as Espanola cannot turn itself around and capitalize on its resources.
The Art of Santa Fe
Hotel St. Francis, façade. By mid-afternoon, the hotel's shaded porch would be filled with guests perched on sofas enjoying a few rounds while waiting for the sun to set and the temperature to drop 30 degrees.
Hotel St. Francis, lobby. The front desk and concierge were always quick to respond.
Hotel St. Francis, lobby sitting area. Although a friend regaled me with stories about her visit to the St. Francis before the makeover when it was known as the DeVargas Hotel, I liked the landmarked hotel's ascetic public areas and appreciated the comfortable accommodations.
Jane Manus, sculptor
Linear Language at LewAllen Galleries, The Railyard, Santa Fe.

Because of my mother's precarious health, I am unable to plan where and when I will be too far ahead with any certainty. But, as I checked to see what might be happening in Santa Fe while I was there, I noticed Palm Beach sculptor Jane Manus would be opening a show at one of the galleries. I first met Jane several years ago when the Town of Palm Beach permitted the demolition of a house designed for and by her parents on Wells Road, one of Modernist architect Alfred Browning Parker's great houses and the renowned designer's only remaining house on the island.

At the time, I had read interviews Jane gave on how growing up in the house had influenced her as an artist, I had never seen any of Jane's work until Santa Fe. And although, the Town Council failed to realize the Manus House should be designated a landmark, thus giving the owner a bonanza of two buildable vacant lots, I am glad I had the opportunity to getting to know Jane, and now, several years later, to see her work.
Jane Manus' Linear Language is at LewAllen Galleries at The Railyard from June 14 to July 14.
Jane Manus standing with two of her more monumental works in front of LewAllen Galleries in Santa Fe.
Manus House, pool and terrace. Wells Road, Palm Beach. Alfred Browning Parker, architect. The Manus House was demolished in 2008. Photo courtesy Manus family.
Manus House, living area. Wells Road, Palm Beach. Alfred Browning Parker, architect. Photo courtesy Manus family.
Jane Manus standing in front of her work titled Higher Form. Aluminum, 72"h x 37"w x 18"d. $30,000.
Linear Language, sculptures by Jane Manus.
Steven. Painted welded aluminum. Jane Manus. Vase, 2013. Aluminum, 53" x 12" x12." Jane Manus.
Ken Marvel, CEO and owner of LewAllen Galleries.
A show of the late Dan Christenson's Orb Paintings was also being exhibited at LewAllen Contemporary.
Across from The Railyard, Zane Bennett Contemporary Art on South Guadalupe was showing some pieces of interest.
Canyon Road

A century ago, the first artists who settled in Santa Fe came for the dry air, finding it up on Santa Fe's higher ground, Canyon Road where painter Gerald Cassidy had bought a house at 1000 Canyon Road in 1915. With a sanatorium located on a hill just beyond Canyon Road, other artists began to flock to the area where the light was sharp and the air was clear. After WW I, New York artists discovered the allure of Santa Fe. But it wasn't until the late 1940s that Canyon Road was transformed from a residential-studio area to a commercial gallery district. In 1962, it was designated "a residential arts and crafts zone. Today, the unique lofty six-block lane has more than 125 fine art galleries within its courtyards, alleys, and paths, along with two highly-regarded restaurants, The Compound and Geronimo. My authority claimed Geronimo is the best of the best in Santa Fe but unfortunately I didn't make it on this trip.
Canyon Road offers a wide array of art.
I was fascinated by this work.
Pippin is at the entrance to Canyon Road at Paseo de Peralta.
A touch of Tibet on Canyon Road
Venus Ascending. Don Smalley, sculptor.
Unfamiliar with Don Smalley's work, I was captivated by some of his sculptures.
A larger work by Don Smalley in the courtyard.
Gebert Contemporary.
Numbers Man. Grisha Bruskin, sculptor. Gebert Contemporary. An inviting motif for a front entrance.
Sculpture gallery at 619 Canyon Road.
David Rothermel Gallery.
A touch of the traditional. Stellar.
Winterowd Fine Art, 701 Canyon Road.
Geronimo restaurant. Built in 1756, The Geronimo Lopez house now houses chef Eric Distefano's "Global Eclectic" menu.
Something for everyone on Canyon Road.
Santa Kilim features a few things from Katmandu to Kabul.
Chalk Farm Gallery. The gallery advertises itself as "the world's leading gallery for visionary art."
Museum Hill

A spectacular setting, beautiful world-class museums, and a dessert tray at the Museum Hill Cafe worth another jaunt. Bravo Santa Fe!
Museum Hill, plaza entrance.
Museum of International Folk Art
Museum of International Folk Art. A pleasant diversion.
Bartlett Wing
Kites are featured from various regions of Japan.
Every region has a different kite making tradition.
Kites are made from handmade washi paper on split bamboo frames.
An array of styles.
Images are closely related to Japanese folklore.
Hispanic Heritage Wing

This exhibit shows how various foods were introduced from Europe via Spain and Asia into the New World and how they were mixed with indigenous cultures. The kind of thing I'd hope to learn on the Food Network instead of those game-show type mindless competitions manufacturing celebrity chefs.
Again, superbly mounted.
Mexican Colonial Kitchen.
Mexican Colonial Kitchen.
Multiple Visions: A Common Bond
Girard Wing

I was endlessly entertained by this immense collection of folk art tableaus. The museum's most popular exhibit is only a small fraction of the more than 100,000 objects from 100 countries, collected, donated and designed by architect and textile designer Alexander Girard who began collecting folk art in 1939 during a trip to Mexico. Sensational!

Toys represent a microcosm of man's world and dreams. They exhibit fantasy, imagination, humor and love.
They are an invaluable record and expression of man's ingenious unsophisticated imagination.
Alexander Girard

Here are a few scenes from the Girard Collection.
Museum of Indian Art & Culture
Museum of Indian Arts & Culture. Museum Hill.
Apache Mountain Spirit Dancer, 1995. Bronze. Artist, Craig Dan Goseyun, a San Carlos Apache.
Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian
Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian. Museum Hill. First known during the 1930s as the Navajo House of Prayer and the Navajo Museum of Ceremonial Art, it became known as the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian in 1977 after it repatriated significant religious holdings, artworks and artifacts back to the Navajo Nation.
Old Santa Fe
Museum of Contemporary Native Arts.
Street Mural, East San Francisco Street.
Located next to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, the Andrew Smith Gallery features an extraordinary collection of photographic works, including Eadweard Muybridge, Arnold Genthe, Lee Friedlander, Berenice Abbott, Henry Cartier-Bresson, Alfred Stieglitz, Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and Texas oilman's David Arrington's collection of Ansel Adams photographs. An Ansel Adams c. 1928 portrait of Taos potter Julian Martinez is priced at $18,000.
The weekend Artists Market is a makeshift weekend venue around The Railyard along with the Farmer's Market.
Courtyard mural. Museum of Contemporary Native Arts.
A Taste for Santa Fe

Santa Fe's instinctive passion for cooking can be found in almost every city block where there is a bistro or bakery known to produce someone's best of the best plates, at the moment. And while it didn't always bring back memories of my indulgences in San Francisco, I plan to return and savor at least ten more talked about places. Here is a look around at some of the swell spots during my too brief stay in olde Santa Fe.

Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi

On Father's Day at Rosewood's Inn of the Anasazi, Fernando Munoz was on the outside patio cooking up a paella extraordinario.
Inn of the Anasazi, 113 Washington Avenue, a block from the plaza.
Lemonade and chocolate cookies at the Inn of the Anasazi's library.
Sous chef Julio Cabrera and executive chef Juan Bochenski. On June 25, with the opening of the Santa Fe Opera season, Argentine native Bochenski inaugurated his Aria Dessert Menu, featuring mango crème brulee, coconut sorbet, fudge brownies with cajeta ice cream, or maybe a slice of olive oil cake, at the Inn's restaurant. For some, the restaurant is one of Santa Fe's ultimates.
Museum Hill Café
Located amidst the town's showcase museums, the café's spectacular views are billed as "the best seat in town." And although the café doesn't seem to be on anyone's best list, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The terrace trellis has a sunscreen shielding diners from the mid-day scorch.
Museum Hill Café, elevation 7,300 ft. Lunch at the café, breathtaking panoramas, and the sounds of a classical guitarist.
Museum Hill Café, dessert tray. Clementine orange and almond cake, coconut cream pie, chocolate chiffon pie, and more of the same.
At the Hotel St. Francis, Chris Milligan is the Secreto Bar's affable chief mixologist, apparently known to always be cooking up cocktail concoctions, like his popular well-known drink The Manhattan Project or one of his "garden-to-glass cocktails."
A smoked sage margarita in the works at the Secreto Bar. " ... with sage smoked into the glass with a homemade hickory and apple smoked salt rim."
Café Pasqual's
Because the St. Francis Hotel was located ten steps across the street from Café Pasqual's, recipient of the James Beard Foundation's "American Classic" award a decade ago, I enjoyed several lunches and dinners at this organic standard's no-reservation-needed family table. On my first visit, I met regular Bill Fisher who admitted he eats there five days a week. In a town with more than its share of James Beard nominees and winners, and more than 200 restaurants, I soon realized why he frequents Pasqual's.
Café Pasqual's, my view from the community table. Great fun.
On my first visit, I settled on Aunt June's Green Goddess Salad with sautéed Cape Cod Scallops with Hearts of Romaine.
Then, there is the irresistible New Mexican cuisine.
Although Pasqual's does not open for breakfast until 8 am on Sunday morning, here is the line at 7:15 am while I was on my way to the Plaza Café.
Because it opened before anywhere else, the historic Plaza Café was my regular spot for breakfast. The town's oldest restaurant, the café has been owned by the same family for more than 60 years.
In between duck quesadillas and green chile cornbread, Back at the Ranch offers a selection of high-end boots.
The wildly popular Vinaigrette came highly recommended.
Unfortunately at Vinaigrette, my Caesar Salad with shrimp arrived slathered with onions, scallions, and tomatoes. I had not read the menu's small print, and although I had never had a Caesar Salad with onions, scallions, and tomatoes, (Could it still be a Caesar Salad?) I was told this was the chef's "signature" of the dish Not wanting to be difficult, after I said I cannot eat raw onions or scallions or tomatoes, they remade the salad without the chef's "signature." However accommodating, the resulting salad didn't get me swept up in the Vinaigrette fever. Note, the bench seating.
Surprisingly, the Cathedral Basilica of St Francis de Assisi's architectural style was not Adobe or Territorial.
The Lensic Performing Arts Center was also one of the few buildings I saw that broke the mold from the town's prevailing Adobe and Territorial styles.
The Lensic Center corners Burro Alley.
Homage to the Burro.
A scenic tapestry celebrates Burro Alley.
One of Ferrari of Long Island's sport models adds some cultural contrast to Burro Alley.
The Santa Fe Hat Company at 118 Galisteo offers a selection of shades.
Seret & Sons offers the best of Kabul and Tibet in Old Santa Fe.
No Instagrams from Seret & Sons?
"Happy Trails" Every few blocks, there is a thematic shop.
Cowgirl's BBQ menu interested me. I liked the Chips and Texas Caviar (black-eyed peas salsa). A historical milestone.
Cowgirl's blackboard specials.
The Santa Fe Railroad depot has been revived with the New Mexico Rail Runner Express that runs almost hourly for the 90-minute jaunt to Albuquerque.
The New Mexico Rail Runner Express.
Santa Fe's beautifully designed Railyard features restaurants, galleries, the farmer's market, and gardens.
The annual Santa Fe Rodeo parade passed down Water Street.
Santa Fe Rodeo royalty.
The parade celebrated the town's Hispanic heritage.
The Lone Rangeress and Tonto made an appearance.
Click here for Part I, and click here for Part II of Spellbound in New Mexico
Photographs by Augustus Mayhew.

Augustus Mayhew is the author of Lost in Wonderland – Reflections on Palm Beach.