Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Desert Diary: Southwest Sojourn: Santa Fe + Albuquerque

For guests at Santa Fe's recently-opened Drury Plaza Hotel, the fifth-floor terrace offers panoramic views of unearthly sunsets and the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis. For novelist Willa Cather, the church and the life of its earliest leader Jean Baptiste Lamy were the inspiration for her 1927 novel Death Comes for the Archbishop. Lamy's several hundred acre retreat north of Santa Fe became known as Bishop's Lodge. Later, Bishop's Lodge became a "high-class ranch resort" for sophisticated Easterners, artists and writers, including Cather.
Southwest Sojourn: Santa Fe + Albuquerque
By Augustus Mayhew


Santa Fe and Albuquerque share a collective spirit enriched by an ancient cultural, aesthetic and architectural legacy that today is clearly disconnected by a far greater expanse than the 45-minute drive that separates them. Santa Fe's allure combines an up-to-the-minute edgy mindset with a respectful adherence to Spanish-Pueblo traditions, making for an extraordinary standard of living appreciated by residents and worldly visitors. Albuquerque's downtown, however, actually made me uneasy during my brief stopover. While nothing untoward happened, the town's Main Street, Route 66, has attracted a considerable number of evidently homeless (or more apropos, "people without walls") who have no misgivings about approaching pedestrians or automobiles. The ominous vibe is heightened by the anomalous mix of buildings that undermine the original structural fabric that gave ABQ its unique identity. Despite glossy promotional brochures and what is described as a multi-million dollar revitalization, I found ABQ's downtown still relatively soulless, lacking a basic sense of consistent standards, other than as a place to take a Breaking Bad tour of story locations. "What happened to Albuquerque?" I asked the lifelong resident-rancher sitting next to me at the airport as we both waited for our flight. "Politicians pocketed the money and moved out of town," he said.

Santa Fe Splendor

"How does one stand/to behold the sublime" wrote poet Wallace Stevens. By standing at the top of Camino Monte del Sol overlooking Santa Fe, I would answer, after spending the past two weeks in what was once called "the healthiest place in the world." Although I had never attended a how-to workshop, where better to make learning a pleasure than late Fall at the renowned Santa Fe Photo Workshop for a week-long course in architectural photography with Allan Blakely. My first workshop experience with twelve others who all shared a passion for photography was actually satisfying. While I liked the camaraderie, critiques, location shoots, and the incredibly delicious food provided by Piñon Catering, I am not planning to rush out and attend another one. I appreciate the mechanics of knowing how to generate a 250 MB HDR image with nine bracketed exposures and the magic of Photomatix software but I would have liked less about gadgetry and software and more real time at challenging locations.

Because of the crowds expected for the town's annual Wine & Chile Festival, I planned to arrive a week early. After several failed attempts to book a room at Bishop's Lodge, I was told there might be a room at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Retreat Center located next door to the workshop's offices. While my main consideration was it would mean less driving, my stay at IHM's Santa Maria building turned out to be one of the most fascinating adventures.

Although Wi-Fi and hot water were often lacking, my second-floor spacious room with large picture windows was only steps from the photo lab. And when I learned that the Santa Maria was originally built as the Sunmount Sanatorium where Carl Sandburg read his poetry to lungers on Sunday afternoons, I sensed I had arrived someplace with a weightier provenance than a Marriott. Yvor Winters wrote the poems that filled his first two books while he was a tuberculosis patient at Sunmount.

New Mexico promoted the curative powers of its mountain air and sunshine as health resorts sought to attract "wealthy invalids." Begun as a tent colony where tuberculosis patients reveled in the open air, Sunmount Sanatorium became one of the nation's best known refuges for lungers. In between treatments, often 25 glasses of milk and a dozen raw eggs, patients played croquet and went horseback riding. Following the introduction of antibiotics, the sanatorium closed and was transformed into the swank Santa Fe Inn. During the early 1960s the Catholic Diocese bought the property high atop Camino Monte del Sol to establish a seminary, adding a large chapel as well as residential and classroom buildings. When the seminary closed, the property housed the Carmelite Monastery with a conference and retreat center.
Santa Maria Building, late afternoon. The Sunmount Sanatorium's main building is now the Retreat's reception area, lobby and dining room. I was in #19, a spacious second floor room, left corner, overlooking the mountains to the east with the large windows primed for sunrise and sunset.
The existing original buildings were designed by Rapp, Rapp, & Hendrickson, a Santa Fe architectural firm that designed the renowned La Fonda Hotel.
A view of the Santa Maria courtyard with the monastery on the other side of the wall running along the left side of the photograph and the Photo Workshop building directly across Mt. Carmel Road . The courtyard provided the strongest Wi-Fi connection despite the constant cacophony of the crows.
Carmelite Monastery, Mt. Carmel Road. The chapel bells rang every morning at 5 a.m. The Carmelites have a website: http://www.carmelofsantafe.org/
Carmelite Monastery. "We are a contemplative order rather than an active one. The maid does not come here to clean floors but to pray with us."
Immaculate Heart of Mary Retreat Chapel, façade. Built during the early 1960s when the enclave was a seminary, the chapel is sited so that the blazing sun sets directly along Mt. Carmel Road, making for an ever shifting change of colors.
Immaculate Heart of Mary Retreat Chapel, mosaic detail.
Santa Fe Photo Workshop, entrance. The first thing I learned was that none of the buildings in Santa Fe are built on the level and none of their vertical and horizontal planes are ever congruent, making architectural photography much more challenging than South Florida's flatlands.
Workshop Samples
Santa Fe Convention Center, upper terrace.
Santa Fe Convention Center.
Santa Fe Convention Center.
Around Santa Fe
Santa Fe Oxygen and Healing Bar. During my most recent jaunt, I did become breathless several times as our afternoon shoots were 3-4 hours.
East Palace Avenue, 7:25 a.m. When I came into town for breakfast at the Plaza Café, I made my way back on East Palace to Canyon Road as the morning sun flooded the streets with light.
Ellsworth Gallery, 215 East Palace Avenue. Founder of Shakuda Fine Arts in Paris, former NYC resident Barry Ellsworth opened this venue during the summer of 2013. The son of the late Arthur Whitney Ellsworth, longtime publisher of The New York Review of Books, and Santa Fe author Sallie Bingham, Ellsworth mixes contemporary artists with his specialty Japanese antiques.
Ellsworth Gallery, 215 East Palace Avenue. Currently, the gallery is split between sensational museum-quality Samurai arts and Far Reaches, an exhibit featuring the paintings and sculpture of Elise Ansel, Claire McArdle and Kathryn Stedham
La Posada de Santa Fe, 330 East Palace Avenue.
Nuart Gallery, 670 Canyon Road. Despite the dominating market share of art fairs, Canyon Road continues to quarter as many as 100 galleries.
Will Shuster art studio, 550 Camino Monte del Sol. Halfway down the hill from where I was staying, Will Shuster's adobe is one of several on Camino Monte del Sol built by Santa Fe's notable art colony. Co-founder of Santa Fe's 1920s modernist art movement known as Los Cincos Pintores, Will Shuster's enclave is one of the town's iconic architectural landmarks.
Will Shuster Studio – Camino Monte del Sol. At the end of the workshop, when each of us were asked to submit one iconic Santa Fe architectural image, I submitted Will Shuster's idiosyncratic adobe to a underwhelming response.
Jean Cocteau Cinema & Coffee House, 418 Montezuma Avenue.
Museum Hill
Museum Hill. Arnold & Doris Roland Sculpture Garden, entrance.
Museum Hill. Arnold & Doris Roland Sculpture Garden.
Museum Hill Café. Owner Weldon Fulton has been ensconced at the top of the hill for the past six years.
Museum Hill. "Pow Wow Princess, Southwest." A Native American artist and New Mexico resident, David Bradley's work has been described as "iconic and ironic." Sensational !
Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian

With a checkbook as prominent as her Bostonian-Down East lineage, heiress Mary Cabot Wheelwright devoted her life to documenting and collecting Native American culture that today makes for New Mexico's oldest private museum. Arriving in New Mexico during the 1920s, Wheelwright, who loved being with the cowboys and riding horseback, collaborated with Hastiin Klah, a Navajo medicine man, in creating a permanent record the Navajo Creation Story and other narratives that formed the basis of Navajo religion.

By the early 1930s, Wheelwright and Klah felt there was a need for a museum that would be not only an archive for the sound recordings, manuscripts, paintings, and sand painting tapestries but also a place where the public could experience the Navajo religion. After the Navajo Nation expressed concern about the teaching of Navajo religion by anyone other than Navajos, the museum's board of trustees voted to repatriate the Navajo medicine bundles and other items to the Navajo people,. In addition, the museum donated 80 oil-on-canvas copies of sand paintings. Following the repatriation of 1977, the museum changed its name to the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian. Although no longer involved in the study of Navajo religion, the museum documents Navajo art and culture from 1850 to the present and presents exhibitions on traditional and contemporary Navajo and other Native American arts.
Wheelwright Museum. First known as the Navajo House of Prayer and the Navajo Museum of Ceremonial Art when it was founded in 1937, the Wheelwright was designed by architect William Penhallow Henderson to resemble a Navajo traditional dwelling, known as a hooghan.
In 1937 anthropologist John Adair photographed Navajo and Pueblo silversmiths.
Wheelwright Museum. Photographs by John Adair, 1937.
Wheelwright Museum. "Connoisseurship and Good Pie: Ted Coe and Collecting Native Art," is an ongoing exhibition in collaboration with the Ralph T. Coe Foundation, housing Coe's vast collection of tribal art.
Wheelwright Museum. Moccasins.
Wheelwright Museum.
Wheelwright Museum.
Wheelwright Museum.
Wheelwright Museum.
Santa Fe Botanical Garden at Museum Hill

Opened in 2013, the SFBG's fourteen-acre Museum Hill showcase is one of three venues the privately-funded group maintain, including the 35-acre Curtin Wetland Preserve and the 1,350-acre Ortiz Mountains Educational Preserve. Founded in 1987, the group's Museum Hill showcase was designed by New York-based landscape architect W. Gary Smith.
Santa Fe Botanical Garden.
Santa Fe Botanical Garden.
Santa Fe Botanical Garden.
Santa Fe Botanical Garden.
Santa Fe Botanical Garden.
Santa Fe Botanical Garden.
Kearney's Gap Bridge at Santa Fe Botanical Garden. Built in 1913 for San Miguel County by the Missouri Valley Bridge and iron Company, the bridge is 62 feet long and 16 feet wide. It is described as a free-span, steel, subdivided Warren pony truss bridge.
Santa Fe Botanical Garden.
Santa Fe Botanical Garden. "Snow Leopard."
Santa Fe Botanical Garden.
Santa Fe Botanical Garden, gift shop.
Santa Fe Botanical Garden at Museum Hill.
Bishops Lodge Road

After finding only chain link fences, construction crews and barricades when we went to try and get some photographs of the sensational Santa Fe Opera, Dagny suggested we take Bishops Lodge Road back to town rather than the more commercial route. I went into my Bishops Lodge monologue and when I said I was unable to book a room because it was closed for renovations, Dagny, a Colorado Springs resident, said she was there recently for dinner. But how is that possible, I wondered when I was led to believe it was closed. Before we arrived at the lodge, we took a few moments at the All Creatures Memorial Park. To drive along Bishops Lodge Road, however ear popping, is one of the most evocative experiences; don't miss it.
All Creatures Memorial Park. "Rest and Be Thankful."
All Creatures Memorial Park.
All Creatures Memorial Park.
Bishop's Lodge Ranch Resort & Spa. The property was recently sold to a developer with plans to further intensify the site. Imagine my surprise when I breezed into the last Thursday to find there were forty guests checked in, according to the desk clerk. When I explained to him how I had tried to book, he said, "The new owner keeps changing his mind whether to open or not.". The lobby has photographs set on easel showing the planned "improvements." Note that however pristine the online photographs, the resort's buildings and landscape may have seen better days. While I would feel comfortable there, things did not appear as polished as its advertising.
Bishop's Lodge Ranch Resort & Spa. The North and South Lodge were built by the Pulitzer family as residences before they were later converted into accommodations.
Bishop's Lodge Ranch Resort & Spa. North Lodge.
Bishops Lodge Road, real estate flyer.
Albuquerque
A view of ABQ's variegated could-be-anywhere skyline from the roof of the Hotel Parq Central.
Kimo Theater, 421 Central Avenue NW (Route 66). Considered by some the finest exemplar of Pueblo Deco, the Kimo has undergone several restorations.
Kimo Theater.
Built by Oreste Bachechi in 1927, the Kimo is the town's architectural centerpiece.
Kimo Theater, 1943. Courtesy Library of Congess.
Kimo Theater, 1980. Courtesy Library of Congress.
Kimo Theater, September 2015.
Kimo Theater, west elevation, detail. Sunset on the Kimo.
Kimo Theater. Ornamental detail and door handles.
Kimo Theater, lobby.
ABQ's diverse modernist buildings lack any consistent coherent style.
415 Central Avenue NW. ABQ's School of Rock.
The alibi is ABQ's alt weekly newspaper.
Bubble Lounge, 506 Central Avenue SW.
Standard Diner, 320 Central Avenue SE. For my one dinner in ABQ, I stopped in at this former 1930s gas station for carrot-ginger soup with pesto and a cheeseburger with parmesan truffle fries.
Burt's Tiki Lounge, 313 Gold Avenue SW.
Occidental Life Building, 301 Gold Street. Said to be inspired by the Doge's Palace when it was originally built in 1917, the Occidental Life Building was rebuilt with a new roofline after a fire in 1933.
Occidental Life Building, detail.
Sunset in Santa Fe
Photography by Augustus Mayhew.

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