Tuesday, April 29, 2008

no country for pink coyotes

We've been to Santa Fe before--10 years ago when we visited the International
Folk Art Museum.  It's the kind of town where you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a gallery of some kind.  This time we had a couple of specific artists in mind, and meeting them was well worth any touristy inconveniences we may have experienced.

Stop #1 was Ron Rodriguez, the grandson of Felipe Archuleta, a carver whose fierce and funny tigers, giraffes, fish, elephants and countless other critters are highly prized pieces today.  Ron started in the family operation near Tesque when he was 9, first carving teeth, then painting a little, until he was making animals on his own.  Unlike his grandfather, who died in 1990, Ron's more than willing to use power tools, and also to incorporate metal and various found objects into his work.  His fiery red devil pig is one example of the less traditional forms he's delving into.
When we mentioned to Ron that we'd heard Santa Fe's famed "Fridgehenge" was no longer standing, he offered to show us the site to make certain.  Sure enough, no more GEs and Kelvinators in Druidesque formation at the landfill.  Something about a safety hazard... so we followed him into town for lunch at The Shed and to see a few more Archuleta sculptures at the Rainbow Man Gallery.  Zach down there is our personal hero for all the help he's offered, not the least of which was the use of his very own parking space in back!!!

Speaking of galleries we love, the Manitou is also on our A list for making it so easy to shoot some of Nicholas Herrera's work, which they're featuring in a show this summer.   Women with ladders who adjust lights on request is what heaven must be like...

After our time in Santa Fe we headed north to El Rito, where the Herrera family has lived for generations.  In fact, his mother's buried in a very cool shrine at the back of the house.  Nick makes no bones about the fact that he was on a collision course with disaster from drugs and drink.  In fact, a headon crash in a Yugo at 80 miles per hour helped convince him that getting his act together was essential.  A modern day santero is how he's often described, with updated takes on saints and sinners that radiate intensity.  More and more, Nicholas weaves social commentary into his work, taking artistic aim at political figures and corporate greed.

He also restores old cars and trucks, including the '39 Chevy coupe in which he raced down the road with Don in tow.  When he brought our favorite  Camera Guy back safe and sound, we showed him the Big Ball of tape, and heard the phrase we've always wanted--"su pelota es bonita."

From El Rito we cruised north past The Ghost Ranch and those rocky red cliffs that Georgia O'Keefe loved so much.  Great light and some non-Frito-Lay chips made the drive a delight.

Music In the Van--Amos Lee, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings "100 Days, 100 Nights", Jim Lauderdale "Lost In the Lonesome Pines"

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