Santos, Woodcarving, & Popsicles.

A Spiritual and Creative Exploration in Santa Fe

In February the three of us; Caroline Bowden, Fiona Lovell Horning and Caren Zane traveled to Santa Fe, NM. Our plan was to explore and make art that would be inspired by the vast landscapes and cultural juxtapositions of this desert local.

Our rented Adobe house was located in the foothills of the Sangre De Christo mountains overlooking the city. From there we took in the endless landscape of high desert, rimmed by foothills and snow-covered peaks beyond. During our two weeks we never ceased to appreciate the soft colors of dawn and dramatic skies at sunset. Our vision was filled with lavender, scarlet, buttery yellow, tawny brown, cerulean blue, brilliant whites, browns, oranges and the deep velvet black of star-filled nights.

Our first mission was to convert the kitchen to a studio. The nine-foot table and the counter tops were covered in painter’s paper. We unpacked the boxes of supplies we had sent ahead of us and stacked the contents on tables scrounged from other parts of the house. We set up the coffee maker and more than one trip was made to Artisan, the fabulous local art supply shop.

We decided we would divide the day thus: early morning for writing, reading and meditation. Work from nine till lunchtime. A visit to a gallery or museum in the early afternoon. A walk. More work. Cocktails. Dinner. Optional evening work. Remarkably, we stuck to this routine taking a day or two off to explore the hill-towns of Chimayo, Truchas, and Cordova, known for their spiritual and artistic communities. Here, we encountered the Vigil gift store with its delightful list of contents; Santos, Woodcarving, Popsicles. It seemed to encapsulate our experience of New Mexico from the sublime to the entertaining ordinary. Indeed, we were moved by the sacred majesty of the surrounding landscape, found inspiration in the creative variety of the community while, at the same time, delighted in Santa Fe’s colorful, playful charm.

The three of us were influenced by color and location but also by the work we saw in local galleries. Women like Lea Anderson, Melanie Yazzie, Chris Roberts Antieau, and Georgia O’Keefe informed our creations. Spanish Colonial architecture and the solemn paintings of saints in Catholic chapels reminded us that we were no longer in the realm of puritan New England. Here was drama. Here was suffering and resurrection in Azure blue, Carnelian red and plentiful gold leaf. At the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian we were introduced to the sculpture of Rose B Simpson and the paintings of Bob Haozous, both indigenous people. And in the hill towns we wandered down dirt roads photographing crumbling Adobe houses and tin roof shacks. Everywhere were the weathered sandstone cliffs, snow capped “14teeners, vast valleys dotted with sage and the broad, deep dome of the sky.

On our final day, standing on the stairs of the jetway we took in the scope of our surroundings one last time, grateful for the beauty, the time to explore, and the treasure of friendship.

We hope you enjoy!

Mason Gehring