Taos, New Mexico, is a town of about 5700 people, so small that it doesn’t even have a Starbucks (our go-to for WiFi, so that was a disappointment).
And yet, when it comes to the development of modern American art, Taos’ place in history is huge. Many of the biggest names in 20th-century American art, including Georgia O’Keefe and Ansel Adams, have been inspired by Taos’ and Northern New Mexico’s stunning landscapes as well as the Native American and Hispanic cultures of the region. Taos has even earned the nickname “Paris West.”
The Harwood Museum has been celebrating New Mexican art for over 90 years. Housed in a pueblo-style building constructed in 1918, it became a museum in 1923 and came under the direction of the University of New Mexico in 1935.
We went to the Harwood specifically to see their current temporary exhibit, Mabel Dodge Luhan & Company: American Moderns and the West, which runs from May 22-September 11, 2016. Taos was already an important city for art, home to the influential Taos Society of Artists, but Mabel Dodge Luhan (1879-1962) brought national and international attention to Taos and the art it inspired. Luhan was a wealthy socialite and intellectual who moved to Taos from New York in 1918. She was so moved by the landscape that she lured numerous artists to Taos in the early 20th century, including Georgia O’Keefe, Ansel Adams, John Marin, Marsden Hartley, Andrew Dasburg, Rebecca Salsbury James, and Paul Strand as well as the writer D.H. Lawrence. In so doing, she had a direct influence on the American Modernism movement.
Harwood’s exhibit brings together a collection of works by the artists that Luhan drew to New Mexico, and the color and scope of the works was breathtaking. We also enjoyed learning about Luhan–she was just as colorful and dynamic as the art she inspired.
Luhan was a force of nature and naturally attracted people to her. She was wealthy, magnetic, and intelligent and also at times dissatisfied with life, but she found her home in Taos. Regarding the moment she arrived, she said, “My world broke in two right then, and I entered into the second half, a new world.” She was married to her third husband at the time, but within weeks of arriving in Taos she fell in love with a Taos Pueblo Indian and artist named Tony Luhan. She married Luhan in 1923 and remained married to him until her death in 1962.
Here are some of our favorite pieces from the exhibit, as well as a few items from the permanent collection. (Note that the title of the piece is listed first, followed by the artist’s name):
From the permanent modern art collection