Monday, March 21, 2016

D.H. Lawrence Ranch Docent Tour for the London Tate Modern Museum and Honored Guests

July 6-October 30, 2016 the Tate Modern Museum in London will be exhibiting the work of Georgia O’Keeffe. Recently the exhibitions’ Lead Curator for the Tate, Tanya Barson visited Santa Fe, Abiquiu & Taos. Several other Tate curators joined her, along with an art critic for the London Telegraph, a journalist for The Independent, a journalist for the London Times and British Vogue, an Art Historian and Editor of the New Statesman were all in attendance on a tour of O’Keeffe Country. On March 20, 2016 my involvement was as docent for the D.H. Lawrence Ranch to introduce the group and a small film crew to the Ranch and a bit of its history, including the Lawrence Tree and some background of O’Keeffe in Taos.
http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/georgia-okeeffe 
 
My portrait with D.H. Lawrence was taken by Sharon Oard Warner.
The following is what I spoke about to the group:
In Taos the locals will tell you the Mountain is a draw, it can hold you tight and accept you to Taos, or it can push you away and keep you from ever feeling comfortable and ‘at home’ here. I prefer to think that Taos and the surrounding mountains are a spiritual center a place that expands creativity, a place that energizes anyone with a creative spirit.
 
Stations of the Cross end point near Mabel Dodge Luhan home.
Lawrence & Frida arrive in Taos on September 11, 1922 his 37th birthday, they stayed here in Taos through March 1923
At Mabels’ they stay at the “Pink House” a guest house across from the large home of Mabel Dodge Luhan.
Outside the "Pink House" 
Inside the Pink House a cabinet door painted by D.H. Lawrence
The Lawrences quickly discover the need for a more peaceful atmosphere, there was always something going on at Mabel’s, it was not a place to be creative, to sit and write. Mabel suggests they move up to her ranch in San Cristobal to seek the solitude he required.
The Lawrences invited the Danes, Knud Merrild & Kai Gotzsche to join them at the Flying Heart Ranch. This did not sit well with Mabel, and her jealousy of the Danes spending time with Lawrences led to blows. By the first of December they move to 2 cabins rented from the Hawk family at the Del Monte Ranch. In reality the Lawrences needed them to help get through the Taos Winter with the chores and heavy work. The Danes chopped firewood, and made trips into Taos to gather supplies.
 
Georgia O'Keeffe Doorway painting
Resisting the invitations of Mabel Dodge Luhan to come to Taos and leave the ranch, to join her social circle and artist salons, Lawrence writes:
“I still of course mistrust Taos Very Much, chiefly on account of the artists. I feel I never want to see an artist again while I live”.
 
Historic Photograph: Georgia O'Keeffe Portrait
Historic Photograph: Dorothy Brett and Georgia O'Keeffe
Returning in March 1924 through October, on this trip they bring with them the Honorable Dorothy Brett. The original idea was that members of the Bloomsbury group would join the Lawrences in Taos to create a perfect society which would be called Rananim. When it came time to depart for the US, Brett was the only one who actually joined them. She became Lawrence’s manuscript typist. Although there is much talk and gossip of the Frieda, Mabel & Brett triangle of these woman all vying for Lawrences attention and love, Brett was more likely to be in love with Frieda. In May of that year Mabel gives them the ranch that her son John Evans had used from time to time and who was the current owner. In return, Frida gives Mabel the manuscript to Sons and Lovers, more valuable even at that time than the ranch. Thus the Lawrences were not ‘in debt’ to Mabel Dodge Luhan.
 
Archival Photograph: Frieda Lawrence in the Doorway of her second Taos Home
When asked to name 5 famous women artists, at the top of most people's list will time and time again be Georgia O'Keeffe. Who else and how many can You name?
Historic Photograph: Georgia O'Keeffe with Frieda Lawrence
In 1925 the Lawrence’s again return to Taos from April to September.
At the Ranch people from Taos Pueblo teach them to ride horses. They are known as “Red Fox” and Frieda became “Angry Winter” by the people of the Pueblo. People from the Pueblo also help with repairs of the Cabin, the roof needed repairs and just general maintenance as things had become quite run down. Candido, Trinidad and Geronimo become the much needed carpenters at the ranch. Lawrence himself built the porch and some of the furniture, 2 examples still exist, the chair on the porch and the chair in Brett’s cabin.
The Porch at the Lawrence Ranch
 
Archival Photograph: Lorenzo baking bread in an Horno
Lawrence also enjoyed baking bread in one of the horno adobe cooking ovens (which he learned from Taos Pueblo friends) and roasting chickens in the other. Much like that of a modern day man barbecuing out in the yard, the cooking indoors was left to Frieda.
 
San Francisco de Asis Church back
Georgia O'Keeffe Sketchbook of back of San Francisco de Asis Church
The view of Taos from the ranch Alfalfa field is spectacular, the Lawrences could see all the way to the southern end of Taos, known as Ranchos de Taos, where there stands a Church made famous by the paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe. San Francisco de Asis Church just celebrated its 200th anniversary in the fall of 2015.
 
The Lawrence Tree
Izzy Hossack sits under the Lawrence Tree
The Lawrence Tree, the large pine tree out front of the cabin, Lawrence writes of it while away in Italy in “A Little Moonshine with Lemons”. Lawrence also described the tree with the “wind hissing in the needles like a nest of serpents”.
Archival Photograph: Georgia O'Keeffe anonymous Taos youngster and Rebecca Strand
In 1929 during her first visit to Taos Miss O’Keeffe visits the Lawrence Ranch during a stay with Mabel Dodge Luhan. She and Rebecca Strand stay at the “Pink House” and hear about the ranch, this was there first trip to New Mexico. O’Keeffe stays up at the ranch (currently unoccupied) for close to a week, where she paints the “Lawrence Tree” at night with the great starry sky seen through the branches.
Historic Photograph: Georgia O'Keeffe on a bench under the stars
O’Keeffe had painted trees at the Steiglitz residence in upstate New York such as Bear Lake of 1930, and later she would paint the cottonwood trees along the Chama river below her Abiquiu home. This is the only time she paints a tree from this perspective, Looking up into and through the branches, capturing the starlight and the massiveness.
The tin cutout Phoenix Rising, now on the fence by the cabin was created by Brett in Honor of Lawrence, originally she had nailed it onto the great tree.
 
Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe
At the Ranch the Lawrences grew vegetables, including corn, raised chickens and kept Moses the rooster and cow named Susan. Milk and butter was purchased from the Hawk family.
O’Keeffe’s paintings of chickens, rare that she ever painted live animals, are perhaps influenced by the ceramic chickens along the roof line of Mabel’s home, and or the chickens of the chicken coop at my neighbors home where she found guest accommodations on her many visits to Taos.
 
Georgia O'Keeffe Gallery List from An American Place Exhibit with note to Rebecca James 
In Taos and during all of his travels, Lawrence was looking for “Authentic Experiences” with Nature, Spirituality and Sexuality. I believe O’Keeffe was on that same journey. O’Keeffe and Lawrence never met, later she befriended Frieda and Brett, staying in touch with them throughout their lives.
They both as Lawrence wrote, “found the intense Spirituality of New Mexico”, and “The Natural environment here helps to wash away everyday problems”.
In Japanese culture the term Shinrin-Yoku or “Forest Bathing” is a practice of taking a walk in the woods to feel the healing power of the trees around you. The ranch does this.
 
Archival Photograph: Georgia O'Keeffe at the Ranchos Church
Both O’Keeffe and Lawrence are Botanists, herbalists, they are constantly looking at the Flora growing around them.
Cota or Navajo Tea, A natural healing herb used as a tea grows along the roadside to the ranch here in June & July. It’s similar to Chamomile and has the same type of properties as a soothing, calming tea infusion.
The Mullen plant a soft leaved low lying plant with a tall yellow stalk at summers end, has 2 purposes it makes a wonderful comfortable shoe insert, and it makes for a terrific spur of the moment toilet paper!

Jimson Weed Flower
Georgia O'Keeffe painting of Jimson Weed Flowers
Miss O’Keeffe and Rebecca Strand (later Salsbury James, marrying Bill James) who remained in Taos her entire life stayed in contact. Rebecca gifts O’Keeffe Jimson Weed plants (also known as Datura or Trumpet Flowers) the plants still grown in O’Keeffe’s Abiquiu garden and at Rebecca’s home (at the end of Bent Street) to this day.
Historic Photograph: Georgia O'Keeffe at Abiquiu home with Jimson Weed plants in foreground
Rebecca James Home at the end of Bent Street as it is today
The photographer Paul Strand came to Taos after the urging of Rebecca, he documented the San Francisco de Asis Church through the lens of his camera, taking risks with shapes and shadows, light and texture. His, in my eyes, are the best photographic documentation of this Church. He and O’Keeffe had an affinity for it as no others have. Strands photographs reinforce the ‘spare’ approach of O’Keeffe’s paintings of this structure.
O’Keeffe painted other Churches and Moradas, none became as iconic or as important a subject matter to her as the Church in Ranchos.
 
Ranchos Church at night
One day while painting the Ranchos Church (visitors often ask where O’Keeffe’s paintings are ON the Church) a young local boy began to taunt the artist. Soon his Mom noticed this bad behavior and she called him inside their home. A moment later the boy returned to Miss O’Keeffe apologizing for his antics. A few hours passed and O’Keeffe finished the small painting she’d worked on that day. She knocked on the door of this particular family’s home and gifted the painting to them.
 
Historic Photograph: Georgia O'Keeffe carrying her canvas
Time and time again I have been gifted with stories of O’Keeffe’s generosity and spirit here in Taos.
 
Room 301 at the Sagebrush in Taos
During World War 2, Miss O’Keeffe took up residence at the Sagebrush Hotel in Taos. There she rented the only third floor room at the hotel, Room 301. The room has panoramic views of Taos and the surrounding areas. From her view she could see her beloved Pedernal mountain and Abiquiu off in the distance.
 
Selfie with Georgia O'Keeffe Kachina drawing
While in New Mexico Lawrence and O’Keeffe visit some of the many area Pueblo Villages, attending ceremonial dances of the “Kachinas” at Hopi and Deer Dance at Taos. Extremely ancient rituals which still take place to this day, and some of the most spiritual ceremonials one can attend here. O’Keeffe creates paintings of Kachina dolls, Lawrence writes of the Deer Dance and of the Hopi Snake Dance, his depiction of the Snake dance is one of the most valuable observations of this ceremony as today it is closed to public viewing.
Weathered Horn of a Big Horn Sheep as seen at Nedra Matteucci Gallery, Santa Fe
Georgia O'Keeffe Painting of Big Horn Sheep Horn
Miss O'Keeffe may not have been the first person in the desert southwest to pick up the bleached from the sun skulls and bones, but she did make them iconic along with making them (with her paintings of flowers) one of her signature subject matter.
Georgia O'Keeffe painting of Horse Skull
 
The D.H. Lawrence Memorial built by Angelo Rivagli, Frieda Lawrence is buried outside to the left
On March 2, 1930 Lawrence dies in Vence, later Frieda marries Angelo Rivagli who s a sculptor. He builds a Memorial at the ranch on a hillside, also carving the stone eagle/phoenix atop it. Rebecca Salsbury James was commissioned by Frida to create a painting for the Nicho that sits above the cement block cript. The painting was one of her classic reverse paintings on glass, it later fell out of place and broke.
 
A Letter from Frieda Lawrence to Rebecca James
Today, the ranch is visited by many writers, artists, and musicians. They tend to sit at the ranch for hours and write, inspired by the beauty of nature in all its glory here. A few Years ago Lawrence Fehrlingetti visited, at the bench there by the memorial he read his poem “The Man Who Rode Away (to DH Lawrence)”.
 
Selfe at the Chicago Art Institute in front of Clouds, the largest of O'Keeffe's paintings
Through individual moments, Taos affects you, which is what Lawrence and O’Keeffe were in search of, To take the time to appreciate that moment, to pause, to look, to listen to the refreshing spark and inspiration of that moment.
Holly Sievers in the eye of O'Keeffe's sculpture at the New Mexico Museum of Fine Arts
To become a docent or to make a donation for the Lawrence Ranch please contact Mary Passaglia at:
http://www.dhlawrencetaos.org/#!how-you-can-help/c18co

Notes and photographs are by Robert Cafazzo including images taken of archival material and images of O'Keeffe paintings, Historic Photographs are labeled as such, and private archive photographs are labeled as such.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Tony Reyna of Taos Pueblo at 100 years of age, Beautiful Old Age

Tony Reyna was born on February 1, 1916 (there is a conflicting date of January 31, 1916) for the past few years he would tell people he was holding out to reach 100. The son of Crucita and Helario Reyna of Taos Pueblo, he was given the name Cheto (translated to Hunters Talk).
 
A 1950's Portrait of Tony Reyna
I first met Mr. Reyna at his shop on the Taos Pueblo Road in 1991, where he has always had the best arts & crafts for sale from various Native American artists.
 
The sign on the Taos Pueblo Road to his Shop
In May 2014 I had the opportunity to conduct an interview between Mr. Reyna and National Geographic Travel writer Jeannette Kimmel.
 
Jeannette Kimmell & Tony Reyna
Tony told us his story, an amazing life story, which included joining the army in 1941, of being a POW during World War 2 in the Philippines, he was on the Bataan Death March. During his service he was assigned as a spotter, his nickname was Eagle Eyes.
 
Stacked Adobe Bricks at Taos Pueblo
When he returned from the war he decided to build his home and Shop on the road into the Pueblo. It took 10,000 hand made adobe bricks to build it. He was given credit by the local Randall’s Lumber Yard (a family member has told me it was Ilfields Hardware store, Mr. Reyna specifically said Randall's) to purchase doors and windows for the home and was able to repay them within 2 years.
 
Front of the Tony Reyna Indian Shop
Since 1950 Tony Reyna’s Indian Shop has been a fixture at Taos Pueblo. Today, there are many shops at the Pueblo, his was the first. Mr. Reyna told us that he sells strictly Indian, and that he always buys from any Native Americans offering to sell him their arts & crafts. He considers it his responsibility “It’s a good feeling to help people.” On one visit to the shop, now run by his son Phillip, I noticed stacks of crafts behind the counter. Whether they need more merchandise or not, they have been a terrific support system to encourage so many people to continue traditional native crafts.
 
Window of the Reyna Indian Shop
In 1982 and again in 1992 Mr. Reyna was elected Governor of Taos Pueblo, today he is a lifetime council member, “Being Governor is a tough job, 24 hours a day.”
 
Painting by Emil Bisttram of Pueblo Dancers
Tony has also served as a Police Commissioner, on Museum Boards and has been the recipient of many, many awards and honors. In 1992 he was instrumental in gaining UNESCO World Heritage Site status for Taos Pueblo.
 
1950's photo of Taos Pueblo
As I looked around the Reyna home there were objects of beauty everywhere. Years of purchases for the shop, at times many items made their way into his own personal collections. A much cherished framed photograph of the Taos Pueblo Blue Lake hangs within view of his couch. He can no longer make the annual tribal members pilgrimage to the lake, but through all his years he has walked that trail more than most.
 
Mr. Reyna's collection of personal Bolo Ties hanging from a Black Santa Clara pottery wall sconce
I found myself drawn to certain items around his home such as a painting of the back of the Ranchos Church which looked similar to or ‘in the style of’ Emil Bisttram. When I asked about it, Tony told me it was painted by his wife Annie Cota, (d.1993) who was one of Bisttram’s students, she was a talented artist. On the opposite wall hung a painting by the great Bisttram himself of ceremonial Koyemsi, a true treasure worthy of any Museum collection.
 
Painting of Koyemsi by Emil Bisttram hanging in the Reyna living room
I’m always fond of seeing the handmade furniture here in Taos with it’s rich history. In the Reyna kitchen I noticed the beautifully crafted table and chairs. I had to ask about them, which then revealed another layer and part of Mr. Reyna’s life story. He had crafted the furniture himself, telling me that before he joined the army he had taught cabinetry to people of the Navajo Nation. Usually I ask people if they have signed the undersides of the furniture they made to preserve the history of the piece, I just don't remember if he had or not, I'd need to ask his family.
 
Classic Taos style Furniture handcrafted by Mr. Reyna
I truly believe that Tony Reyna has lived such an incredible and long life because he has lived in beauty. In my notes I had written, this man is surrounded by the beauty of his life.
  
View of Taos Pueblo
“Beautiful Old Age”  D.H. Lawrence
It ought to be lovely to be old
to be full of the peace that comes of experience
and wrinkled ripe fulfillment.
The wrinkled smile of completeness that follows a life
lived undaunted and un-soured with accepted lies
they would ripen like apples, and be scented like pippins
in their old age.

Soothing, old people should be, like apples
when one is tired of love.
Fragrant like yellowing leaves, and dim with the soft
stillness and satisfaction of autumn.

And a girl should say:
It must be wonderful to live and grow old.
Look at my mother, how rich and still she is! -

And a young man should think: By Jove
my father has faced all weathers, but it's been a life! 
Large antler Elk rack at Taos Pueblo

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Child's Journal, A Christmas Story of 1892

A Child's Journal of 1892
Signed and dated by N.C. Bemis of Wiscasset, Maine
Christmas Scene at Nellie's Home
"The True Santa Claus"
written by Eva L. Carson
You bigger boys and larger girls,
Who smile in pitying way
When baby gravelly tells the tale
of Santa Claus's sleigh,
How Santa stops, with bags of toys,
On everybody's roof:
While his reindeer lightly prance and dance
Upon each tiny hoof.

You see the stockings being hung,
With but a scornful laugh;
Why- don't you know the story's true?
That is- the better half?
He's the Christ-Child in Germany,
Here- Santa Claus we say;
But through the world, at home, abroad,
The dear saint makes his way.

It has a meaning deep and true,
The lovely fairy tale,
Where would we be but for love
That watches without fail?
What makes our Holidays delight,
And never knowing pause,
Gives all we are and all we have?
LOVE is our Santa Claus!

"Be Not Simply Good, Be Good For Something" 
a quote from Nellie
A flower for a Happy Home
Greetings to the arrival of the Three Wisemen
The Bemis Family 'Tree'
The Tree of Life
Murray dons his Stocking Cap
Ada waits patiently for Christmas Supper to begin
The Owl and the Skunk (I'm certain the Owl and the Pussycat has a nicer ring to it)
As guests arrive for Christmas
Mother ponders if she's forgotten anything
Warming the henhouse
Ethel Arrives
Merry Christmas Greetings
Mother in her new dress
Arrival on the appaloosa
The Bemis Family
A Kangaroo Toy arrives and the Cat has had at it.
Nellie's school mates mustn't be forgotten
The Family Cats make a fine portrait
The arrival of Rainbow Chicken greeting the family goat
By Sea or by Pram
Tiny the Cat is always good company on a rainy day
Family portrait of Pinky
A dream of flying
Twins
Twins
Apple Picking in the Farmyard
Esther's Hand Age 5
A Stenciled Native American Indian, Noble and Proud
Early Simple drawing
Why do Uncles always have such scratchy beards?

The earliest drawings are of stencils and this tracing of her younger sister's hand, along with heads traced from jar lids and story clippings fro children of the day, as Nellie becomes more confident, her drawings progress nicely.
Here are a few of the 156 drawings, there are also 21 layed-in pages of story clippings.
Holly & I purchased this book many years ago, we'd put it aside and it lay forgotten, yet this Christmas it seemed important to share it with all of you.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Seasons Greetings, Happy Hanukah, and may the sliver of the moon smile upon you for the Ramadan Season. Blessings to all, may we find mutual peace and understanding for all who inhabit this planet Earth.