Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Two Graces Christmas Carol or It's a Wonderful Life in Taos

On Christmas Eve the family tradition was to go to my Grandmother’s for dinner, (sometimes it was even just Chinese or pizza takeout). Then many years ago, (around when I was 11 or 12) we arrived at home after Christmas eve at Grandma’s to find the door of our house left wide open. Thieves had broken in and stolen Christmas, they stole the presents, they stole the kitchen appliances and the TV, (this was pre-VCR & DVD players). Yes, Cindy-Loo-Hoo, the Grinch who stole Christmas was very real and living in my hometown, and on this particular year ‘The Grinch’ chose my family to loot and scoot it all out the front door. Somehow my Mom & Dad rallied and pulled off Christmas with presents, food and festivities. How they did it and what they did, isn’t what I remember, it’s that they provided us with Christmas no matter what the circumstances. This may have even been the year we started going to the movies on Christmas day. Going off to the movie theater was not a great expense those days but a treat nonetheless. The horror of arriving home and finding everything stolen stays with you, even now.

So as this has been on my mind lately, maybe that’s what’s got me in a funk this year. I suppose what I mean to say is that I have yet to catch any of the “Holiday Spirit”. What in the world is that supposed to mean? I don’t have the energy to pull it off this year, no tree, no decorations, it’s all just a bit too much pressure. Then too, a lack of snow (and a lack of shoppers) makes it seem less than Christmas time. This is the slowest season I’ve ever seen in Taos for businesses! I ask people whether or not they have a Christmas Tree, and sadly many just don’t.

I don’t really need gifts at Christmas time, I have a tendency to buy what I want for myself. Sure I may not be able to afford a flat screen TV right now, but our busted 8 year old television still works more or less. I don’t really think about Christmas gifts all that much, if and when I buy something with someone else in mind I tend to give it to them when I see them, rather than hang on to it, hide it, and wrap it up for them as a “Christmas gift”. Yet some of my favorite Christmas presents have been Christmas tree ornaments, they remind me of who gave them to us, or where and when we bought them for ourselves.
Another aspect of this year’s Christmas was Holly had planned to visit her parents in Iowa, and when she was initially planning her trip, it seemed to me that it would be during Christmas, which really had me worried. I just couldn’t imagine having Christmas without her. Thankfully she arranged to visit them a couple weeks before and is home here with me. About 15 years ago, we began dating at Christmas-time. One mid December day I was telling her that I planned to go and get a tree the following day. She told me that she and her roommates were having a tree trimming party at her place and that she’d love it if I could make it. It was to be a dinner party and they would be making home-made ornaments. That evening she went home to tell her friends that they were now having a tree trimming party and that she had invited me over on this ruse. For my own deceit in this I designed and practiced making an ornament so that when I arrived it would be a matter of effortless ornament making on my part. Until very recently I had no idea about this whole plot. Yet, that was the Best Christmas and nothing else can match that.

I’m asked what was the best Christmas dinner I remember? My response is an array of fresh fish on Christmas eve at my Mom’s aunt Phyllis’ house, topped off with baked stuffed lobster, and all the cookies I could eat. A Sicilian/American tradition, lots of fresh fish for Christmas eve. In reality the best Christmas dinner is not what there was to eat, it’s who was there and the memories of family and friends. Floating around my head are some great memories.

Lately, friends have come by with a present for Holly & I, or mailed us a card, which has really meant a lot to me, so thank you one and all. Maybe Christmas cards and gift giving is a way of saying thank you, I’ve been thinking of you, you mean a lot to me, let’s stay connected and stay in touch. So, Merry Christmas, after all…
Photo Credits: All Photographs are by Robert Cafazzo taken within the last 8 years "Deer at Mabel Dodge Luhan House First Snow" this statue has been stolen and is missing to this day if you know of it in someone's yard please report it to Mabel Dodge House and the Taos Police, thank you
"Aspens in Snow"
"Holly in Upper Los Colonias After the Snow"
"Taos Pueblo Christmas Eve Bonfires" Please note, it is no longer acceptable to take photographs at Taos Pueblo during Christmas Eve, even if it's of you and your friends.
"Bent Street Christmas Tree, Taos, NM"

Monday, December 6, 2010


Two Graces is now on Facebook, although I have NO IDEA what I am doing!
Please 'LIKE' us on Facebook at Two Graces Plaza Gallery, you will see from our feed this is where we post new items and specials.
Stay up to date with TGPG and join us on Facebook, thank you, R

Sunday, December 5, 2010

"Don't Worry Be Hopi"

December 2, 2010 we sponsored a lecture on Hopi Kachina Dolls and Hopi Baskets here at Two Graces. The turnout was great and I believe everyone came and learned something from it.
The premise was for Joseph & Janice Day of Tsakurshovi Trading Post on Second Mesa in Hopiland, Arizona to have an exhibit of Kachina Dolls and baskets at Orr's Trading Post along with a lecture. Since Del Orr's shop is a bit small for a seated presentation we had the lecture here, (thanks to Martina for the loan of the comfortable chairs). On arrival the Day's began hurriedly unpacking and organizing what they had brought. Helping to unpack and arrange is always a good idea it eventually leads to you getting first pick! Which is how I wound up purchasing this wonderful doll above.
Janice Day is a member of the Third Mesa Basket Society, and she is in charge of purchasing baskets at their shop. Above is a collection of 'sifter' baskets, which are incredibly durable and useful for anything you can think of, even as a strainer for your veggies.
Kachinas as they were unpacked are laid out on a table. All the kachinas dolls presented were traditional or 'Old Style', at times based on early depictions found in books.
Joe, Janice & Dell above checking over a particularly complicated doll making certain it was in tip top shape upon unpacking it.
A group of baskets and dolls.
At the lecture Joe & Janice explained the uniqueness of baskets and dolls and how they are used at the Hopi villages today.
In the audience Bill Baron thinking up some sort of editorial cartoon on Hopi Kachinas?
Two of the more talked about dolls, the Cow to the left was purchased before it was even delivered to the shop, (perhaps one of the ugliest dolls I've ever seen was the one everyone wanted!). To the far right is a depiction of the Dragonfly kachina, there was a whole lot of discussion as to whether this was true or not...
These 7 dolls are a depiction of the Zuni Shalako dance which began Saturday evening over at the Pueblo of Zuni. We banged heads a bit on whether or not to close up early Saturday and all drive over to Zuni for this dance.
Local Taosenos deciding which baskets and which Kachina dolls to purchase. The prices for all of the merchandise were closer to wholesale prices, there was no markup. Del & I were more the vehicle for an incredible presentation and sale of wonderful Hopi crafts, we did not make any profit on this exhibit. What we did get out of this was an education, and sometimes that's worth a whole lot more, (and yes, I probably ate 10 rolls of Hopi Blue Corn Piki, which I LOVE).
Janice also brought her corn of the 4 directions and hung the bundles from the ceiling vigas along with baskets.
A couple of sifter baskets filled with the flat Cradle Dolls. As Joe pointed out the bodies are all the same, with variations on the head. These are the first dolls given to babies both boys and girls.
A lovely arrangement on the mantle of the fireplace.
Joe teaching Taja of Treasures a thing or two about real kachina dolls.
Another wall arrangement. The exhibit was an incredible success, business was brisk and more than half the inventory that was on display was purchased by local Taosenos and a few visitors.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Book List Part 2

Alright now it's been a year since my last book list and there's a lot to cover since then. Some of the books featured here are available at Two Graces 575-758-4639
or The Plaza Gallery 575-758-4101 This list is of books I believe are compatible and make for an interesting read together. You decide, and of course any of them will make a great gift for someone this Holiday season.

"Moving to a Small Town" Urbanska & Everling
This is one of those books that you might pick up once you've moved, but best read long before you even think about moving. Time and time again I loan this book out to people who have moved here. Taos is a small town and as such has all the quirkiness of EVERY small town across the world. Wether you are moving to Taos or some other small town, read it, everything this book discusses will come to pass.
"Birds of Sorrow" Tom Ireland
Here's a rather sad and tender book of someone who does choose to move to an even smaller outlier village of Taos and some of what happens, lovely.

"Mother of God, Similar to Fire" Miribai Starr & Father Bill McNichols
These next 2 books are from some very wonderful people, Father Bill is the iconographer and priest at the San Francisco de Asis Church here in Ranchos de Taos. It's a treat when Father Bill is the one holding Mass at this Church because he relates Mass to life and nature in a way that if John Muir were to sit you down and tell you his thoughts your mouth would be agape the entire time you were listening. Ms. Starr has her own specialness, I've not had the pleasure of speaking with her in a long conversation but if Father Bill says she's OK, then she's OK with me too. Signed copies of this book are available at The Plaza Gallery.
"The House on Mango Street" Sandra Cisneros
Last winter this woman walked into the shop, she spent a long time looking around, then we began to speak with one another. It turned out it was the author Sandra Cisneros, she appreciated that I have a Latino/Latina author section, and made some suggestions. We talked and talked. When she left I felt that one of the most wonderful people I'd ever met had just been here in my little shop.
"The Art of Buying Art" Paige West
You can purchase this through the NYC gallery Mixed Greens at, an insiders guide to collecting contemporary art.
"Leo & His Circle, the Life of Leo Castelli" A. Cohen-Solal
This is well researched delving into the early history as well as Castelli the superstar New York art dealer. When you walked into the Castellli Gallery on West Broadway in NYC there was always a hush, never active or lively, more like a library filled with the most incredible art you could see outside a museum.
"I Sold Andy Warhol (Too Soon)" Richard Polsky
The follow up to "I Bought Andy Warhol" another GREAT read.
"LuLu Meets God and Doubts Him" Danielle Ganek
This book is really fun to read.
"Weekends with O'Keeffe" Carroll Merrill
"Miss O'Keeffe" Christine Taylor Patten & Alvaro Cardona-Hine
Two books by people who knew and actually spent time with Miss O'Keeffe, almost as good as from the horses mouth. New copies of Weekends are available through The Plaza Gallery.
These last 2 books are for the Hoarders out there, both are intriguing and will start more than a conversation with fellow readers of either or.
"Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder" Lawrence Weschler
"Finders Keepers" Craig Childs
The Santa Fe New Mexican Pasatiempo arts section devoted most of an issue a few weeks ago on this particular book by Childs. Possibly controversial in the great Southwest, and timely for collectors or hoarders.
Many of these authors have of course written more than the particular books I've listed here, you may want to check out the entire body of work by each of these authors.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Shopping at Two Graces Vol. 6

This column is dedicated to my Mom's Aunties: Nini, RoRo, Poppie, and my Mom's Mom Lena. One day my Mom purchased a pair of LEE Jeans, (she called them Dungarees), when I saw the name on them I asked why she had my Grandmothers' jeans. My Mom LOL had to explain to me that they were the name of the brand, not my Grandmother's name sewn onto them! Please continue...
Everyone needs a Guardian Angel, this one is hand carved wooden with Glass Eyes, probably Italian, possibly from Portugal? 12" wing span, SOLD as beautiful an angel as can possibly be. Placed over a door to bid you good journey each time you leave your home, or over your bed to bring sweet dreams as you close your weary eyes.
Starting on the left this plastic light up Infant of Prague is priced at SOLD stands at 12", the red robed Infant is 12 1/2" and comes with a set of extra Robes $129.99, the next one is a 'planter' with a small compartment at it's back for flowers or gifts 10 1/2" tall priced at SOLD, the last one on the right is 12" tall and comes with vintage medallions pinned to it's robes $129.99.
Two Graces is fortunate to have these lovely statues available at this time.
This is something very special to me, on the bureau or on top of a cabinet, The Infant of Prague was to have a proper place in the homes of my Mom's Aunts where they could see this depiction of the Christ Child and ask for favors. When the wish was not forthcoming in a timely manor the tradition was to break off the hand of the statue, but to glue it back in place once the favor was complete. Then out of guilt you were to adorn the statue with new handmade robes and/or to pin medallions onto the robes. Except for the light up plastic one to the left, the examples above all have broken and re-glued fingers.
Placing the Infant outdoors the day before an event such as a wedding will ensure good weather, ahh the possibilities!
Part of the story of "The Infant of Prague" which makes my hair stand on end...
The Carmelite Friary was plundered by the Lutheran Swedes, and the image of the Infant of Prague was thrown into a pile of rubbish behind the Altar. Here it lay forgotten, its hands broken off, for seven years, until it was found again in 1637 by Father Cyrillus and placed in the church's oratory. One day, while praying before the statue, Father Cyrillus claimed to have heard a voice say, "Have pity on me, and I will have pity on you. Give me my hands, and I will give you peace. The more you honor me, the more I will bless you."
The Buddha 9" tall seated black stone pumice SOLD, what I call the Venus de Milo type 8 1/2" figure with stand is SOLD, and the metal head 9" of Buddha with nice patina and stand is$59.99
The Buddha taught non-violence, respect for all life, the merit of giving generously and of a simple lifestyle, serving for many people as a model of the highest standards of humane behavior, how nice is that and how can you not have one!
When the Great Potter Mary Witkop was taking a trip to Indonesia she asked if I'd like her to bring anything back for me, I asked her for a Buddha, she returned with the Smiling Buddha, and that makes me smile to this day.
On a recent Shopping Two Graces Blog someone asked about Holy Water Bottles, so here they are, in the front is a vintage glass bottle with dispenser top from Mexico 3 1/2" tall priced at $24.99, to the left a vintage 8" plastic Our Lady bottle SOLD, the tallest one is a 12" vintage plastic Our Lady of Lourdes and contains Holy Water collected from the grotto up to about her tummy priced at SOLD ( I can't guaranty that miracles will happen but this seems a very small price to pay), the pink and white plastic bottles are contemporary 8" tall from Mexico $7.99 each.
In New Mexico it seems to be the phrase "Our Lady" is used to describe what in other areas are called a "Madonna", to me both seem interchangeable. Perhaps with the connotations that the Pop Star Madonna negative and/or positive can conjure up, the term Madonna has fallen out of favor. Above is a selection of vintage statuettes starting at the left is a delicate 'head vase' 6" tall SOLD (a nice addition for anyone with a head vase collection), next is a metal statue with silver plate remnants 6" tall priced at SOLD, next in the back with starry blue robes just over 10" tall standing on a serpent SOLD, in the front she glows in the dark 6" tall priced at SOLD, behind her the thin white figure is SOLD and her companion in Blue robes SOLD, these are each just over 7" tall, in front is a light up torso her hands holding a pink flower and a crown of pink flowers on her head SOLD, to the far right the off white one with glaze just beginning to crackle is 9" tall SOLD, the tallest one 13" to the back with blue robes, (a finger on her right hand is broken off) SOLD. As you can see gathered together, these make a worthwhile and spectacular arrangement, start collecting now.
Lastly, these 4 photographs are from the collection of Violetta Barela which was brought to me by her family. Rather than toss it all into the dumpster they brought it to me. This collection includes some of the most beautiful vintage Holy Cards I've ever seen, (and that includes the ones I've seen in books). Vintage Bibles, Scapulas, Rosaries, Statuettes, can you imagine all going into the trash, because IF I didn't want it, who would??? I understand this and the disposability of our belongings once we are gone, but it still bothers me and I wish it didn't have to be that way. Blessings to you on your journey Viola...

Monday, November 8, 2010

What I do on a day off with friends...

South of Taos the village of Pilar lies along a bend of the Rio Grande, a view from the hillside in Autumn colors. We took a loop drive to Talpa, Penasco, Dixon, Pilar and back to Taos, and here is our adventure...
This past week we had friends visiting from out of town, on Friday we took the day off from our shops to go with them and wander around. Here's what we did, a little tour for Maggie & Alex...
Just up the road from Ranchos de Taos St. Francis Plaza is the intersection of 518, it's here where you'll begin a journey on what is known as the "High Road", which is full of little villages and their respective beautiful Churches, each different each amazing. As usual the Churches are kept locked up, but are wonderful to see nonetheless. This photograph is from a quick visit to a small Church/Capilla in Talpa, sitting back from the road behind a chain link fence.
Before you travel into the mountains from Taos you will pass the Fort Burgwin Archeological site on the left and Southern Methodist University summer school campus on your right.
Above, an assortment of crosses leaning against a Church wall in Trampas. I've included these here to show the extraordinary variety. After you wind your way up into the mountains the road takes you down to an extreme switchback which you'll be turning right at, if you were to go straight this would take you on to Sipapu, Mora where you'll find a wonderful raspberry farm & Las Vegas, NM. At this junction you will be turning onto 75 and heading for Penasco.
We drove through the village of Penasco and headed for the Harding Mine near Dixon. Passing by the Picuris Pueblo, which usually has 2 entrances one of which was closed, causing us to unintentionally miss visiting there. You'll need to download and print a release form before visiting the mine unless you know where the caretaker's house in Dixon is which is tricky to find. The mine has deposits of various rocks and minerals the Lepidolite here is spectacular, a semi-precious violet stone with a similar consistency to Turquoise. The Calcite deposits are some of the best in the world, I'm told during WW2 this was used in bomber plane missile sightings making use of it's purity as a a type of lens and that the largest deposit is in the collection of the Smithsonian Museum. You are allowed to carry out 5 pounds of stone, please keep to this allotment if not much less. Adendum: One of my friends here tells me that Lithium Gas leaches from the mine walls, which he says will cause a person to feel very Happy. Wow!
Wandering around the mine you'll find where miners sat and had their lunches, leaving rusty tin cans behind, perhaps enticing you to bring your own picnic next time. The views of the surrounding mountains are clear allowing you to see all the way to Abiquiu and the Pedernal.
Holly with Maggie & Alex in the mouth of the Lepidolite mine. Looking at how the violet rock walls are reflecting light in my photos here I think this would make an extraordinary place for a photo shoot. Fashion models in Designer gowns or Wedding dresses would be amazing, just a thought.
Out of the mine and on to lunch back in Penasco to "Sugar Nymphs Bistro", one of those places 'off the beaten path' you only hear about and never quite find. Well find it here smack in the middle of this village 505-587-0311, call for hours. Winters they are open Thursday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday for Lunch & Dinner, the proprietors are Ki & Kai who are always busy in the kitchen. These ladies know ho to serve up tasty meals using locally grown product whenever possible.
A couple of refugees from Halloween greet you at the side entrance.
We had soup & sandwiches, here's the BLT on a focaccia roll they bake, nice tasty bacon and fresh farm grown tomato, delicious with a bowl of tasty pumpkin soup, this was $8.95 Maggie enjoyed the Green Chile Cheese Burger which she told Kai was the best she'd tasted. It's a nice idea to tell the chefs how much you enjoyed the dinner they cooked for you, I think chefs are under appreciated, and can use a nice compliment.
Tablecloths are paper for you to draw on with crayons provided, I wonder if I could have traded my drawing here for lunch...
For me it's about dessert which you won't want to miss, Chocolate Cake, Pumpkin Spice Cake, giant Chocolate Chip Cookies and Carrot Cake. Desserts run out quickly so order your choice before you order dinner, or you'll be sorry.

Upon entering Penasco the road turns right, (straight is not an option), yet a left will take you to a tiny village which may or may not be Rodarte. The cemetery surrounding this Church is old and picturesque. My photographs here are of, once again, the variations of crosses and grave markers.

A few years ago, I drove up to this Church in my VW Beetle with friends B & D, only to find myself face to face with a runaway bull, which quickly turned towards my car. As the bull was thinking about charging the car 2 guys came running towards it, seemingly out of nowhere. They told me afterwards they'd been chasing this bull since 7PM the previous evening. As far as I know those guys are still chasing that bull to this day, it makes me laugh just thinking about it!

Concrete Crosses embedded with glass covered photographs, or mini Christos of plastic or pot metal, below a faded Sacred Heart of Christ depiction, perhaps I should print this one for postcards.
Leaving Penasco on 75 we went back through Dixon passing the La Chiripada Winery and the Vivac Winery. These and the Black Mountain Winery which is south to Valerde, are places to stop at, take a break, and a sip of wine. These days we tend to prefer Vivac, my Dad enjoyed the wines of La Chiripada, and Holly's Dad likes the wine at Black Mesa. To each his own preference, reason enough to point out all of these fine wineries in our midst. On to 68 heading north and back to Taos.
In Taos off Kit Carson Road there are a whole lot of side streets, (some of which are worth exploring) a left onto Morada Lane will take you to Mabel Dodge Luhan House. Always a worthwhile part of Taos history, above is an old abandoned house just northwest of the Mabel house, don't try to find it to explore there are many neighborhood dogs that are there to keep the curious away.
What I did want to show my wife and our friends was the old Morada, Morada de Fernando de Taos de la Fraternidad Piadosa de Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno, to find this it's about 3 streets east from Morada Lane left onto Las Cruces Road, and a left onto Penitente Lane past the old cemetery. Here's where you'll find the Black Cross which Georgia O'Keeffe captured in paintings a number of times. The cross is still standing, recently adorned with flowers and a crown of thorns. I know what you're thinking that this all sounds backwards and that shouldn't the Morada be on Morada Lane, but trust me and follow my directions to Penitente Lane.
Directly past the cross from O'Keeffe's perspective towards the mountain there is a right of way lane between barbed wire fences. The land on either side of this lane is private Taos Pueblo Land, so please don't try climbing the fence. If you take the time to travel this lane on foot or mountain bike you'll find a few more large crosses on the path, do it, it's beautiful and worthwhile.

After viewing the Morada we headed into Taos visiting the brand new Lenny Foster Living Light Gallery in the former Gallery A space on Kit Carson Road, next door is Greg Moon Fine Art Gallery, both these gallery owners are wonderful human beings who will be happy to show you around their galleries. We headed across the street to Taos' oldest Trading Post El Rincon Trading Post and Museum, this is not to be missed on a visit to Taos. We also shopped a bit at my favorite Taos store Dwellings Revisited owned by Cam Martin for about 30 years on Bent Street where I purchased a very cool Day of the Dead skull t-Shirt, and we made a quick stop into Starr Interiors formerly La Unica Cosa, owned by Susanna Starr for 36 years to look at a collection of Mary Witkop pottery that has just gone on display. There are many shops and galleries worth visiting in the downtown area too many to list here, (we tend to avoid the Plaza, but even the Taos Plaza has some hidden jewels worth visiting) sometimes you've just got to go back...
After all that I know I needed to take a nap...