Sunday, July 15, 2012

Mabel Dodge Luhan and Three Women from "Taos and Its Artists"

Just Before the Equinox (1997) by William Davis*

This is the provocative landscape that stirs the emotions. Tender and strong, sometimes darkening dramatically, the half-circle of mountains surrounds the somnolent desert and embraces the oasis that is named Taos, a name whose origin remains unknown.  -- Mabel Dodge Luhan in Taos and Its Artists

So opens Mabel Dodge Luhan’s book Taos and Its Artists. I have referenced this volume in earlier postings (see “Mabel Dodge Luhan and Early Women Artists of Taos” 4/29/12 and “Mabel Dodge Luhan and D. H. Lawrence: Writing and the Muse” 12/5/11). In this year of the Remarkable Women of Taos, numerous exhibitions at museums and galleries have featured or will be featuring different aspects of women’s art. I return to this first book written about Taos artists to open the way for other women artists—past and present—who you’ll meet over the remaining six months of our town’s 2012 celebration.

Mabel quotes art critic Leo Stein (brother of fellow salon queen and writer Gertrude Stein) on his take on Taos: “It is the only place that I have ever seen, where Nature is as aesthetic as Art; the only landscape that can compete with the great painters.”

Various aspects of Taos—the landscape, community life, folklore—provided women artists mentioned in Taos and Its Artists with inspiration. I’ll let Mabel tell you about three of them:

Rebecca James

The paintings on glass by Rebecca James, that are occasionally to be seen here in exhibitions, are perhaps the most exquisite productions of any Taos artist. Flowers – sometimes only a single flower – fruit, still-lifes composed of objects found in the Valley, an ancient cross, and old santos [saints] are reproduced with the most poignant sensitivity to color and meaning.
Walking Woman, Taos, 1946. Courtesy of the Harwood Museum of Art
Barbara Latham

Barbara Latham does exquisite and observant watercolors of the country about her. From her porch on the brink of the ledge overlooking Talpa Valley, she re-creates the wonderful pastoral life of fields and farm with the checkered patchwork of the crops, the farmer plowing his field, the grazing sheep, and all the sunlight and scene of happy outdoor life. Her canvases are delicate and exquisite in color and directly joyous.
Decoration Day, no date. Courtesy of the Harwood Museum of Art

Gisella Loeffler

Gisella Loeffler! How people are attracted to your funny little painted children and sunny, reassuring life you surround them with! This is a real folklore you give us. Everyone is allured and amused by the life of these robust infants with roses and birds hearts all about them.

Gisella Loeffler Christmas card. Courtesy of the Harwood Museum of Art

Of the three artists mentioned here, Barbara Latham’s profile is featured on the Town of Taos Remarkable Women website. In Spring 2010 the Harwood Museum of Art organized an exhibition on Rebecca James, who first came to Taos as Mabel’s guest in 1926 with her photographer husband Paul Strand, and returned 3 years later with Georgia O’Keeffe. Becky is overdue for a posting of her own (forthcoming). Gisella is part of an exhibition featuring six women that just opened at the Harwood last week. I’ll be covering that and other exhibitions that opened or are scheduled to open this month. Stay tuned.

Adios for now,

Photo courtesy of William Davis

Visit the Harwood Museum of Art for current exhibitions.