Sunday, September 30, 2012

Autumn in Mabel's Words, and a Prune Pie Recipe from Taos Pueblo

Yellow highlights Taos Valley: the aspen in the mountains make marble cake swirls among the evergreens, the cottonwoods will soon be turning at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House. As our Indian summer draws to a close, most of the harvest is in. Cold nights now upon us and I worry about my 19 tomato plants. 

They are producing robustly, but not quite soon enough. I cover them at night and so far, no frost has taken them. From my window the Early Girls ripening look like red Christmas balls amidst wreaths of green.

The sunflowers that surround our house took a hit in last week's light frost. Many of the leaves have turned black, but one brave sunflower caught my eye today. It has just started to set seed, as you can see, and already birds are flocking to our organic feeders. 

Today I picked up Mabel's book, Winter in Taos, to look for what she grew in her garden and what she wrote about autumn. I thought it would be fun to illustrate her words with photos to give you a sense of this fall's splendor in Taos.

The desert behind the house turns yellow with fall flowers, and in dry years there are big clumps of purple asters growing wild everywhere. The autumn colors here are purple and yellow and there seems to be more of an overflow of blooming and burgeoning than at any other season, like a last fling of life before the sleepy winter months.

The sunshine seems yellower, and it blazes down in a full, walloping kind of heat that is intense because of the cold edge already in the air. 

In all the orchards now the fruit is falling on the ground and there is a magnificent abundance in the red and white apples. We cannot take care of so much fruit and I let the Indians come and take it away, and Max and Jose gather what they need for their families. Little boys come asking for apples and we give them what they can carry in their sacks

We watch the trees change color rapidly now, and riding to the Pueblo we snatch the wild plums off the bushes as we pass.They are warm and juicy and have a sharply sweet taste.

Today was San Geronimo Day, the biggest feast day celebration at Taos Pueblo. This is a time when visitors find prune pies , traditionally made from wild plums, for sale in the shops there. These are probably my favorite cookies, and I thought you might enjoy having the recipe  that our fabulous baker, Pamela Martinez from Taos Pueblo, contributed to Mabel's Kitchen: Favorite Recipes from the Mabel Dodge Luhan House.

Prune Pie

2 - 9 inch pie crusts

1 bag pitted prunes
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 350. Boil the prunes in water for 10 minutes. Drain well. Mash the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg together with the boiled prunes until thoroughly mixed. Spread the mixture on a prepared pie crust rolled to fit a 9 inch by 13 inch low-sided baking tray. Allow the edge of the crust to climb over the sides of the tray. Roll out the second crust and cover the prune filling, crimping the edges to the bottom crust. Bake at 350 for 1/2 hour or until golden.

Synchronicity at work in Taos. On the fall bounty theme, a harvest moon rose tonight over the foothills.

Listen to the night and the lovely sounds that break its quiet.

With that, I wish you and the moon "Good Night."

Adios for now,

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Mabel Dodge Luhan, Millicent Rogers and Early Women Art Patrons of Northern New Mexico

Summer, where did you go? Reflecting on the big summer events in Santa Fe—International Folk Art Market, TraditionalSpanish Market, and Indian Market—I thought of the 20th-century women who brought recognition to artists in these focus areas. I’ve become fascinated with women in northern New Mexico who founded cultural institutions. Lois Rudnick shares my interest and I hope you will, too. In the Summer 2012 issue of the Museum of New Mexico’s magazine, El Palacio, she mentioned several women who played a key role in promoting Hispanic and Indian arts and artists. 

Mabel Dodge Luhan, courtesy of the Mabel Dodge Luhan House

I’d known about the activities of the following women in Santa Fe: Author and activist Mary Austin, (who visited Mabel in 1919 and with Mabel’s encouragement moved to New Mexico) helped establish Santa Fe’s Spanish Colonial Arts Society in 1925; poet Alice Corbin Henderson played a key role in the creation of the New Mexican Association for Indian Affairs (1922) and the Indian Arts Fund (1925); and Mary Wheelwright, in collaboration with Navajo medicine man and silversmith Hostiin Klah, created the Museum of Navajo Ceremonial Art (now the Wheelwright Museum of Indian Art) in 1937.

Lois provided context for two women I didn’t know much about, who were only names until now. Leonora Muse Curtin,opened a native market in 1932 that supported 350 Hispano artisans throughout the Depression years. Later, together with her husband Y. A. Paloheimo, a Finnish consul interested in his country’s open-air museums, the couple turned their home in La Cienega into El Rancho de las Golondrinas, the first living-history museum dedicated to the Hispanic culture. Margretta Dietrich, one of the first patrons to support Pueblo Indian women artists, served as President of the New Mexico Association of Indian Affairs from 1932 to 1953 and assisted with the inception of today’s Indian Market.

“A city of ladies” (to coin Mary Austin’s phrase) also led the way in arts and patronage in Taos. After her husband Burt died in 1922, “Elizabeth” Lucy Case Harwood created the Harwood Foundation, which eventually became today’s Harwood Museum of Art under the auspices of the University of New Mexico. Helene Wurlitzer established the Wurlitzer Foundation in 1954, one of the nation’s oldest artist-in-residence programs. Helen Greene Blumenschein dedicated the Blumenschein Home and Museum, her artist family’s home and furnishings, to the community of Taos in 1962. Eya Fechin preserved the home and studio built by her father, artist Nikolai Fechin, between 1927 and 1933, until 2002 when the complex evolved into the Taos Art Museum.

Some of Mabel's santos

Where does Mabel come in? She started collecting New Mexican santos (religious images) soon after her arrival in December 1917. Two years later, when Mabel sent her collection to be shown at a New York gallery, she became one of the first patrons to promote these objects as art forms. She further publicized this art form in 1925 with an article titled “The Santos of New Mexico” in The Arts, a nationally known magazine. Some time after 1947 Mabel gifted her collection of santos (saints) by renowned santeros (saint makers) like Jose Rafael Aragon and Molleno who worked in northern New Mexico in the 1800s, to the Harwood Museum of Art. 

La Santisma Familia (The Holy Family), circa 1850 by Jose Rafael Aragon. Courtesy The Harwood Museum of Art

Hispanic and Indian arts got another boost from Millicent Rogers starting in 1947 when she began collecting jewelry from Navajo reservations and from the pueblos along the Rio Grande. She soon added Navajo, Rio Grande and Hispanic textiles, Pueblo pottery as well as basketry from various Southwest tribes to her collection. 

Millicent Rogers. Courtesy of Millicent Rogers Museum

A trend setter in the world of fashion, Millicent brought national attention to the arts of the Southwest in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Following Millicent’s death in 1953, her sons created the Millicent Rogers Museum with the her Southwest collection as the formative base. The museum opened 1956 and is today an important resource for the study of southwestern art and design.

Navajo Third Phase Chief's Blanket. Courtesy of Millicent Rogers Museum

I remembered a phrase from the book and theater piece Po’Pay Speaks, based on the Ohkay Owingeh (San Juan Pueblo) Indian who hid from Spanish authorities at Taos Pueblo for two years before leading the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. The passage mentions how Mabel Dodge and other white people “helped keep things alive until we [Indian people] found our voice.” In their support of the native arts of New Mexico, Mabel, Millicent and their contemporaries undoubtedly laid the groundwork for today’s Indian and Hispanic artists. I think they would be pleased.

Adios for now,