|Rebecca James. Photo courtesy of the Taos Historic Museums.|
Back in Taos in 1933, Becky (as she now called herself) started a new life. She renewed friendships with Spud Johnson, Dorothy Brett, and Frieda Lawrence, among others. She also reconnected with entrepreneur Bill James. He had first noticed Becky while porch sitting in front of his latest business venture, the Kit Carson Trading Company. They discovered a mutual Buffalo Bill connection: Bill James’ father had known Judge Beck who was Nate Salsbury’s guardian. This was but one of many commonalities shared by Becky and Bill. They married in 1937. The gregarious Bill introduced his new bride to members of the Sunshine Club. Becky joined in the group’s poker parties. On occasion poker club members wore costumes—she dressed as a nun—and they regularly imbibed in Taos Lightning, the local bootleg whiskey. As Spud Johnson later noted, Becky began to act and talk tougher (he compared her rough language to that of a stevedore’s), “simply out of delight in finding herself ‘free’.” Becky became a Taos character. Her appearance was both striking and unmistakable: platinum hair tucked under a wide-brimmed black Stetson, jeans with an open shirt (often topped by a flowing black cape), black cowboy boots—all set off by her classic profile. A marked change from the sedate Victorian-influenced dresses of earlier years.
Devoted to Bill, the love of her life, Becky supported his enterprises. When he entered politics in 1938, first as a councilman, then as a gubernatorial candidate, she penned articles and editorials for Taos and Santa Fe papers. When he founded the New Mexico Aberdeen-Angus Cattlemen’s Association, Becky served as the organization’s secretary. She also sold the resulting dairy products to townsfolk.
|Rebecca James White Roses at Twilight (1941)*|
In accordance with the Colorado Springs reviewer, Mabel Dodge Luhan gave a good overview of Becky’s work in Taos and Its Artists:
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, an old Santo, are reproduced with a most poignant sensitivity to color and meaning.
This versatile stitch, for me, has provided a creative means to make a statement with stitches. The living world around one—the skies, the land, the people, grasses, trees—can be imbued with immediate life in a way never achieved by the mere decoration of a doilie, a pillowtop, a skirt.
Her colchas came to national attention. In 1963 editors of Women’s Day magazine visited Santa Fe for the first time. At the Museum of International Folk Art they viewed the “Embroideries by Rebecca James” exhibition. Delighted by the beauty of these colcha paintings, they asked Becky to write up their history, materials and stitching method. Her article appeared in the magazine’s April 1964 issue. In it Becky likened painting to embroidery. Whether with a paintbrush or with needle and thread, “both the painter and the hand-stitcher start with equally simple, ordinary tools—and for both the responsibility is the same—to create something that lives, speaks and gives delight.”
|Holy Child of Atocha. 1963.024 Courtesy of the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art**|
Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving.
Adios for now,
To find out more or lend your support to the "BECK" Documentary, please contact Debra at Rahriemon@aol.com for further information.
Donations to Ra~Rie~Mon Productions in support of this film are tax deductible.
* Rebecca James White Roses at Twilight Courtesy of the Taos Historic Museums.
** Photo of Rebecca James colcha embroidery, Holy Child of Atocha, courtesy of the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, Collections of the Spanish Colonial Arts Society.