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Light, Landscape and the Creative Quest

At the turn of the twentieth century, Santa Fe was long on history, but short on comfort and most modern amenities. It was a humble town, the capital of the U.S. Territory of New Mexico for fifty years, governing seat for Mexico and Spain's Nuevo Mexico for a period of 240 years before that, and home to a thriving Native American population for untold prior centuries. By the early 1900s, with the advent of the new century and subsequent statehood in 1912, Santa Fe again set off on a different course, one that would lead it to grow into one of the major art capitals of the United States.

In a new book to released this summer, Stacia Lewandowski, research associate at Zaplin Lampert Gallery, writes about the dramatic change and development that Santa Fe experienced over the first decades of the twentieth century. “Light, Landscape and the Creative Quest: Early Artists of Santa Fe” presents a wide-ranging discussion of Santa Fe’s early artist community from 1900 to 1938, covering over 40 artists. The book explores what it was that first brought artists to this isolated Southwestern village and then how they affected the community once they were here. In an accompanying booklet, “Walking in the Path of the Artists,” a series of historically informed walking tours are detailed that guide the reader past many of the artists’ homes.

Ever since 1912, Santa Fe’s city leaders have been engaged in a discussion of historic preservation. As a result, the core of the city maintains its historical ambience. With the influx of artists to Santa Fe in the teens, twenties and thirties, many of them found the adobe material and indigenous building designs aesthetically appealing. Eager to join in the movement that sought to perpetuate the local styles, the artists built their homes with the addition of personal touches to reflect their own creative ideas. The handmade quality of adobe construction, with its earthen plaster overlay, was a major attraction that was imaginatively discussed as “livable sculpture,” according to the biographers of one of the artists, Frank Applegate. Many of the artists’ homes are in the areas now considered core neighborhoods of the city and within easy walking distance of the downtown Plaza. (At the time, however, some of these areas were considered the outskirts of town.)

“Walking in the Path of the Artists” features four tours. “The Artists’ Neighborhood” tour leads the reader south from downtown, past historical sites, and includes (among others) discussions of the homes of Carlos Vierra, Gustave Baumann, B.J.O. Nordfeldt and Raymond Jonson. “The Canyon Road Loop” walk passes a home designed by William Penhallow Henderson, the historic Rodrigues home that Olive Rush purchased in 1920, as well as other significant artist homes, such as Gerald Cassidy and Sheldon Parsons. “Camino del Monte Sol” walk is rich with artist lore and densely filled with artists’ homes, including the famed Los Cinco Pintores, Andrew Dasburg, Frank Applegate and William Penhallow Henderson. The final section of “Walking in the Path of the Artists” is devoted to downtown Santa Fe. Featuring a historical discussion of the New Mexico Museum of Art, it also provides information on artwork in public places created by the historical artists of Santa Fe.
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