Art and Beauty Everywhere

Throughout our week-long visit to New Mexico, I was impressed with both the natural beauty and the presence of art in unexpected places. For example, on highway overpasses heading north from Santa Fe. What a wonderful place for public art!

Posuwaegeh overpass, heading North out of Santa Fe. Known as the ‘water drinking place’, P’osuwaegeh Owingeh (The Pueblo of Pojoaque) has historically been a point of rest and refreshment for the traveler or neighboring villager. Photo credit: Dan Chichalski. For more information about highway art in NM, visit

Public Art in Downtown Santa Fe and at Museum Hill

The impression I had, walking and driving around Santa Fe is that art matters here. The city is adorned with public art–large castings of figurative and abstract artworks in front of public buildings. The art I saw spoke to the lifeways of the indigenous people and nature of the region. According to the City of Santa Fe website, “Santa Fe is renowned as a center of art, set in one of the nation’s most historic communities. Its reputation as a city of art comes in no small part from the wealth of art in public places.Since its inception in 1985, the Art in Public Places Program has built a significant public art portfolio for the community of Santa Fe. Consisting of more than seventy-three artworks, the portfolio represents a variety of media, styles, and themes. Public art can be found in civic buildings, along the Santa Fe Trails transit system, and in public parks.”

public art in downtown Santa Fe
Woman and Child with Vessel, Bronze sculpture on Museum Hill on the plaza, Santa Fe

Art for the Chama River–An Ecological Exhibit in Española

After our time in Santa Fe, my friend Susan and I headed North and drove into Española. Seeing a gazebo and public plaza, we and parked the car and got out. There we discovered a Spanish-style mission which seemed very quiet. Everything seemed closed, so we went in search of food. After eating some tasty breakfast burritos at a burger place nearby, we returned to the mission and noticed that this time a door was ajar. Susan and I introduced ourselves to Gabriella as visitors, and she offered to show us around. In the art gallery we saw a wonderful art exhibit by local artists concerned about the health of the Chama River. Here is a link to information about the Chama River Watershed and the issues they are facing. The next few images are of artworks from the exhibit. I’m sorry I didn’t take the time to write down the artists names and titles of the artworks.

This wall relief was composed of two large rectangular metal panels hung vertically and joined together with wire and various other elements. I enjoyed seeing how the artist used color, and contrasting the metal background with painted the images including fish swimming upstream and blue flowing lines that represent the river.
This 3-D construction is made of branches and handmade paper. It is illuminated from within.
This lovely wall relief composed of repeating circular paper elements strung vertically on cords was delicate and lively.
This is a detail of the hanging piece shown above.

Murals and Traditional Crafts in Chimayo

Chimayo is known as a weaving center with long-standing traditions. We enjoyed seeing this mural on the side wall of the Espanola Valley Fiber Arts Center.
A display of pottery and other artifacts at the Chimayo Trading Post in Espanola, New Mexico. This trading post is on the National Register of Historic Places.
A pottery display case at Chimayo Trading Post, Espanola, New Mexico.

On to Abiquiu–In the Path of Creative Women

Ghost Ranch Education and Retreat Center outside of Abiquiu was a dude ranch when Georgia O’Keeffe first visited there. In the early years, she rented a cottage on the property in the summers. Eventually,, O’Keeffe purchased the cottage and made it into her summer home. You can find more details about Georgia’s special relationship to this place here:

Hills and cliffs at Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu, New Mexico

At Ghost Ranch the winds were blowing.

Because of the powerful winds gusting up to 70 mph, we found out that most of the trails at Ghost Ranch were closed for hiking. So Susan and I retreated to the safety of the indoor spaces including the lovely Florence Hawley Ellis Museum of Anthropology. The Museum is named for the late Dr. Florence Hawley Ellis, long-time professor of anthropology at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. Dr. Ellis was one of the first women to receive a PhD in anthropology from the University of Chicago, in 1934. She initiated and led Ghost Ranch archaeology excavations from 1971 until 1990. Excavations continue today on two sites located on Ghost Ranch property. Education seminar classes in anthropology are available during the summer.You can learn more about it here:

I loved these simple bowls from Mesa Verde in the museum, with the stories about their use both in daily living and for an offering to the rising sun.
This is a view of the beautiful layered cliffs at Ghost Ranch. I took this photo on the gravel road that takes you in and out of the Ghost Ranch complex. It shows the stormy sky while the winds were blowing.

Echo Amphitheater–a brief visit

Echo Amphitheater on National Forest Service land is just a few miles west of Ghost Ranch. Another visitor we spoke with at Ghost Ranch suggested Echo Amphitheater as a place to get out of the wind. However, when Susan and I arrived, the sand was swirling. So we only made it part way on the trail before retreating back to the car. And it several hours for us to clear the sensation of sand in our eyes. Back at the Abiquiu Inn, we discovered the power was out. What a dramatic day!

Echo Amphitheater during the wind storm, April 2022

Water–The Most Precious Resource for Life.

After spending a week as a tourist in New Mexico, I was struck by my overriding awareness of water, Its presence and its absence. For the New Mexican people,, drought and forest fires have become their new reality. As a tourist, I was disappointed that little to no effort was made to educate visitors about water conservation. In fact, the Ojo spa we stayed at was actually watering their lawn with a sprinkler system one morning. It blew my mind that they would try to grow a lawn rather than to cultivate native plants. When, I wonder, will the green lawn finally become a relic of history?

Installation of sculpture in downtown Santa Fe. Is she holding the bowl to catch sacred rainwater or does the bowl contain an offering?

Some thoughts about water in Northern New Mexico

I am thinking about

How the water at the Abiquiu Inn was run by electricity–no power, no water.

How the Rio Grande, a once mighty river, has been reduced to a trickle.

How water is conserved and doled out for limited usage.

How some land comes with “water rights” making that land more valuable.

How water from snow melt high in the mountains is trapped by dams and doled out sparingly to individuals and communities.

How artists can respond to water as a vital life element.

Figurative stone sculpture by a waterfall at Ojo Santa Fe Spa

Climate concerns, compassion for New Mexico and for our planet

The mega drought that has afflicted the people of New Mexico for almost a year has caused wildfires and water scarcity. It is part of the ongoing challenge of living in an era of climate catastrophe. Similarly, we have our own climate-driven challenges here in Maine. These challenges include a rapidly warming ocean and the impact on fisheries, more extreme weather events which cause disruption of many kinds, and lack of consistent rainfall which impacts our aquifers and wells. As artists and as foremothers and forefathers of future generations, we must work to conserve the natural resources we have and to find a sustainable path forward.

Art and beauty on Museum Hill: Water Spirit, bronze sculpture. You can see the Apache Mountain Spirit Dancer Sculpture behind Water Spirit.

Art and beauty connect us to one another

Some final thoughts–We are all connected on this planet, and one life touches another in many ways, seen and unseen. Our shared experiences with art and the beauty of nature can bind us together in this uncertain and ever changing world.