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Along Santa Fe’s Art Trail

Santa Fe, New Mexico, rewards art lovers with outstanding museums plus more than 200 galleries. We found many works we really liked, but just a handful that we could actually afford. No matter; the “hunt” proved exhilarating, the gallery owners were friendly, and the art, a gift to the eye.

We quickly realized that not even the most dedicated art aficionado can see it all, so we began by eyeing the masterworks. Near the plaza, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum showcases paintings and drawings by the region’s legendary star and the New Mexico Museum of Art features, among other things, landscapes by the Taos school.

Bolstered by our quick study, we rummaged through the dusty canvasses piled next to tables at the flea market held Saturdays at the Railyard, a place locals gather for strolling, chatting over coffee and shopping at the farmers market. Despite failing to uncover a lost O’Keeffe or even a fake landscape, we liked chatting with Santa Feans, especially the guy hawking fur coats on the first 75-degree day of spring.

For background on Native American arts, we visited the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, Museum Hill, about two miles from downtown. The facility’s signature exhibit, “Here, Now, Always” uses pots, bowls and other items to detail Native traditions and the facility’s Buchsbaum Gallery of Southwestern Pottery displays examples of the styles, clays and designs created by different pueblos.

We come away coveting the black-on-black vessels of the San Ildefonso Pueblo as well as the earth colored pots carved with nearly geometric patterns produced by the Jemez Pueblo. Even though the museum’s gift shop sold a disappointingly small selection of each, the tags gave us a sense of market prices.

The next day we walked Canyon Road, whose old adobe homes have been turned into galleries. Primarily, Canyon Road features contemporary art. Colorful whirligigs spin in the front yard of Mark White Fine Art and interestingly painted blocks stacked like children’s toys adorn the window of Canyon Road Contemporary Art. Owner Bob Brody told us that years ago he learned not to think, but rather feel when collecting art. “Where your eyes want to fall, that’s the painting for you. Don’t think about appreciation or matching colors, but whether you like the piece.”

We followed that advice to the oversized installation of rock-paper-scissors marking the Selby Fleetwood Gallery. In their garden, we fell in love with a life-size, child’s dress that despite being sculpted of bronze seemed to float in the breeze. It sells for $43,000 without the shipping. Looking, however, was free.

Next, we meandered the streets surrounding Santa Fe’s centuries-old plaza, staring into windows and entering those galleries that appealed to us. At Blue Rain, a mix of work by Native American and other artists from across the U.S., we ogled a traditionally shaped pot decorated with swirls of colors in teardrop shapes. The piece intrigued us, but at $16,000 we had to pass.

Drawn to Native American ceramics, we visited Andrea Fisher Fine Pottery. The gallery is like a museum only better. Those with deep pockets can purchase pieces by Maria Martinez, a famous artist known for popularizing black-on-black pottery. The gallery lists a rare brown and black plate by Maria Martinez for $45,000. But there are less pricey works as well.

We saw “ours,” as Brody predicted: an earth colored bowl with delicate carvings by Wilma Baca of the Jemez Pueblo and the price was relatively modest. After some hesitation, we treated ourselves to the bowl, a memento that enabled us bring back to the east coast a bit of Santa Fe art plus some Native American spirit.

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