Taos, New Mexico, known for its historic Pueblo, towering mountains and plunging Rio Grande Gorge, lures art lovers too. At the Millicent Rogers Museum and the Harwood Museum as well as in adobe walled galleries admire historic and contemporary southwestern art.
When New York socialite and heiress Millicent Rogers arrived in Taos with
friends in 1947, she was taken with the landscape, the light and the culture. She purchased fine examples of blankets, baskets, paintings and jewelry until her death in 1953. In 1956 the Rogers family opened the Millicent Rogers Museum as a tribute.
Using Rogers’ collections as the core, the museum, in a quiet neighborhood on the outskirts of Taos, showcases the region’s arts and crafts. With 15 small galleries, the select objects shine like gems, making it easy to learn about these treasures.
Two rows of blankets and textiles adorn a hall-like gallery; a dozen Hopi and Apache baskets highlight a nook; and a score of pots present the black or polychrome buff on red of the San Ildefonso Pueblo artisans.
Several displays showcase the iconic silver and turquoise necklaces and bracelets of the Navajo and other Rio Grande Valley nations. A cache of modern silver necklaces based on traditional motifs designed by Rogers are presented as well. Two galleries host changing exhibits, one from the permanent collection and the other a show of a local artist. Don’t miss the gift shop with its interesting collection of books, woven pillows, silk scarves and baskets.
The Harwood Museum of Art of the University of New Mexico, located in town on historic Ledoux Street, pays homage to traditional arts and crafts as well as contemporary art. In the main gallery, the one with the grand piano, hang works from the Taos Society of Artists established in the early 20th century, as well as other artists of the first-half of the twentieth century.
Works include canvases that romanticize the west such as E. I. Couse’s “Cacique,” or wise man, who is both too young and clad in an adorned, but non-Taos Pueblo blanket. Note Hans Paap’s painting of influential Taos residents Mabel Dodge and her Native American husband Tony Luhan. Other galleries feature Hispanic furniture and religious objects such as bultos, carved religious figures.
We like the museum’s contemporary collection best. Note Robert Ray’s 1956 portrait of Dorothy Brett, one of the Taos modern painters, and spend time among the seven abstract line paintings by some time resident Agnes Martin in her namesake gallery.
The Beatrice Mandelman and Louis Ribak Gallery, the museum’s newest addition, showcases changing exhibitions. In “Nod Nod, Wink, Wink,” a conceptual show displayed through the summer, consider whether a design of 11 rubber bands, a mirrored noose, or what sounds like a drop of water hitting a puddle of green goo are art and if so, why?
After visiting the Harwood, located on Ledoux Street, allow time to browse the several galleries edging this historic, narrow street, one of Taos’ prettiest. Among the must-sees: R.C. Gorman’s Navajo Gallery, the E. L. Blumenschein Home & Museum and Inger Jirby’s Gallery and Sculpture Garden.