Exploring the Land of Adobe / Christmas with Cacti

Santa Fe is synonymous with adobe. Santa Fe is adobe. Adobe is Santa Fe. It seems that just about all the structures there are made with it, and if not with true adobe itself, then with something the locals call ‘faux-dobe’ – all so the aesthetic of the town remains consistent. (In fact, I believe that within a certain area of town there may be a law stipulating that one must use adobe -or ‘faux-dobe’- but I’m not 100% sure about that).  It certainly gives the town a distinctive character that is… well… just adorable…

The Plaza sits in the center of downtown Santa Fe...

The Plaza sits in the center of downtown Santa Fe…

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I mean, even the little hut for the parking lot attendant is adobe! Now THAT is commitment!

I mean, even the little hut for the parking lot attendant is adobe! Now THAT is commitment!

(Note: All of the pictures above were taken during a previous visit to Santa Fe in the spring of 2012 – not long before I left for my sabbatical travels, actually. By the time I arrived to Santa Fe in December 2012, I had a pretty serious case of camera-fatigue – five months of constant photographing abroad had taken its toll on me, which resulted in a somewhat incomplete documentation of Santa Fe at that time. Lucky for me, I had been there before and had these pictures!) When I wasn’t working in the studio at SFAI or otherwise stuck in ‘strip-mall-landia,’ I was exploring the town, and eating as much New Mexican cuisine as I could get my hands on. (Two words for you: green chile. Oh, and a third word: sopapillas. YUM). Tia Sophia’s on W. Francisco Street will forever hold a place in my heart, and the happy hour cheap tacos at the Pink Adobe have found their way in there too… IMG_1552 6.24.59 PM There’s also a great farmer’s market at the Santa Fe Railyard once a week where you can eat delicious tamales and find just about any configuration of red chilli craft that you can imagine… IMG_1067 IMG_1068 IMG_1757 IMG_1063 IMG_1055 5.07.39 PM IMG_1057 5.07.39 PM Of course, food isn’t the only thing to be consumed in Santa Fe. There’s a lot of great art to see as well. In fact, Santa Fe has the third (?) largest art market in the U.S.! (Who knew?) For your contemporary art fix, head to the Center for Contemporary Arts Santa FeIMG_0523 IMG_0525 3.07.16 PM … or to Site Santa FeIMG_1045 IMG_1038 There’s also the lovely Georgia O’Keefe Museum to check out. I’m not a big fan of her work, but the museum is really well put together and I learned a lot about her as a person and an artist. Is it possible to admire a person but not really like their artwork? Turns out, it is! IMG_1821 And of course, when you are exploring the Santa Fe art scene, you have to make the obligatory visit to Canyon Road. This half-mile stretch of road is swarming with upscale ‘established’ commercial galleries that -in this blogger’s opinion- show pretty mediocre/boring art (with a few exceptions, of course). However, most galleries manage to do BIG business there. It baffles my mind, but no matter. It’s still a pretty place to take a stroll… IMG_1876 IMG_1901 For me, the most exciting and inspiring aspect of the arts in Santa Fe wasn’t the fancy-shmancy commercial galleries or the cutting-edge contemporary art spaces. Oh no. It was the Museum of International Folk Art, located on the lovely Museum Hill just a short drive out of downtown Santa Fe… IMG_0883 This museum is incredible – I love it so much that I’ve visited it at least three different times! The permanent collection is packed -literally- from ceiling to floor with works of art from all over the world. The room is full of color and everywhere you look, you find something interesting to explore. So many wonderful objects made by artists, artisans, crafters, and plain-ole everyday folks from across the globe (many of them women, no doubt), throughout hundreds of years – I can spend hours looking at it all (and I have!)… IMG_0888 IMG_0904 1.38.45 PM IMG_0933 1.38.45 PM IMG_0954 4.48.08 PM IMG_0965 IMG_0970 IMG_1006 5.02.57 PM IMG_0983 4.48.08 PMIMG_0988 4.48.08 PM IMG_1008 5.02.57 PM IMG_1015 IMG_1014 IMG_1012 IMG_1017 IMG_1128 IMG_9457 IMG_9447 IMG_9455 The museum is heaven for anybody who loves miniatures, like me… IMG_0950 4.48.08 PM IMG_0924 IMG_0928 1.38.45 PM IMG_1158 IMG_0906 And there’s a great selection of works for embroidery lovers as well… IMG_9434 IMG_9435 IMG_9440 The museum has some structural/operational issues, sure – the labeling system in the permanent collection is kind of a mess, and you often find yourself looking at something with very little information or context, wishing for more. And for some people, the sheer amount of artworks packed together in the absurdly colorful room can be a bit overwhelming… IMG_0898 1.38.45 PM IMG_0976 4.48.08 PM IMG_9443 But these things don’t bother me too much. In fact, I love it  because of these little quirks.  At the end of the day, it’s the art – the objects themselves- that have me riveted, well-labeled or not. This kind of work is (sadly) underrated in the mainstream ‘fine art/contemporary art’ establishment and yet it requires so much talent to produce and is so inspiring! I often find more inspiration in this kind of work than I do in most contemporary art, to be honest… IMG_9438 IMG_9458 If the permanent collection is a bit too overwhelming for you, the museum also has other exhibitions that are more carefully curated and presented in a more traditional museum format… IMG_1148 5.18.55 PM IMG_1121 There are also temporary exhibitions that change throughout the year. When I was there in December of 2012, there was a great exhibition about traditional Macedonian embroidered dress… IMG_1072 IMG_1079 5.08.34 PM IMG_1076 IMG_1087 IMG_1102 5.11.18 PM And when I returned to the museum for Thanksgiving in 2013, there was an excellent exhibition about Japanese kites… IMG_9484 IMG_9481 IMG_9483 What a wonderful place it is! If you are ever in Santa Fe, do yourself a favor and go there! Of course, enjoying the food and art of Santa Fe is only half of the experience. The natural environment of northern New Mexico is truly wonderful and must be explored. Whether it’s hiking around Ghost Ranch, or even just taking a walk on the Atalaya Mountain hiking trail near St. John’s University, the wonders of the high-altitude desert environment await…

From the Atalaya Mountain trail...

From the Atalaya Mountain trail…

It's nice when trail markers make your choices clear...

It’s nice when trail markers make your choices clear…

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(Photo by Heather Doyle Haxby)

(Photo by Heather Doyle Haxby)

IMG_0496 Although I wasn’t able to visit during my December trip, the Tent Rocks National Monument is definitely worth the hour drive it takes to get there from the city. Here are a few pictures from my hike there in the Spring of 2012… IMG_2029 IMG_2067 IMG_2082 Another great spot to enjoy the natural world AND see some prehistoric artifacts of early Pueblo civilization while you’re at it is the Bandelier National Monument. You can see ruins (and some reconstructions) of ancient structures… IMG_1444 IMG_1458 6.19.20 PM IMG_1474 6.24.40 PM … cave-dwellings carved directly into the soft rocks… IMG_1457 6.19.20 PM IMG_1464 6.19.20 PM IMG_1480 IMG_1484 6.24.40 PM

Drew getting comfy in a cave dwelling...

Drew getting comfy in a cave dwelling…

…and ancient petroglyphs that adorn the rock walls… IMG_1505 6.24.40 PM

Look closely and you'll see the pteroglyphs...

Look closely and you’ll see the petroglyphs…

IMG_1503 6.24.40 PM IMG_1509 6.24.40 PM Once you walk along the park’s paved walkway for quite some time, you can loop back to the park entrance or choose to continue onto a forested path. Back in the trees near a small frozen creek, the winter snow muffled all sound and when we were quiet enough, we found some furry friends there… IMG_1511 6.24.40 PM IMG_1550 6.24.40 PM

Tassel eared squirrels - perhaps the most majestic of all squirrels known to mankind.... (Photo courtesy of the Bandelier National Monument website)

Tassel eared squirrels – perhaps the most majestic of all squirrels known to mankind? We were lucky to spot a few of these cute little fellas… (Photo courtesy of the Bandelier National Monument website)

As you continue on this forest path, you find yourself at the foot of a set of veeery tall wooden ladders leaning against the rocks that take you up to an enormous cave dwelling. IMG_1523 6.24.40 PM I’ll admit that the climb was just a touch frightening for me, as you get up pretty high pretty quickly. But the ladders were sturdy and easy to climb, so I pushed through my (slight) fear of heights and continued upward… IMG_1526 6.24.40 PM This cave, the ‘Alcove House,’ once housed some 25 people at the same time, and is home to a Puebloan kiva – an underground room used for spiritual and religious ceremonies… IMG_1530 6.24.40 PM

Drew checks out the kiva...

Drew checks out the kiva…

A small ladder that takes you down inside the kiva...

The small ladder that takes you down inside the kiva…

Looking up from inside the kiva at the cave and sky above...

Looking up from inside the kiva at the cave and sky above…

Such a neat experience – definitely worth the climb! Of course, my story of Santa Fe wouldn’t be complete without mention of the Christmas that I spent there…

The Plaza, all decked out in holiday lights...

The Plaza, all decked out in holiday lights…

As my residency ran the full month of December, I spent the holiday at SFAI, more or less on my own – a ‘Christmas orphan’ of sorts. But don’t worry! Even though I was on my own, I actually had quite a nice holiday season with a little help from my friends. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I got to do some Christmas tree shopping and decorating with Drew’s brother and his fiancé. Nothing like crafting homemade Christmas ornaments to get you into the spirit… IMG_0576 2.36.49 PM IMG_0582 IMG_0590 IMG_0593 And a few lights and a Christmas cactus made things in the common room at SFAI cheery… IMG_0635 5.20.16 PM IMG_0639 5.20.16 PM I also assembled the tiniest of ‘trees’ for my room, and I even had some Christmas goodies mailed to me by a few lovely friends and family… IMG_1280 2 IMG_1264 On Christmas eve, I was very kindly invited to the family home of my lovely friend, Simon. (Remember him from the last blog post? Architect and Santa Fe native – he gave me a lesson on architectural paper model making at my studio). His family and friends very graciously welcomed me into their home for the holiday, serving up delicious food and holiday cheer. The family cats, on the other hand, were a bit more cautious about my presence… IMG_1266 5.52.16 PM After dinner, we ventured down to Canyon Road for a Santa Fe holiday tradition – the Farolito Walk. Businesses and homeowners put out hundreds of farolitos (“little lanterns”)- made with sand, votive candles and paper bags- all along their streets, garden walls, and rooftops, making for a uniquely beautiful holiday scene… IMG_1204 5.45.19 PM IMG_1221 5.45.19 PM IMG_1231 5.45.19 PM IMG_1260 People stroll along, buying cider and coffee from roadside stands and sip their…ahem… ‘adult’ beverages out of flasks. They chat together, pop in and out of galleries, sing, shout out “Merry Christmas!” heartily to the crowd from time to time, and gather around the small bonfires scattered throughout the neighborhood… IMG_1209 5.45.19 PM IMG_1261 IMG_1240 It truly is a lovely scene – a bit crowded at times, but all in all, festive and fun. We even got to crash a fancy-schmancy party of a high-society friend-of-a-friend. Oh-la-la… IMG_1225 5.45.19 PM On Christmas day, I spent most of my time on the phone and Skype talking with friends and family. I baked some of my famous chocolate chip cookies (a bit of a challenge in the high altitude of Santa Fe, I admit), and took them over to Simon’s house for yet another holiday meal. It really was so kind of him and his family to take me in for Christmas! I will always be very grateful to them for that. And so ends my story of a wonderful month in Santa Fe. I fear that at some times it may read like a travel guide or brochure. What can I say? I love it there and can’t help but write in a way that will (hopefully) encourage you to go too. I hope to go back there again some day myself… IMG_0586

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