Friday, January 25, 2008

Adventures on Turquoise Trail

I slept in today and checked out of the Turquoise Bear. On my way out I asked the manager for a testimony behind the alleged haunting. He confirmed the rumors and said that he has seen many "spirits" in the house, though mainly in the front office. He describes the apparitions more like shadows caught in the periphery than actual ghoulish figures. There were many people coming in and out of the the house during the height of entertaining at the Brynner estate. His theory is that people got so comfortable from hanging out there that they just stuck around in the after life. This explanation satisfies my curiosities though I can't say I regret not running into any ghosts!

TB by day; downtown Santa Fe has been molded entirely out of adobe clay

After leaving the hotel I went downtown to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. The small multi-room gallery exhibits the spectrum of her work from the early water colors to her more well known pieces. In addition, the museum housed a new exhibit of fellow American modernist and contemporary of O'Keeffe, Marsden Hartley. Like O'Keeffe, Hartley drew from the New Mexican landscape for much of his material. His paintings were indeed beautiful but I certainly preferred the O'Keeffe oils. O'Keeffe is among the painters I feel most emotionally connected to, as she is one of the artists I had most exposure to as a child. Pacing slowly through the gallery, I was able to get in touch with my secret wish to have been an Art History major. I bought two small framed prints at the gift shop; one of her iconic cow skull, the other a photograph of O'Keeffe in her 80s, taken at Ghost Ranch sitting below a Calder mobile.

Blue new Mexican sky from atop Museum Mile

I made my way out of central Santa Fe to an area in the outskirts of town called the "Museum Mile" - where the city keeps several of its museums - to visit the Museum of International Folk Art. Folk art is relatively new to me; I hadn't really been introduced to this genre until quite recently. I think this is one of the reasons I like it so much: it is all mine, I came to love it on my own as an adult. The museum featured a large exhibit on a group of African American artists from rural Alabama, drawing on Americana classics like quilts and sculptures made from metal scraps. The presentation of the pieces, which involved a lot of background text and video, gave credit to a large part of American art culture that is so often overlooked. The permanent collection was also quite impressive. An entire hall is filled from floor to ceiling with folk art from around the world. The curator of this exhibit grouped much of the display by theme: dolls, villages, religious pieces, food. I recently read an article in the Times that the Modern Art Museum in Detroit is regrouping its collections in the same fashion. This style of display allows the spectator to draw from commonalities that exist for all members of humankind, making the subject matter much more accessible. The gift shop has some great Day of the Dead figures but were all pretty expensive so I bought a Bhangra mix CD and a CD of music from the 1970s Favela (Gabby I thought of you!)

A map of the Turquoise Trail

Heading south I took the scenic route back to Albuquerque via rt 14 called the Turquoise Trail, which almost triples the length of the drive. There a many things to see along this road but so few are marked that I bet many people miss them.

North of the town of Madrid I stopped at one of the most surreal places I have seen in my life. Just off the side of the road is a massive junkyard of toys and sculpture under a sign reading "Tiny Town." I originally thought this was "Tinker Town" that I had read about on but apparently this is something different (Tinker is unfortunately closed for the winter). I got out of the car and walked onto the grounds expecting to see some sort of authority or at least another person, but it was empty of life, barring a mass of feral cats (Recoletta/311 w. 110th street-style). I wandered around for a while, stupefied by my surroundings. The area is dead silent with only the hum of a wind fan from the perimeter of the garden. As I was leaving I tried setting up my camera on the roof of the car so I could take a self portrait. With the car door left ajar, three of the wild cats hopped in my P.T Loser! For real! I shooed them out and sent them on their way. Of all the sights in New Mexico this was by far the best. Words - nor my paltry photography skills (click to enlarge!) - can't justly illustrate this place.

Sign to Tiny Town: don't blink or you'll miss it!; the gates of Tiny Town

"Violetta! Get the fuckouttamycar!!!"; Finally a self portrait

Back on the road I passed though the proper town of Madrid. I stopped of at a shop called "Cowgirl Red" and bought a pair of vintage cowgirl boots. The shopkeeper told me that a local eccentric named "Tattoo Tammy" is the creator and sole resident of Tiny Town. She gave me the history of Madrid itself. It was once a busting coal mining city with a population of 3,000 people. During the 1950s, as the mines dried up, people fled the city en mass and it was left a veritable ghost town for twenty years. During the 1970s artists from Santa Fe started trickling back and restored many of the boarded up buildings. The town has been an artist colony since. Several of the old mine shafts are visible from rt. 14 on the way out of town.

Madrid, Lazarus town extraordinaire

I now await Phillip to arrive in Albuquerque. Tonight we are driving down to Truth or Consequences. We decided to skip Roswell, despite the prospects of being taking down by stealth fights at Holloman AFB, because it would be too much driving for our short weekend here. I am so excited!

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