Part of the Scenery


More than a thousand years ago, Rio Grande potters developed innovative designs for cooking jars that would resist boiling over. In the late nineteenth century, an Acoma man who wanted to be a potter had to dress in women’s clothes. In the 1920s and 1930s, the Museum of New Mexico staff were so poorly paid that many workers were forced to moonlight, and one of them made furniture not only for the museums but also for private clients, extending the influence of his designs. In the 1930s, young people needed jobs and a government program provided them, nurturing traditional arts and enhancing Bandelier National Monument in the process.

These are some of the stories in this issue, which focuses on New Mexico design, and the development and continual evolution of what we loosely refer to as Santa Fe Style. In New Mexico, where the new is layered on top of the old, and the layers are periodically peeled back, we are accustomed to living with genuine old stuff and genuine new stuff and amalgams of the two, which are genuinely something despite occasionally being considered fake something else. Penelope Hunter-Stiebel invites us into the New Mexico Museum of Art to look at the building and the furniture it holds with new eyes. While, as Daniel Kosharek writes in “At the Corner of Lincoln and Palace,” many people assume that the Museum of Art building is as old as its neighbor, the Palace of the Governors, it is in fact early twentieth century, and the building and its furnishings are a complex melding of Hispanic and Native styles—something both old and new.

Hunter-Stiebel’s story of the two men who furnished the Museum of Art takes us into very early issues of El Palacio, on forays through northern New Mexico, and into the far corners of the Museum of Art itself. She entices us to tear our eyes away from the venerable old and the spanking new art on display and to look at the details of the building and of the furniture we rest on when we need a break. The story even ventures into the busy office of Director Mary Kershaw, whose desk tells a key part of the tale. We are grateful to her and to her staff for access to all of the building’s intriguing nooks and crannies.

Christine Mather, author of the influential book Santa Fe Style, raises an anthemic defense of the combination of history and myth-making that has produced Santa Fe Style. Pamela Kelly, director of the Museum of New Mexico Foundation’s licensing program, explains how New Mexico’s layering of cultures and styles yields museum collections that are particularly appealing to contemporary manufacturers and their clients.

With Joan Logghe’s poem, “Sitting Still for Beauty,” we wish you a joyful spring. Logghe recently finished her term as Santa Fe’s poet laureate, and this is one of the poems she wrote about the city while in that august position. “Here we are, part of the scenery, older than we could have imagined,” she writes.Perhaps that is true of us and perhaps it is true of you; perhaps it a state that we anticipate or aspire to or resist. She reports on a woman at the airport telling another, “You have Santa Fe hair.” Logghe doesn’t define “Santa Fe hair,” but you probably know what she means and you probably know if you have it, and if you yourself are part of what makes Santa Fe Style ever-alive and evolving