Things Seen and Unseen
BY CYNTHIA BAUGHMAN
Cowboys Real and Imagined is on view at the New Mexico History Museum, and in this issue we round up cowboy and horse stories from across our museums. B. Byron Price, curator of Cowboys, writes about a heretofore little-known photographer, Ella Wormser, who left a rare photographic record of cowboys at work in southern New Mexico. Price’s research into archives and century-old newspapers tells a fascinating woman’s story and puts into historical context a special collection in the Photo Archives of the Palace of the Governors.
Michelle Gallagher Roberts, the registrar at the New Mexico Museum of Art, uncovers a complex story behind a major work in her museum’s collection. She examines two nearly identical Peter Hurd paintings that, for the first time in their sixty years, and for a few months only, hang within shouting distance of each other, one version at the New Mexico History Museum in Cowboys, and the NMMoAversion across the street in It’s About Time: 14,000 Years of Art in New Mexico. Through archival research and interviews, including with the big-hearted subject of the portrait, cowboy Gerald Marr, Roberts pieces together the surprising tale of the creation and journey of the twin paintings.
Joyce Begay-Foss writes about Diné saddle blankets and tack, Rick Hendricks unfurls the history of rope, Joe Traugott gives two views of the paintings of horses in his exhibition Back in the Saddle, and Richard Sims recounts a nonhorseman’s experiences with horses.
Dody Fugate tells the story of a cowboys-and-Indians encounter that does not turn out the way those stories usually go in the movies. It all begins with some old bullet casings in the collections of the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. We illustrate this story with an 1879 map from the Fray Angélico Chávez Library at the New Mexico History Museum and some wonderful period photographs of cowboys, Indians, and soldiers, but perhaps curious readers will wonder: What about those excavated bullets? I’d like to see a picture of them. Where are they? And the answer, in Dody’s words, is “wrapped up in a box marked ‘Bertha Dutton’ on a pallet somewhere in the new archaeology building, and there’s no getting at them until all that stuff is unpacked.” For the past several years, Dody and her colleagues at the Laboratory of Anthropology have been preparing to move to the new Center for New Mexico Archaeology in Santa Fe. This has been a major undertaking, requiring careful conservation and packing of many fragile items for the move. In the next issue, we will bring you an update on this effort and some stories that have emerged from it. And in some future issue, after all those boxes have been unpacked, we will bring you a photograph of those bullet casings from the Box S Canyon.
If you hanker for more than cowboys and horses, Katherine Ware’s interview with William Clift on his photographs of Shiprock and Mont St. Michel reveals how this sublime exhibition is about much more than just “two pointy places next to each other.” Laura Addison analyzes the work of video installation artist Peter Sarkisian, on view at the Museum of Art. And from the Museum of International Folk Art, Felicia Katz-Harris heralds a glorious exhibition of Japanese kites, and Suzanne Seriff introduces an exhibition in the Gallery of Conscience in which folk artists respond to HIV/AIDS.
With this issue we also inaugurate a new column for the magazine, “Why This?” by Penelope Hunter-Stiebel, who wrote about the Museum of Art’s furniture for our last issue. In each column, Hunter-Stiebel will examine one object in the collections of our museums or at the New Mexico Historic Sites, unpack its story, and explain why this piece matters. This month, she focuses on a significant clock on display in Telling New Mexico: Stories from Then and Now, the long-term main exhibition at the New Mexico History Museum. Visitors to Cowboys will want to re-visit the treasures there.