We are coming to the close of our season up here on the High Road. Traditionally, it runs from the first of July through the end of September or October, weather depending. Anna and I will close the gallery shortly and move into our home studios to paint. The season has been good to us.
People who are unfamiliar with the art heritage of this place are surprised to find so many artists living in these remote villages. They are even more amazed to learn we make our livings from selling art up here. But the High Road is famous among art collectors. The art tourist knows about us and they travel from all over the world to come into our studios and galleries. It’s a good life.
The High Road is the old highway, now a scenic byway, running between Santa Fe and Taos, two towns that also draw the collector. Santa Fe actually goes back and forth with New York City as the second and third largest art market in the world each year. Paris is always number one. Then there’s the Low Road, or the new highway between Santa Fe and Taos. There are some great art villages along that route too, as well as wineries, and a restaurant where you can sip margaritas and dangle your feet in the Rio Grande river. Despite all that, I’m particularly pleased to have chosen the High Road.
Art has been a way of life in these villages from the very first inhabitants, the Native Americans, and then the Spanish colonists after them. Many of the people here still practice the traditional arts passed down by their parents, their parents’ parents and grandparents, be it weaving, carving, pottery, tin work, santos, retablos. I have a friend who is a seventh generation weaver whose work is in the Smithsonian. His 16 year-old daughter shares his talent but has said, “Eighth generation or not, I’ll weave if I want and I won’t if I don’t”. Time will tell but the heritage is hers if she wants it. These villages are rich with tradition that seems to anchor people to this land.
Now we are here: The contemporary working artist. Bill and Margaret Franke, Paula Castillo and Terry Mulert, Barbara McCauley and Alvaro Cardona-Hine, Nancy Ortenstone and Pierre Delattre were trailblazers. They’ve all been here for a couple of decades now.
Over the years this trio of cultures, Indian, Spanish and Anglo, has found a way to coexist while still holding our distinctions.
When we come here as outsiders it’s imperative that we come with respect for those who have gone before and for the subsequent generations that are still here. Life in these mountains, especially in those early days when hardship was more common than not and survival dependent on the whims of Mother Nature, is challenging. The local people and their ancestors carved out a place for themselves from this hardscrabble land and unpredictable weather. They hold it at great cost and that must be honored.
This place is not for everybody and those of us who end up here carry a bit of the renegade in us, I think. We must accept each other’s idiosyncrasies as well as our own. It’s a good lesson. And we must work hard to get along because we need each other up here. Like any relationship, this village shows myself to me and it is teaching me, with stubborn insistence, to be compassionate with all of us—for our human foibles, our broken hearts, our challenges, our personalities, our journeys.
We come together as human beings and as artists. We shore each other up because we are all pursuing the dream. We all “get it”. So even though we are individuals and we create a wide variety of art, we share common ground: The path of the serious working artist that led us to these villages in this remote mountain range in northern New Mexico.
All of us up here understand what Agnes de Mille meant when she said, “Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little. The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.”