Sunday, September 29th, 2013

Land Art - Journal Entry No. 11

11:36pm - Motel 6, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Yesterday, after nearly a week of camping at the Apache National Forest, we finally left the depths of rural New Mexico to head back into civilization. There were a few stops made along the way, including a snack break in Pie Town, a short visit to the Windmill Museum, and an in depth information session at the Very Large Array. Not only did these breaks make the long commute to Santa Fe enjoyable, but they also provided an interesting outlook on the state of New Mexico. Our first stop in Pietown was only a few miles away from where we took off. Throughout our time in Quemado, many locals strongly suggested that we pay a visit to the neighboring town’s most well known dessert shop, The Pie-O-Neer. As the name obviously suggests, Pietown was established after word spread of the area’s delicious pies. As more people became aware, more pie shops began to populate the little town; soon after, an annual Pie Festival, comprised of numerous related events, activities, and of course, a pie baking competition followed. Although we missed that festival by a few weeks deciding to drop by one of the best pie shops in the area gave us an unbelievably delicious taste of what Pietown stands for. The Pie-O-Neer’s friendly staff was happy and ready to serve us a great variety of warm, mouth watering pies. My personal favorite was a unique apple jalapeño pie. The interesting combination sent my taste buds on a delightful ride that was equal parts sweet and spicy. It was an eating experience I will never forget; with a mother and brother with a passion for cooking, I knew my family of self proclaimed foodies would appreciate a place like this. Like most of my colleagues, I opted to buy postcards at the adorable shop and mail them to my family. I wished more than anything that I could have them there with me, but if they weren’t able to enjoy the pie I was having, at least they might smile knowing that I thought of them while savoring it.

Further into our drive, we visited a different space that promised what Matteo called “The Very Large Array.” This part of New Mexico looked straight out of a western film. There was nothing but grass for miles and miles and the most beautiful, open road I have yet to see. After driving on that road for a while, we suddenly came across hundreds of large, white satellites. This happened to be the Very Large Array we were promised. As soon as we noticed them, we made the next right turn onto a narrow, dirt road leading to the VLA’s information center. We learned that these strategically placed machines are used to detect outside life (yes, aliens!) and that the government selected this land for its quiet isolation and dry atmosphere; an environment we’ve become accustomed to, as many Land Artists are attracted to it for the exhibition of their works. We were in the middle of nowhere again, but as of late, I’ve found it increasingly interesting to see the many different utilizations of these landscapes. They make me wonder why more people haven’t settled out here. These vast, barren locations are the best for unlimited creativity and discovery. We’ve viewed the work of many artists, scientists and other talented individuals who’ve succeeded in presenting their projects here. With all of this potential, why haven’t more people taken advantage of this seemingly unlimited available space?

After considering that notion and the many different things we saw on the way, I was excited to finally arrive in Santa Fe. Admittedly, I didn’t know much about the city other than from a reference made in a beloved Broadway musical. In the musical-turned-film,Rent, the main characters all struggle to keep their heads above water in New York’s expensive economy and its effect on their Alphabet City neighborhood. In one scene, they begin to sing “Santa Fe,” a song on leaving their miseries behind in New York to open a financially prosperous restaurant in the sunny Southwestern city. One of my favorite verses is the opening of the song where a college professor sings, Well, I'm thwarted by a metaphysic puzzle and I'm sick of grading papers that I know. I'm shouting in my sleep, I need a muzzle. And all this misery pays no salary, so let's open up a restaurant in Santa Fe. Oh, sunny Santa Fe would be nice. Let's open up a restaurant in Santa Fe and leave this to the roaches and mice. As I hummed the tune in the van, I would soon realize that these lyrics would become a thought I would have myself. But how can a true New Yorker really consider leaving the Big Apple to go south? Well, when you visit Santa Fe, the appeal makes much more sense.

This morning, we got to see the city in daylight. It had all of the beautiful attributes of the Southwest- buildings made of the red sandstone we had seen in the Valley of Fire State Park, cultural influences of the cowboys, Native Americans, and South Americans, blissful sunshine, and perfectly warm temperatures. Another thing that added to the city’s beauty was a strong art presence. Not only are the music filled streets decorated in boldly painted skulls and animal bones, but there are art galleries and museums everywhere. After a great breakfast at the Tune Up Cafe, which also housed a few Georgia O’Keeffe inspired murals, we passed  many different galleries on the way to our first museum stop, which happened to contain her works. Georgia O’Keeffe became a prominent artist in New York City at the beginning of the 20th century. Later on in her career, she relocated to Santa Fe where she lived and worked until her death in the 1980’s. O’Keeffe is recognized as the mother of American modernism with her famous large scale works of enlarged flower blossoms. It was clear, both from the small museum which housed some of her more abstract pieces and personal photographs, that her influence in this community was great.

What struck me the most about our visit to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum was a quote by the artist plastered on the wall at the museum’s entrance. It read:

“Where I was born and where and how I lived is unimportant. It is what I have done with where I have been that should be of interest.”

— Georgia O’Keeffe, American Visual Artist

These two sentences made me think about New York and how so many of my peers decide to live there only to work uninspired jobs just to pay the rent. Granted, in New York you can make the right connections to succeed in whatever path you chose, but people easily lose that in favor of financial prosperity. Georgia O’Keeffe made a name for herself in New York, but she made a legend for herself in Santa Fe. What she had done in this city is admirable, and considering Rent’s song “Santa Fe,” it’s clear that this city offers its residents a comfortable environment in which to lead the lives they want to live. Georgia O’Keeffe proved that.

We spent the rest of the day touring many museums, including the New Mexico Museum of Art, The Museum of International Folk Art, and a lesser known James Turrell skyspace. The day also included a beautiful lunch in a park in the center of town before spending some time exploring the city’s vintage shops and clothing boutiques. Finally, the night ended at the Cowgirl Hall of Fame, a restaurant with live country music, the most delicious frozen margaritas and the best exotic Tex Mex I’ve ever had in my life. The group had such an excellent time in Santa Fe and I think many of us wished we could stay longer. All in all, it was an amazing city and one that I hope to visit again soon. I can even imagine myself longing for it once I get back to New York City.

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Photography Credit: Rosanna Bach

Rosanna Bach photographer, writer, and storyteller was born in Switzerland in 1990. She completed a BBA in Design Management at Parsons the New School for Design in 2012. After completing her degree, Rosanna moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina where she lived for five months working on a personal project, "Fear Builds Walls." As a result she is fluent in English, Spanish and German. In 2013 Rosanna graduated from the Documentary and Photojournalism program at the International Centre of Photography. She now lives and works in New York City.

Originally published on Promote & Preserve.