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How Chicago came to New Mexico: A product of love and loathing

SANTA FE, N.M. — Everyone has their own story — sometimes a convoluted one — of how they came to live in Santa Fe or New Mexico, and artist Judy Chicago is no different.

In her case, it happened more or less by accident. Or maybe serendipity would be more appropriate.

In a media tour of her new exhibit at the New Mexico Art Museum Wednesday, Chicago, who has lived in Belen since the mid-’90s, said her journey here all started because her Los Angeles-area studio was overflowing with materials for one project and she wanted to get started on another.

“A woman I was working with had a house on Canyon Road (in Santa Fe) that was empty,” Chicago said, so she decamped there to work for what started out as three weeks… then three months… And then she met photographer Donald Woodman and fell in love.

Chicago said she wanted to move back to Los Angeles, and took Woodman there on visits to meet friends. She tried to keep his exposure to the L.A. area limited, she said. “I wanted him to think Santa Monica was Los Angeles.”

Alas, he learned there was more to the urban area than that pleasant enclave, and all bets were off.

“Donald got anxiety attacks because he couldn’t drive 100 mph on the interstate,” she said.

But after a couple of decades, there’s no sign that Chicago intends to change her name to Judy Belen.

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