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Mabel Dodge Luhan, a major player in the northern NM art scene, is the focus of a new exhibition in Taos and Albuquerque

During this quiet time of the year when we’re tempted to stay indoors and recover from the craziness of the November-December holidays, it can be fun to think about what we have to look forward to in this new year.

When it comes to area museums, the list is loaded with attractions ranging from the life-and-death serious to the whimsical.

For one of the most intriguing, though, one which will spotlight a seminal figure in the flowering of art in northern New Mexico, Santa Feans will have to drive either north or south to see it.

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“Mabel Dodge Luhan & Company: American Moderns and the West” will examine the impact Luhan and the people she attracted to Taos had on Western art and its brand of modernism.

Curated by MaLin Wilson-Powell and Lois Rudnick, the exhibition will open at The Harwood Museum of Art in Taos on May 22 and remain in place through Sept. 11, after which it will travel to The Albuquerque Museum of Art and History (Oct. 29, 2016-Jan. 22, 2017) and the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo, N.Y. (March 10-May 28, 2017).

Dodge Luhan gathered artists of all types around her and created salons for an interchange of ideas in Florence, Italy and Greenwich Village in New York City before transplanting her passions to Taos.

Nicolai Fechin painted this oil on canvas portrait of Mabel Dodge Luhan in 1927. It will be one of the many works in an exhibition opening this May at the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos that will examine Dodge Luhan’s impact on modernism in the Southwest. (Courtesy of William J. O’Connor)

Nicolai Fechin painted this oil on canvas portrait of Mabel Dodge Luhan in 1927. It will be one of the many works in an exhibition opening this May at the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos that will examine Dodge Luhan’s impact on modernism in the Southwest. (Courtesy of William J. O’Connor)

The exhibition will include 45 paintings, 36 photographs, 39 works on paper and 13 sculptures, along with other objects to give a flavor of how modernism expanded to, and was interpreted by, the Southwest, including works of artists Dodge Luhan attracted to the Taos area, among them Georgia O’Keeffe, Ansel Adams and Marsden Hartley, and how their work traded influences with Native American and Hispanic artists in the region.

The visual arts won’t stand alone, though. The exhibition is expected to use music, audio and video to include in the mix wordsmiths and dancers, such as Willa Cather, D. H. Lawrence, Martha Graham, Robert Edmond Jones and others, to help bring alive the ferment in the arts Dodge Luhan helped stir up during her lifetime (1879-1962).

Divided into eight sections, the exhibition will also tell Dodge Luhan’s own story and how her artistic interests evolved. Look for a host of lectures, films and other activities to be scheduled with this ground-breaking show.

Other exhibitions to look forward to this year include:

  • “Fractured Faiths: Spanish Judaism, the Inquisition and New World Identities,” which will open May 22 and is tentatively scheduled to remain on display through the end of the year at the New Mexico History Museum. This show will trace the diaspora of Spanish Jews to the New World and New Mexico as Jews and Muslims in the late 15th and early 16th centuries were ordered to leave Spain or convert to Catholicism. Some of the Jews coming to New Mexico after that order were practicing Catholics, while some continued to practice their Jewish faith and traditions in secret. Objects from both Spain and the New World will be displayed together to show the linkages, and individual stories will be told, such as the long reach of the Spanish Inquisition to question the faith of a 17th-century governor and his wife in Spain’s outpost in what is now New Mexico.
  • That same museum will take a more contemporary look at local culture with “Lowriders, Hoppers and Hot Rods: Car Culture of Northern New Mexico,” which is scheduled to open May 1 and continue until March 5, 2017. A collection of photographs of the imaginatively ornamented cars will be on display, along with an actual chromed engine, miniature model cars, trophies and other memorabilia. A complementary exhibit at the New Mexico Museum of Art will open May 20 with photographs and art inspired by car culture.

“It’s all part of an American love affair with the internal combustion engine and the glimmering accoutrements that these vehicles have inspired through history,” Daniel Kosharek, photo curator with the History Museum, said in a news release. His first car, by the way, was a 1957 Chevy two-door hardtop that was royal blue on the bottom, baby blue on top.

  • At the Museum of Indian Art and Culture, “Wide Ruins to Red Lake: New Works by Melanie Yazzie” will showcase the Navajo artist’s storytelling works with a theme of homeland and female archetypes. It will be on display for one year beginning June 30. That museum also will gather 200 works from its own collections, as well as some borrowed ones, spanning the dimensions from traditional pottery to cyberspace, to tell about “Into the Future: Cultural Power in Native American Art.” That exhibition will open July 17, 2016, and run through Oct. 1, 2017.
  • The Morris Miniature Circus, which was exhibited at the Museum of International Folk Art in 1986, will return to public view April 3. Built over 40 years by W.J. “Windy” Morris of Amarillo, Texas, the 3/8″-scale model is meant to represent a 1930s “railroad circus,” which traveled from town to town. Some 100,000 pieces are included in the display, which the museum acquired in 1984. It will be on display through Jan. 8, 2017, in the East Bartlett Gallery.

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