Three nights in the car was enough; while free and warmer than the tent, sleeping on the boards is less comfortable and makes my hips hurt. It’s also impossible to get dressed without mildly assaulting Kate in the process. So on the drive to Santa Fe we searched for a place to stay that hit that sweet spot of cheap but not too sketchy. One place seemed to fit the bill, called, wouldn’t you know it, Cottonwood Court. Our night taken care of, we set about our day. Shower at the gym, and then some juevos rancheros.
We’re definitely over budget for the Southwest portion of our trip and I am at peace with that, because the reason is food. Kate and I are together in feeling that New Mexico is probably not where we make our new home. We still have some cities to see, but the dessert, while powerfully beautiful and full of surprises, seems like a great place for us to visit but not to live. This region will change the way we live though, because wherever we set up our new home we’ll be cooking way more southwestern food.
The first thing we learned about Santa Fe is that it’s an art town. A high art town. We walked down Canyon Street passing dozens of galleries and stopping in here and there. The winner for us was the Longworth, showing many works by Vladimir Kush. A new artist to both of us, he paints imaginative surrealist works that are filled with heart and whimsy.
There was no photography allowed in the gallery, and the man who worked there was so kind and generous with his time that I didn’t want to break his rules. I went online and found some of the works we saw to share here. Obviously it’s different live and in person but I hope you can zoom in and enjoy these half as much as we did.
A native New Mexican described Santa Fe to us as “Adobe Disneyland,” and that bore out. Every building is Pueblo style here, including the IHOP and the parking garage: Stucco painted in earth tones with thick roof beams poking out (maybe just for show,) flat roofs with boxy gutter spouts, garlands of drying red peppers called ristras hanging everywhere, and turquoise seemingly the only splash of color allowed.
We walked the blocks around the central plaza, looking into shops of “pawn” turquoise jewelry, silver work, and Native American folk art, especially blankets and pottery. I wondered how such a profusion of places selling the same things could exist, thinking this place must be packed with tourists in their prime season. The pottery appealed to me the most, and it was fascinating to see the distinctive style of each Pueblo. The Navajo pieces were rainbows of color, while the Acoma only used black, white, and a burnt orange to produce geometric patterns bordering on optical illusions, and the Jemez were only orange and exposed clay, using motifs that reminded me of the century old petroglyphs we’ve been exploring. Some pieces were not painted but fired with horse hair on them to create charred patterns. Again, no pictures allowed so here’s some I found from the internet.
We also stumbled onto Bill Worre’s gallery. He was the creator of the huge anthropomorphic shaman statue in Seminole Valley, and here was a smaller version of that same piece, along with a bunch of other variations. The woman who worked there was wonderful, and told us the origin story of the work. On a boating trip Worrell and a companion sought shelter in a cave during a storm, and when the floodwaters receded they were looking at ancient petroglyphs. Worrell was deeply impacted and decades of art were the result.
We got out of the touristy part of the city and found a bookstore, then a restaurant for a late, queso-centric lunch. After hours of walking around we were feeling the altitude; Santa Fe is over a mile up and the lower oxygen content can make you feel tired and occasionally lightheaded. We checked into our motel and enjoyed the comforts of a real bed and television. The owners were lovely people, and first the wife, then the husband practically demanded that we could not leave Santa Fe without visiting Meow Wolf. They handed out the flyer like true believers distributing a soul-saving pamphlet. They loved it, their daughter loved it, everyone from the the city loved it, people from out of town loved it, we had to go. Jesse and Alex already highly recommended the strange, immersive art experience, so it was on our list. We assured our hosts that in the morning we would make the pilgrimage to Meow Wolf, and turned in for the night.