SANTA FE BOHEMIA
The Art Colony, 1964-1980
At the time I wrote this book, 1987, I had lived in Santa Fe for twenty-three years. What follows is a remembrance of the artists I met here between 1964 and 1980.
I grew up in New York, in Manhattan, and studied art there. Then I spent five years of student life and early career in Boston. I came out West for a new start at the age of twenty-six.
As I approached Taos, I saw a roadside tourist sign that mentioned D.H. Lawrence and the Taos art colony. This intrigued me, and I stayed a month. Having found Taos hard to adjust to, I continued to Santa Fe.
Here too, traces of an old art colony were abundant. Everyone talked about the good old days. There was a generation gap: the artists I met were old, often doddering. Several of these old-timers died in my first few years here, among them Gustave Baumann, Will Shuster, Randall Davey and Josef Bakos. A little later, Eugenie Shonnard, Howard Cook and Andrew Dasburg also died.
Santa Fe was very welcoming. The local people were familiar with art, sympathetic to artists. The old generation enjoyed my questions and there were few artists my age to compete with.
By the early 1970s, other young artists started discovering Santa Fe. Like the hippies, they were on the run from city life. An active bohemian colony developed. We had something special. Santa Fe was so beautiful, and we were so sincere.
Santa Fe was a cultural boom town. The number of galleries went from two to a hundred. Besides the Santa Fe Opera, which had only existed for about ten years when I arrived, there came into being endless festivals for art, music, literature, theater, movies, fashion, and the crafts of Indians and Spanish Americans. Aesthetic considerations have often become tourist clichés. The city’s complex heritage of three interlocked cultures became “Santa Fe Style.”
By the 1980s the Renaissance was over. Highbrows and committed artists were returning to the urban centers or trying to find cheaper places to live. Artists who stayed on withdrew from the public eye or faltered in their purpose. Some who had built their own studios went into construction and land development. Hippies opened boutiques.
The happy sense of finding a creative center that made me stay in Santa Fe has blurred, but I am comfortable. My earlier memories, though frayed at the edges, seem more poignant than recent ones. Perhaps when I look back at the past few years, a continuity will become apparent. Or maybe those first fifteen years did have a special magic. I stop the narrative around 1980. Recent friends can feel relieved.