Painted: Our Bodies, Hearts, and Village includes interpretive contributions from many artists, culture bearers, and community members. Artist and designer Margeaux Abeyta (Taos Pueblo/Diné) created five commissioned illustrations in response to other artworks in the reinstallation: Citadel by Tony Abeyta, Pueblo Priestesses by Gerald Cassidy, Taos Indian on Horseback by Ernest Martin Hennings, Mountain Forms III by Victor Higgins, and Untitled (Black Horse) by Pop Chalee. The imagery and writing she produced through this commission are available as free offset prints in the museum’s galleries and can be viewed below.
I can’t count the times my father and I would take the long drive from Santa Fe to Gallup just for a mutton sandwich. Those long red planes, countless mesas, and stones in the shape of moccasins as landmarks. Every now and then we’d come across a perfect sky—a deep cobalt blue with rays of cerulean and clouds growing ever toward us as we drove under their large cast shadows. They moved with one another in an effort to graze the land. Months later, I would recall our drive, lined on the canvas walls of his messy studio. He had documented that very day, an immortalized memory. Looking across the room at half-finished canvases filled with an underbrush of color, I saw the manifestation of a life lived. In this way, it became his own, his way to have a discourse with the world. Tracing back each part of himself, conversations and feelings embedded into each stroke, his very world as he dreamed it.
Women have always been at the center of art—our bodies emerging from marbled slabs, stone veins proof of life forever preserved. Painters have endlessly tired their brushes trying to capture the way we sit, all too versed in nature. But we are so much more; we see so much more. The painters of old saw only what is glorified. We are taught at a young age the dualities of this world, the pride and strength we must harbor as we weave a place for ourselves with the threads of time. It was Spider Woman who spun the path for our people. With her many arms, she wove histories in textiles that would blanket our children. We shared traditions with a world that had forgotten that it was she who created this life from scratch, a motherland.
As children we bear the duty of the next generation, a struggle of sharing our knowledge with the world. Finding the balance of integration and preservation. We shield our heritage from the world, as it is easily tainted and discounted as spiritual lore. Through our teachings, we protect our humanity in the physical world by giving back each time we take from the land and give reciprocity to those whose teachings came before. It is our battle to remember, and then to not be forgotten. The balance between culture and humanity, finding a human truth within one’s spirituality without losing the integrity and sacred nature of our beliefs. We must, at some age, become our own storytellers and share, with those who will listen, all that has come since the start of time.
The mountain: a place of birth, a place of rest, and that which is subject to devotion. It is also a place for memories, and joy. When my grandmother would take me chokecherry picking deep in the shaded paths, we would lift the bottoms of our blouses to hold the berries, staining the cotton with maroon impressions. While hauling home our treasures, she told stories of her own girlhood. When she and her friends would walk the same trails only to be met by an old brown bear, quickly they ran, as gems of red fell from their hands, rolling down the hill behind them. I would look back into that shaded path where berries grew and feel the immense power of this strange world. Falling back beside my grandmother, I knew I was safe in this place she called home.
In one’s lifetime, we set out on a path that differs from what we know, a pilgrimage to wonder—“what else?” Taos Pueblo artist Pop Chalee made her own trek, depicting the world as it appeared to her eyes: colorful, bold nature portrayed in flowing lines like a mane. It was a style I had seen in Navajo sand paintings, where each line pours forth with meaning. It was part of that endless journey to capture the airy nature of life itself, where people stand only secondly to the beings around them. Depicting the life of each animal, and the ways they trotted across their lands in solidarity with their brotherly kin.