23 May 2007

Still thinking about New Mexico

If you come from the 70s, you might think you already know everything there is to know about Georgia O'Keeffe. But then you would go to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, and you would find you were wrong. Maybe you would even weep. I know I did.

I cannot stop thinking about New Mexico. I ate chili (excuse me, New Mexicans! I mean: chile) every day for more than a week after I got back. But it tastes better there.

While I was there, I bought another Virginia Maria Romero retablo. One of the things I like best about her work is that she uses traditional materials (hand-adzed pine, piƱon sap varnish) and natural pigments. On the back of her pieces, she always includes little color samples and a list of the materials used. I find it completely charming, an extra miniature work of art.

I was a little chagrined, though, recently, to find out that the artist is not the 17th-generation New Mexican I had assumed she was. She's actually from Ohio, Romero is her married name, she's referred to sometimes as "la santera blanca" (the "white icon-maker"), and I wouldn't be surprised to find out she had been raised in a non-saint-venerating tradition.

This says nothing at all about her art, of course, which I find utterly beautiful and sincere, but makes me wonder if it says something about me. It's another instance of my affinity for non-WASP art forms as practiced by white folks, like the way I like Jon Spencer and The Whites Stripes, but no actual real blues musicians from a homegrown blues tradition, of whom I'm totally ignorant, or the way I appreciate the wit of Princess Superstar or The Beastie Boys in a way I've never developed a taste for more core hiphop musicians. It's not a taste I've worked to cultivate - but it's something I've noticed, and it's not very admirable. In the case of music, it's a matter of lack of exposure to the breadth and depth of a tradition. My fault! But what about la santera blanca? I just naturally gravitated to the whitest art on the scene, I guess, which seems lame. I will never tire of her work, but I think I'd like to educate myself about her tradition. (And someday we'll discuss my Shari Elf spatula-and-toothpicks Jesus icon...)

I'm knittin'! This is the humble beginnings of Rowan's Demi, from Vintage Style, using Scottish Tweed Aran in lovat. And I do lovat!


Anonymous said...

Virginia Maria Romero grew up in Ohio to a Polish mother and a Irish/French Canadian father - needless to say it was a Catholic household. She moved to Santa Fe in 1982 and fell in love with the city, culture and customs. She currently lives in Las Cruces, NM.
She also happens to be my mother.

Max said...

Dear child of Virginia Maria Romero,

I'm glad to hear from you! I do hope I haven't offended you, or your mother - my intent in writing was to reflect on what I think is a failure on my part to see and attempt to understand art beyond the narrow range of things that appeal personally to me. I love your mother's work, and I hope she prospers at it!

If you want to continue a conversation, my email is danielsmax at gmail dot com.