Art Quest Near Taos, New Mexico

Last weekend I discovered an art jewel: northern New Mexico’s High Road Art Tour, an annual, late-September event.

If you enjoy seeing art, meeting artists, and driving through the creativity-inspiring hills between Taos and Santa Fe, this is a don’t-miss event.

My husband and I and our two friends made our home base at La Posada de Taos—a charming B&B in a hundred-year-old adobe house that’s just two blocks from the Taos Plaza. The new owners, innskeeper Brad Malone and chef Michael Carter have created a lovely ambiance and fantastic gourmet breakfasts. We highly recommend the El Solecito room and the Casita (Honeymoon House).

The historic house itself has an arts connection: It was built in 1906 by Burt Phillips, one of the founders of the Taos Society of Artists.

The Spanish Colonial works of Andrew and Lorrie Garcia

The Spanish Colonial works of Andrew and Lorrie Garcia

On the Art Road

Feeling like a cross between art pilgrims and treasure hunters, we all piled in the car with our High Road Artisans map in hand and drove through the mountain villages of northern New Mexico on the High Road (which links Taos and Santa Fe).

As we wound through picturesque roads lined by golden-blooming rabbitbrush (aka: chamisa) we encountered weavers, photographers, painters, potters, sculptors, jewelry-makers and woodworkers whose studios are located all along the High Road.

I love glimpsing the studios of world-class artisans, many of whom open their doors to the public only once a year during this art tour. I also love that the High Road Art Tour organizers are dedicated to preserving and developing local talent and traditions in these remote, northern New Mexico villages.

On our journey, we stumbled across an intense mix of interesting artisans and kooky characters—all passionately devoted to making art:

  • Andrew and Lorrie Garcia: We expended plenty of oohs and aahs for Andrew’s exquisitely carved Spanish Colonial furniture and Lorrie’s authentic-looking traditional retablos and bultos. Andrew mills wood off the couple’s property.
Potter Betsy Williams paints each of her tiny Japanese-inspired, wood-fired plates in a different pattern.

Potter Betsy Williams paints each of her tiny Japanese-inspired, wood-fired plates in a different pattern.

  • Enbi Studio: Potter Betsy Williams specializes in wheel-thrown bowls, influenced by her apprenticeship in Japan. Betsy’s Dixon, N.M., studio gets the blue ribbon for gorgeous views.
  • Studio Gallery: We wandered for almost an hour through David Cudney’s sculpture garden and outdoor installation-art display. David has spent six years creating weird, riveting, surreal art from junk, which is spread out over a couple of acres off State Road 76 near Chamisal. A few of the wacky highlights include: a paint-bucket waterfall, steel-girder dinosaurs with cow-skull heads, a totem pole made with rusty chamber pots and enamel basins, Michelangelo’s “David” in an aquarium.
  • Buffalo Ranch Studio: Located on an actual buffalo ranch near the Picuris Pueblo, Harriette Tsosie works in acrylic and encaustic (pigmented wax). We watched her melt the wax on a new painting using a blow-torch!
A well-carved pantry: Isabro Ortega lavished years of craftsmanship on food storage in his Truchas home.

A well-carved pantry: Isabro Ortega lavished years of craftsmanship on food storage in his Truchas home.

  • Isabro Ortega: Isabro is carving nearly every wooden surface of his work-in-progress home in Truchas into the New Mexican version of the Taj Mahal. He calls himself crazy, and no wonder: He’s spent 24 years carving nooks, window frames, a home chapel, ceilings and the most ornate pantry (yes, pantry!) I’ve ever seen. Isabro is a hoot, and hopefully it won’t take 24 more years to finish his house.

Sadly, the High Road art Tour is over—for this year. I’m marking my calendar for next September.

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

The New Mexico sky over a ruined adobe on Buffalo Ranch was actually the most fabulous art of all.

The New Mexico sky over a ruined adobe on Buffalo Ranch was actually the most fabulous art of all.

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