Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Spanish Market: Santa Fe, New Mexico

Occasionally New Mexico lives up to its state motto, "Land of Enchantment." Maybe it didn't the time I found myself wandering through waste-deep snow somewhere vaguely below Wheeler Peak. It did not feel too enchanting the time I was running down a mountainside and tripped, sending hunks of high iron-content rock deep into my knee. And it was not so enchanting to be stuck on the highway for hours while waiting for the department of transportation to clear a mudslide.

But last weekend in Santa Fe, the state certainly provided enchantment. Megan and I joined Dad and Toni to head to Santa Fe on what has become a bi-annual pilgrimage to the city of art and artists, spas and ski slopes, meals and meanderings. In the winter time, we visit to shred the nar. This weekend we visited the Spanish Market.

Art and Artifact

The Spanish Market is a juried art event consisting of entries primarily from New Mexico. As the name suggests, most of the artists paint in styles reflecting the original Spanish settlement of the area with a heavy focus on statuary and retablos, small paintings of saints. The artists are often known as "santeros," or saint painters, and the work transports the viewer to another time. Other artists create furniture or jewelry in a similar vein. Many were kind enough to let me photograph their work.

Accompanying the traditional work are more innovative, contemporary works that celebrate the Spanish roots but often adapt the representation to the culture that emerged in the Southwest. The work featured at the top, by Arthur Lopez, shows the result of that cultural transformation by taking a traditional Spanish method of representation and transforming it into something mystical.

Naturally, Megan and I could not leave the market without a few treasures. Our first find was by Michael Vargas, a supermarket manager turned santero. Megan was initially drawn to his booth by a painting of the holy trinity. I entered the booth to give my opinion, but, as we both turned to our right, we found ourselves mesmerized by a painting called "Santo Nino," a portrayal of Christ as a boy. The work was in pastels on clayboard. Below Megan and Michael Vargas show off the work.

Our second purchase came shortly before departure. We had spotted the work of Brandon Maldonado from a distance, but his booth was always too crowded. Finally, we found an empty booth Sunday morning and wandered inside. We looked at his more shocking works, works portraying deep pain in a unique, surreal style. We pined over some of the works and eventually settled on a book of his paintings themed loosely on the Dia De Los Muertos. The book was a consolation, we thought, until Megan dropped her coffee. This forced us to apologize for the mess and take a longer look at a painting we had barely noticed on our way in. Inspired directly by an Ingres painting of the same name, "The Bather" revealed Maldonado's historical inspiration while transforming that work with his unique style. The painting took Ingres' bather and warped her for a dynamic world while removing her from a comfortable setting, replacing it with a vague void. Below, Megan and I pose for a picture with the painting and the artist. He has a blindingly bright future ahead of him.

Food, Clothing, Shelter

The trip to Santa Fe was not entirely about art . . . it was also about getting some much needed rest while celebrating Dad and Toni's anniversary (just look at the celebration occurring above . . . merriment abounds). We stayed at a cozy bed and breakfast with an excellent daily happy hour called the Water Street Inn. An attentive owner made our stay a delight.

Beyond sleeping, we ate, and we ate well. Tradition sent us to Pasqual's for brunch upon arrival, but we also tried some new spots. Aqua Santa offers sumptuous dishes with some of the more complicated but impressive flavors I have ever tried. These dishes were complemented by an excellent brew, Monk's Ale, from a monastery in Abiquiu. The beer was modeled after Belgian Trappist ales, but surpasses its Belgian cousins. The second night we gnoshed on a smattering of exquisite seafood dishes at Geronimo's on Canyon Road.

All in all, it was a great trip . . . interesting sights, delicious food, and just enough time sitting on a balcony with a glass of wine. Now we are back in Dallas wondering if ski season could come just a bit earlier this year.
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