Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Under the Rainbow

More than half the time when it rains in Santa Fe, the sun doesn't stop shining right away, or it comes out immediately after (or during!) the rain, and we get the most incredible rainbows. I took these photos from my driveway a few days ago--it's all the same rainbow but I just wasn't far enough away to capture the whole thing.

See how dark the sky is--and at the same time how much sunlight is shining on my next door neighbor's house!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Valles Caldera

The Valles CalderaLast week I traveled to the Valles Caldera (which literally means "cooking pot valleys") with a Southwest Seminars group in conjunction with the Santa Fe Newcomers' Club.

Dr. Kirt Kempter in the Valles CalderaGeologist Dr. Kirt Kempter (who has studied plate tectonics and volcanism around the world) was our guide for the day.

The formation of the Valles CalderaAbout 1.25 million years ago, a volcanic eruption occurred in the Jemez Mountains. After the first phase, which spewed magma maybe 10-12 miles up into the stratosphere, crystals and ash (known as tephra) rained (or more descriptively, snowed) down on the area.

The Pajarito PlateauAfter a few hours, waves of so-called pyroclastic flows (very hot and very fast--600-700 degrees in temperature, and moving at 100-200 mph) spread across the region, filling valleys, and forming plateaus such as the Pajarito Plateau (which was the subject of a recent post). The photo above shows a small part of the Plateau, which we passed on our way up to the Valles Caldera.

Finally, after the magma was depleted, the earth's crust around the vents began to collapse. The east side of what is now known as the Valles Caldera collapsed nearly a mile--the west side only about a quarter of a mile.

Obsidian in the Valles CalderaThe area has had an interesting history. Pueblo Indians (from nine different pueblos along the Rio Grande) hunted, farmed, and collected tool-making rocks in the Caldera (such as the obsidian outcropping shown in the photo above which was used to make arrowheads) before the Spanish came. When the Spanish brought sheep, horses, and cattle, the lush summer grasslands provided ideal grazing.

In 1860, 12 years after the US took over the area, a land-grant settlement was reached by awarding a grant of 100,000 acres (almost the entire Valles Caldera) to the heirs of Cabeza de Vaca (see my previous post on the Cabeza de Vacas). Four private owners held the land until 2000 when the US government purchased it and established the Valles Caldera National Preserve.

Wildlife in the Valles CalderaToday, the Caldera is home to the second largest elkherd in the state (numbering about 3,000), and its beautiful meadows and slopes are also home to deer, golden eagles, mountain lions, bobcats, bears, 60 species of birds, and wild turkeys. Lottery-based fishing permits are available, and each fisherman gets about a mile of stream to him/herself for the day to fish for the native trout.

In the winter, it is a fabulous location for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and sleigh rides when the weather cooperates!

The Preserve also hosts a number of special events including mountain bike rides, overnight birding events, fly fishing clinics, elk hunts, and night sky adventures. The number of visitors to the Preserve is controlled--so you really get a chance to experience nature and not crowds.

Illustration Credits and References

Thanks to my friend Gloria Gordon for the wildlife photo.

This post was informed by Valles Caldera: Map and Geologic History of the Southwest's Youngest Caldera, a High Desert Field Guide authored by Kirt Kempter and Dick Huelster, and by the website and brochures of the Valles Caldera National Preserve.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

OKeeffe and Fisk, Resolution?

Radiator Building, Georgia O'KeeffePhoto courtesy of Fisk University

The wheels of justice may grind slowly, but this week they spit out a verdict that seems right to me.

Nearly a year and a half ago, I wrote a post on the latest saga of the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum vs. Fisk University. If you want a refresher, or need to start at the beginning (!), click here to read my first post in this series, from November, 2007.

Basically, the struggling Fisk wanted to sell two pieces from the Stieglitz collection that O'Keeffe donated to the university in 1949. The historically black college was in danger of shutting down, could no longer afford the upkeep on their art museum (and therefore could no longer safely display the works), and wanted to sell only two of its 101-piece Stieglitz collection. The two pieces to be sold were O'Keeffe's Radiator Building and another painting by Marsden Hartley. The O'Keeffe had been valued at more than $20 million.

The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe argued that Fisk was violating the terms of the bequest, and asked that the entire collection be turned over to the Museum (with, as far as I can tell, no money changing hands).

But on July 14, the Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled that the O'Keeffe had no right to the work and no standing in court. This clears the way for a possible arrangement with the Crystal Bridges Museum described in a previous post. While the O'Keeffe has 60 days to appeal the decision, one hopes that they will have the grace to back down this time.

Sadly, this has been an expensive victory for Fisk. President Hazel O'Leary said she was pleased by the ruling, but "the expense the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum has forced Fisk to incur in its effort to gain ownership of the Alfred Stieglitz Collection of Modern Art could have been committed to scholarships for our students."

In other O'Keeffe news this week, the Museum was considering action against the Georgia O'Keeffe Elementary School in Albuquerque for abbreviating her name on a sign as GOK. The Museum contends that the only acceptable abbreviation is G.OK, because O'Keeffe would not have liked the way GOK sounded when it was pronounced. Seriously.

Friday, July 17, 2009

International Folk Art Market - 2009

Santa Fe International Folk Art Market
Ali MacGraw, just another red-shirted volunteer.

Last weekend was the 6th annual Santa Fe International Folk Art Market--two days of a bazaar with folk artists from all over the world. It was a VERY hot weekend for Santa Fe (93-94 degrees), and with somewhat reduced tourism and the economic climate, the sponsors were worried that revenues would be down significantly. But head count at the market was actually up nearly 13% over last year, with about 23,000 attendees. And sales were only off a few percentage points. The average artist took home about $13,500, and when you consider that 97% of the artists come from countries where the annual per capita income is less than $750, this is a significant piece of their incomes.

Folk Artist, Santa Fe Folk Art MarketOver 400 applications came in for this year's market, which were winnowed down to 147 using a complicated weighting system. About 21 artists from among those selected were unable to attend due to visa or other issues.

This year for the first time I worked as one of 1,500 volunteers at the market. In an effort to become greener, and also to save money, the market (for the first time) did not sell bottled water. I worked at a water station where we gave away free water (Santa Fe water chilled and filtered on the spot by The Good Water Company) to refill customers' own bottles, or paper cones of water for those who did not have bottles. Lots of customers in that heat!

Folk Art Chess Sets, Santa Fe Folk Art Market
A first for the market this year: former President Bill Clinton, a folk art fan, commissioned three Folk Art Market artists to make the prizes that will be presented in September to the winners of the Clinton Global Citizen Awards. The award honors individuals and organizations for their contributions to solving global challenges. All three artists — Serge Jolimeau and Michée Ramil Remy of Haiti and Toyin Folorunso of Nigeria — work with recycled metals.
Folk Art Chickens and Roosters
Folk Art Candle Makers

Friday, July 03, 2009


Eating lunch at Tsankawi, Bandelier
Blooming cactus at Tsankawi, BandelierOn June 13, I had the opportunity to go on a hike with the New Mexico Museum's Friends of Archaeology to Tsankawi. This area is a detached part of the Bandelier National Monument, and an ancestral home of the San Ildefonso Pueblo. (This was my second hike with FOE; click on the link to read about my 2008 FOA trip to the Zia Pueblo.)

Our group, led by archaeologist Chuck Hannaford and ceramicist Dean Wilson, toured the trails and settlement spaces of Tsankawi. This day trip was one of three envisioned by the Friends of Archaeology for the summer of 2009 to commemorate the founding of the Museum of New Mexico 100 years earlier. Edgar Lee Hewett, an ardent explorer and champion of the Pajarito Plateau area, of which Tsankawi forms a part, would go on to serve for 40 years as Museum Director (1909-1949). This hike also echoes the anniversary of a 1909 National Geographic article describing the beautiful remote location, with its trails and cavates. (In those days, it would have taken four arduous hours to get to the Pajarito Plateau from Santa Fe!)

Tsankawi (saikewikwaje onwikege) means “village between two canyons at the clump of sharp, round cacti” in Tewa, the language of the San Ildefonso Pueblo. Settlers had first come to the plateau during the “Coalition Period” in about 1150, and lived in small family structures of 1-20 rooms. By 1250 or so, there was a pueblo with a big plaza, and by about 1325, larger villages. The area was abandoned in the middle of the 16th century (about the time of first contact by the Spanish) with its residents moving towards Cochiti and Puye.

Petroglyph in caveate at Tsankawi, BandelierArchaeologist Hannaford noted three major influences on the area. First, years of volcanic eruption formed the beautiful eerie landscape. Secondly, the Ancestral Pueblo people, who lived here for 400 years, modified the land to their purposes: climbing, cultivating, building pueblos, cutting cavates (man-made caves in the soft volcanic rock), and creating petroglyph “rock art” in the cavates and on the public viewing surfaces. Finally, the coming of the scientists to Los Alamos saw further change happen--Hannaford remarked on the two vastly different realms of experience represented by the celebration of the deer dance and the splitting of the atom!

Los Alamos in the distanceTrail at Tsankawi, Bandelier
Ladder at Tsankawi, BandelierWe walked up trails cut deep into the volcanic rock by years of footprints, down ladders, in and out of cavates, and through the settlement areas where room block wall bases, water capture pond outlines, and numerous pottery sherds were clearly visible. We tried to imagine that the Ancestral Pueblo people were still there to watch us.

A highlight of the day featured ceramicist Wilson on his knees among the plentiful pottery sherds, pointing out the differences between the biscuit and glazed wares, and the likelihood of particular pieces of pottery being made locally or imported from other areas. He observed that some were finished with a tempera made of anthill sand, actually bits of quartz “mined” by the ants.
Pottery sherds at Tsankawi, BandelierWe returned to our vehicles more knowledgeable about the vast Pajarito Plateau, and more conscious of the need to preserve and protect these prehistoric treasures.
Petroglyph at Tsankawi, Bandelier
Petroglyph at Tsankawi, Bandelier