Harwood Museum Brings Northern New Mexico Art to the Forefront
Harwood Museum Continues to collect, preserve, exhibit, and interpret the arts, especially those created in, inspired by, or relevant to northern New Mexico.
Since the early 20th century, artists have been captivated by the light and landscape of northern New Mexico. Striving to capture this last frontier, many of these artists moved to Taos to recreate what they found and share it with others. They did this by painting, sculpting and drawing images of the area.
The Harwood Museum collection brings to the public a unique record of this artistic convergence from its beginnings to the present day. The embracing spirit of the Harwood was established by artists Burt and Elizabeth Harwood who left their residence in France to move to Taos and bought the property on Ledoux Street which is the current home of the now Harwood Museum. The original small adobe building was on the forefront of the Pueblo/Spanish Revival and restoration movement in New Mexico. It first became the town’s only library and soon after started housing exhibitions. In 1935, the Harwood Foundation was given to the University of New Mexico (UNM) and opened its potential of becoming an educational institution. Today the Harwood strives to fulfill its educational mission by presenting special lectures, offering docent tours, and working with local schools and community groups with a variety of special programs.
I have had the pleasure of visiting the Harwood twice in the past four years and it has made quite an impression on me each time I have been there. Tucked slightly off the beaten path but still within easy walking distance to the plaza, it is filled with New Mexico history as well as modern art.
There are always paintings on view of the Taos Society of Artists including works of Ernest L. Blumenschein, Joseph Henry Sharp, and E. Irving Couse, three of the original founders of the society. I particularly liked the Winter Funeral oil on canvas by Victor Higgins this visit. I was told that this painting now hangs at eye level on the wall drawing your eye down to the funeral scene instead of over the fireplace causing you to look up. This museum is one of those places you can visit over and over and still find new treasures and favorites.
They were setting up an exhibit while I was there that would be open after I left but I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek. It was TJ Mabrey: ON THE SQUARE. Mrs. Mabrey is primarily a sculptor of stone, but her second love is working with embossed paper and cellulose pulp (the origins of paper). She limits these works to the consideration of the square, but by manipulating the paper in different ways; incised, folded, repeated and possibly painted, it can make a modular display or single units individually.
The brightly colored mixed media on wood panels by Paul Pascarella also caught my eye. Paul considers his painting almost as the act of automatic writing. Looking at his paintings is like looking at clouds. the longer you look at these pieces, the more and different things you see.
I also like to sit for awhile and stare at the Agnes Martin photos. There is a separate room set up for viewing her work. Her first show at the Harwood took place in July of 1947 when, as a graduate student, she took part in a University of New Mexico program during which she and her fellow students lived and worked there. In 1994 Agnes accepted a proposal to permanently house some of her paintings at the museum. Her gallery is one of the most popular attractions in the museum. You must spend some time here to try to understand the concept of the work.
In the Hispanic Traditions Gallery you will find traces to the Christian “sermo humilis”, the humble or low style, in the painted santos and carved bultos introduced by the Spanish and adapted by the Hispanic settlers. The three pieces below are from the Doña Sebastiana exhibit by different artists. Also included in this Gallery was the El Salvador del Mundo (Saviour of the World) sculpture in painted wood by Arthur Lopez.
You should also visit the Ken Price, Death Shrine from the “Happy’s Curios” series of shrines. This work is on long-term loan to the Harwood from a private collector.
All these are some of my favorites but you should visit the museum for yourself to see what treasures you can find.
Location: 238 Ledoux Street, Taos, New Mexico
- CLOSED Monday and Tuesday
- Wednesday – Friday: Open 10 am – 5 pm
- Saturday – Sunday: Open noon – 5 pm
Tickets: Call the Museum Store at 575 758 9826 and press “0”