28 June 2008

It's still the light

European American settlers arriving in what is now New Mexico from the east in the 19th century invariably commented on the landscape, the open skies, and the light. There’s something different about the light here, they said; it’s more blue or more clear, but it’s more, more of something.

The Taos art colony, the first art colony of significance in the American West, was established in northern New Mexico in 1898 with the arrival of Ernest Blumenschein and Bert Phillips and other classically trained visual artists. They were fascinated by the high desert and mountain geography and climate, and the cultures of the Taos Pueblo, the northernmost of the Rio Grande Indian villages, and the Nuevo MexicaƱos, most of whom were farmers.

The Taos art school was a group of disparate artists united by the allegiance to a specific place, not to an approach or a worldview. But the light had the presence of a subject, front and centre, in virtually all of their works. The sky in the image above, or something equally spectacular, occurs everyday. It may not last long, often it’s there and gone, dissipating and reconfiguring itself endlessly. That’s not to say it can’t be easily overlooked, or taken for granted. But it is here, everyday.