Saturday, April 12, 2014


Petroglyph boulder along Rio Chama, Rio Arriba County,
New Mexico. Photograph Peter Faris, April 5, 2014.

We just returned last Sunday from a weekend trip down to the “Land of Enchantment,” New Mexico. In this case we were visiting friends in our favorite part of the state, northern New Mexico. We stayed in Española for a couple of nights to see our friends Bill and Jeannie from Los Alamos, and then popped down to Santa Fe for some museum crawling with Jim and Pat.

Petroglyph boulder along Rio Chama, Rio Arriba County,
New Mexico. Photograph Peter Faris, April 5, 2014.

Hammerstone at base of the petroglyph boulder along Rio
Chama, Rio Arriba County, New Mexico. Photograph
Peter Faris, April 5, 2014.

Bill and Jeannie took us out to see some marvelous petroglyphs on a boulder along the Rio Chama. The story is that this is only yards from a spot where Georgia O’Keeffe did some of her beautiful landscape paintings of the Chama River north of Abiquiu. I have included a couple of these paintings in this posting, “Over the Cliff” and “Blue River.” I am personally drawn to “Over the Cliff” which is a beautiful impressionist landscape. There is also a photograph of an easel and pastels set up in that location which I found in the Internet but could not retrieve the citation for the correct source (my apologies to the photographer).

Over the Cliff, by Georgia O'Keeffe. From Internet photo files.

Apparently there is no sign of the petroglyphs in any of Georgia's art which brings to mind a couple of possibilities. First is the possibility that she just did not notice them because they are on the side of the boulder facing away from where she supposedly painted. Second is the intriguing possibility that she saw them but just was not interested. In the first case there is little more to be said, but in the second possibility resides some real human interest. It is quite possible that Georgia just wasn’t interested in “native art” because she was somewhat of an imperialist.

Easel set up at Georgia O'Keeffe Overlook, Internet photo files.

I have not read Georgia’s biography (sorry about that) but I imagine that it stresses how much the locals must have loved the beautiful and important lady from back east who moved out and lived with them. In reality I have personally talked to some locals who remember her and did not love her at all. They relate stories about a cold and somewhat chauvinistic person who treated them like second-class citizens. Are these stories any truer?  I do not know, I only know what I was told and like all hearsay may not be completely true, but it is not usually completely false either.

Blue River by Georgia O'Keeffe, Internet Photo Files.

In any case I can find no Georgia O’Keeffe imagery that seems to include or to have been influenced by this wonderful petroglyph boulder that was literally right in front of her. How would it have changed her art, and the art of the twentieth century, if Georgia had seen these petroglyphs and been susceptible to the lure of rock art that we share?

NOTE: One quick aside from rock art at this point. While I am certainly not a food blogger, and have no intention of becoming one, there is a wonderful northern New Mexico dish that I had at two different meals. Possibly my favorite food in the world - Carne Adovada (northern New Mexico style marinated pork). I had the opportunity to again partake of two versions with Bill and Jeannie on this trip. One was at Socorro’s Restaurant at 19507 Highway 84, Hernandez, New Mexico, and the other at El Paragua, just off the Taos Highway on State Road 76, in Espanola, New Mexico. I have had carne adovada at both restaurants before and have often said it would be worth the drive down there just for the carne adovada. The flavor of the dish is different at the two restaurants, but wonderful at both. Socorro’s has the added advantage of being able to meet Socorro, a warm and wonderful hostess who is happy to share her wonderful food with us. Rock art and all this too – is this heaven, or what?

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