Text for Vol. 91, no. 3 (Winter/Spring 1986)

              gro, William Clift, Paul Logsdon,
and Joan Myers, to mention a few.
In the 1970s Robert Brewer made an
exhaustive photographic survey of
the churches, and in the 1980s Doug
Keats followed suit.
The reasons for the strong impact
of the churches on Anglo artists can
only be conjectured. The strength
of the churches' images lies with the
absolute necessity of the form that
adobe must take in order to stand
through the years. These archetyp-al
forms resonate with beauty that
artists respond to on a profoundly
unconscious level. And the continu-ity
of human spirit embodied in this
eloquent architecture is the source
of nostalgia for the artist who longs
to find the roots of his own tra-ditions.
Recently individual artists have
used the proven aesthetic of the ado-be
churches' ready-made images as
highly recognizable vehicles in com-mercial
markets. In the early 1960s,
a surge of tourism launched Santa
Fe and all New Mexico into the
world of contemporary art and cre-ated
a growing demand for New
Mexico images. The establishment
of the first commercially viable art
galleries encouraged a new group of
artists to wrestle with the church
image.
Fritz Scholder, building on the
abstractions of predecessors such as
O'Keeffe, wrenched the church
image from its literal boundaries.
Former music conductor Harold Joe
Waldrum created images with the
Polaroid camera that he later trans-posed
into large, flat-color luminous
paintings.
Having explored the church forms
through his painting for over a dec-ade,
Harold Joe Waldrum most
recently turned to a new means
of communication-the videotape.
His videos offer highly emotional
documentation of the effect of
changing lifestyle on the small vil-lages
of New Mexico. Ironically, the
Anglo culture that for years has hon-ored
the churches artistically has
become an indirect cause of their
destruction. The desire of indige-nous
Hispanics for a new standard
of living as well as the inability of
the family farm to support new gen-erations
have combined to pressure
the people from the villages into sal-aried
jobs in larger population cen-ters.
These work commitments
compete with the time-consuming
yearly need to replaster the adobe
churches, a traditional donation of
love and energy.
Waldrum's video, after a brief his-tory,
documents the two political fac-tions
in the small village of El Valle,
where a nonprofit group organized
to preserve the small village church.
Their aims conflicted with those of
other villagers who wished to build
a new, maintenance-free structure,
which to them symbolized progress.
Harold Joe Waldrum's videotape
ends with the demolition of El Valle
Church by the villagers themselves.
Juxtaposing the destruction against
the highly charged emotional back-ground
of Verdi's "Requiem" and
Samuel Barber's "Adagio for
Strings," the videotape makes a
heart-rending statement about the
loss of a highly developed art form.
The issue involves a living com-munity,
not merely historical ob-jects,
and is ethically complex. The
churches manifest the artistic and
spiritual being of the people, who
clearly should have the freedom to
choose their own destiny. When out-siders
enter to paint and photo-graph,
they are less a threat to the
autonomy of the village than those
who come to lobby actively for pres-ervation.
To make matters more
complex, the Archdiocese of Santa
Fe hasjurisdiction over the churches,
and this institution is caught in the
hard economic realities of labor-intensive
upkeep of adobes. Yet the
"cost-effectiveness" factor that dom-inates
the argument appears a crude
consideration to those watching and
caring about the disintegration of a
heritage.
Susan Zwinger is assistant cura-tor
of contemporary art at the Mu-seum
of New Mexico's Museum of
Fine Arts.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Broder, Patricia Janis. Taos: A Paint-er's
Dream. Boston: New York
Graphic Society, 1980.
Gettens, Rutherford J. and Evan H.
Turner, "The Materials and Meth-ods
of Some Religious Paintings
of Nineteenth Century New Mex-ico."
El Palacio No. 1 (1951)
58:3-16.
Goodrich, Lloyd and Doris Bry. Geor-gia
O'Keeffe. Published for the
Whitney Museum of American
Art. New York: Praeger Publish-ers,
1970.
Museum of New Mexico. Light and
Color: Images of New Mexico: Mas-terpieces
From the Collection of the
Museum of Fine Arts. Santa Fe:
Museum of New Mexico Press,
1981.
Nelson, Mary Carroll. The Legend-ary
Artists of Taos. New York: Wat-son-
Guptill, 1980.
Trenton, Pat, curator. Picturesque
Images from Taos and Santa Fe: An
Exhibition Sponsored by the First
National Bank of Denver and the
Denver Art Museum. January 12-
March 17, 1974. Denver Art Mu-seum,
1974.
Prince, L. Bradford. Spanish Mission
Churches of New Mexico. Glorieta,
New Mexico: Rio Grande Press,
Inc., 1970.
El Palacio 27               
Hide

Vol. 91, no. 3 (Winter/Spring 1986)

48 total pages