Leibovitz: Sharp Shootin’ Annie – Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

On February 15, 2013, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum launched the Annie Leibovitz exhibit, Pilgrimage (organized by the Smithsonian Art Museum). I was lucky enough to be able to attend a preview of the exhibit the day before it opened. We were led through the rooms of beautiful images and given some insights into the ideas and personal commentary behind the artist’s choices that comprise the collection. Jerry, the docent who led us, did a great job of conveying the information that he had been given only hours previously by the artist herself.

About her inspiration and motivation for the project, Leibovitz says, “From the beginning, when I was watching my children stand mesmerized over Niagara Falls, this project was an exercise in renewal. It taught me to see again.”

AL Niagra warm_PRINT

Annie Leibovitz, Niagara Falls, Ontario Canada, 2009. © Annie Leibovitz. From “Pilgrimage” (Random House, 2011)

Leibovitz’s travels for the project included two visits to New Mexico to photograph various aspects of O’Keeffe’s legacy; her home, Ghost Ranch’s landscapes, and other treasures held in the Museum vault.

What I felt from seeing the exhibit, is that after 40 years of photography assignments, Leibovitz took the opportunity to explore her own interior and exterior worlds without the concerns of pleasing a client. She just pleased herself.  The compositions I saw are potent because the subjects hold their own as iconic figures in world history, art, culture, and not least the changing roles of women in society. And they stand as metaphorical representations of some of the most unique, influential people, events, places and stories that have shaped our current experience of the world. One example, is an image of a playing card that the legendary sharp-shooting Annie Oakley had shot through the tiny printed heart from a distance of ninety feet!


Annie Leibovitz, Annie Oakley’s heart target, private collection, Los Angeles, California, 2010. Copyright Annie Leibovitz. From “Pilgrimage” (Random House, 2011)

There’s a strength to the subjects Leibovitz chose to shoot that echoes the strength of O’Keeffe’s beloved subjects. The current exhibits, O’Keeffe and the Faraway: Nature and Image, and Leibovitz’s Pilgrimage compliment each other beautifully.  I would recommend everyone take this opportunity to visit the O’Keeffe Museum before May 5, 2013 to see these two icons under one roof…

I have a little side story here: In 1986, I was living in New York City and working as a fashion model. I think back to the day I worked for Bergdorf Goodman, modeling Donna Karan fashion. It was a very easy assignment for me. I spent most of the day lying on a bed, wearing the latest Donna Karan fashion; my hair, makeup, and clothing all being fussed over and arranged.  The photographer snapped roll after roll of film (yes, it was that long ago) from atop a very tall ladder. And when the ad came out in the New York Times on February 2nd, 1986, I was thrilled. I sent the newspaper page to my parents back in England. It wasn’t until they passed away that I found out they’d kept a suitcase full of photos and magazine tear sheets from my modeling days. I sorted through them, threw many away, kept a few, and then promptly forgot about them. The night before I went to this exhibit, I looked to see if by chance I had had the good sense to keep this one image. It was the only time during my fashion career that I was given the privilege of working with Annie Leibovitz.

Image by Annie Leibovitz 1986: New York Times

Image copyright: Annie Leibovitz 1986: New York Times

Now I look at that young girl in the photo and feel an almost parental pride toward her. We had to do some wizardry to get the massive, now sepia toned page to scan, and the folds add character, but it is, nonetheless, my one degree of connection to a great artist.

To learn more about the O’Keeffe Museum exhibits go to: http://www.santafeselection.com/museums/georgia-okeeffe-museum



By Book or By Crook

Independent, locally-owned bookstores are fast becoming a rarity in the U.S. So much so that there are tour operators organizing trips to some of the nation’s favorites. And Santa Fe boasts one of the best in Collected Works Bookstore and Coffeehouse. entrnce

Since 1986, Collected Works has been Santa Fe’s community hub for the written and spoken word.  Owners Dorothy Massey and her daughter Mary Wolf have poured their hearts into making Collected Works a local favorite. With an events calendar that a performing arts space would be proud of, Collected Works hosts poetry readings, music and meet-the-author events and book signings, lectures on environment, politics, opera, and so much more.

For the readers and writers of tomorrow, they offer Children’s Story Time every Wednesday and Thursday mornings from 10:45am to 11:30am. This is an opportunity for parents to take a break, sip a coffee, have a pastry and let the kids have fun.

Children's Storytime,jpg

It is heartwarming to see youngsters browsing a tangible book instead of being glued to a video game on a computer screen.Kidsbooks

Located in historic downtown Santa Fe at the corner of Galisteo and Water Streets, the 4,000 square-foot space houses every kind of book for every interest. There are pastries and coffees, teas and soft drinks served all day long. If you’re an early bird you get 20% off your coffee shop purchase between 8 and 9am. And where else can you curl up on a cozy sofa by a roaring fire with your favorite author and a steaming hot latte? LenoraLowe

In the summer, the shaded patio welcomes you to sip an ice tea and while away an hour or two reading a juicy novel, or working at your computer, whichever you prefer. And for those with e-readers, they are partnering with Kobo ebooks to access tens of thousands of affordable, downloadable titles.

Long before it was a bookstore, part of this plot of land housed a legendary outlaw. William H. Bonney, a.k.a Billy the Kid, once spent time, or should I say, “did time,” in the area that is now dedicated to the events stage and cafe. This is the spot where the Santa Fe County jailhouse once stood. You can’t help feeling a sense of mystery and intrigue when you read the plaque on the exterior wall that tells the story about the notorious Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.


Sheriff Pat Garrett captured Billy the Kid near Fort Sumner at a place called Stinking Springs. Billy was brought to Santa Fe to await trial because the jail here was considered the most secure. He was held for three months, from December 27th, 1880 to March 28, 1881. His trial took place in Mesilla, all the way down south near Las Cruces. Billy was found guilty of murder and then transported to Lincoln County where he was to be hanged in April.  But The Kid managed to kill his two jailers and escape.  Billykidwanted

Three months later, it was by chance that Pat Garrett found Billy at Fort Sumner. He shot and killed Billy the Kid on July 14, 1881.

The Santa Fe jailhouse building was demolished in the early 1900s. Happily, the site now hosts our favorite bookstore and coffeehouse. Whether you’re a visitor or a local, Collected Works is a warm and welcoming place that keeps the community together and the book-loving culture alive and well in Santa Fe. Be sure to include a visit on your agenda. You might want to bookmark their link so you can check their calendar listings for the many events they host. Or sign up for their newsletter and stay in the know.


Weather & What To Pack For Your Santa Fe Trip

When I first arrived in Santa Fe back in 1984, I was fascinated by the quality of light, and changes in weather that occurred throughout the day.  And almost thirty years later, I’m still fascinated.  The elevation of 7000+ feet, clean air (rated best in U.S by American Lung Assoc.) and varied terrain all play a dramatic role in the weather, lifestyle and beauty of New Mexico. The locals say, “If you don’t like the weather in Santa Fe, wait a minute.”


Overlooking Santa Fe from Sun Mountain in June

Along with an amazing diversity of terrain, culture, art, history, and culinary adventures, we have excellent year-round outdoor activities; terrific skiing, river rafting, kayaking, fly fishing, hiking, biking and more.


We are blessed with an average of over 300 days of sunshine a year, and although many people mistakenly believe we are a sand-filled desert, our Sangre de Cristos mountain range is the southernmost point of the Rocky Mountains… and they are green, with rivers, lakes and streams. We have 4 distinct seasons – sometimes in as little as one day or even an hour, during certain times of year. You can keep up with our weather trends through the live weather link in our Visitor Info category on SantaFeSelection.com

Here’s a guideline chart of annual temperature and precipitation averages.


A Few Packing Tips For Your Trip
As temperatures may vary broadly during any season, the main thing to remember is that layering is the best way to be prepared for whatever the day’s weather in whatever season in Northern New Mexico.

The fall brings cool nights and mornings beginning in late August – early September. The days can warm up considerably into the mid to high 70s, and even low 80s. You’ll want to bring a warm jacket for evenings and mornings and have a light shirt under your layers for the high temps of the day. In late September through mid-October the lows are colder, down to 40s, the days can warm up to low-mid 60s, and maybe low 70s if we’re having a warm streak. By early to mid October, we see the peak of beauty in the changing leaves. By the end of October, it’s touch and go, you definitely need to be prepared for anything from cold to warm, rain or an odd snow flurry at higher elevations, so packing the layers is a must.

Aspen Vista - Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Aspen Vista – Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Winters tend to rev up starting from late November and can last toward the end of March, but there’ll be warm days interspersed through January and February just to remind us that spring is on its way. Winter snow brings great skiing and winter sports activities. Daily temperatures can vary radically from high 50s to low 30s. But the cold air is dry, so it doesn’t feel as cold as the damp, bone-chilling cold I experienced growing up in England. For a winter visit you’ll want that puffy coat, or something that will keep out the chill, and some nice warm boots with rugged soles that grip well (with scarf, hat, gloves close by, just in case).


first snow

November Snow

Spring shows up from time to time during February and March, but the steady spring temperatures aren’t until late April. As a rule, we don’t plant anything in our gardens until after Mother’s Day to be sure they won’t be crippled by a late frost. Spring highs can range between an ideal low to mid 70s to nippy low 40s – high 30s at night.  Intermittent winds are common between March and May, which, though not necessarily cold, can be strong. Late April, the trees are starting to blossom and in early May there’s usually an abundance of lilacs and wisterias coloring the town with shades of blue, purple, white and pink. You’ll need a spring jacket for the early morning and late evening chill, and a hat for shade.  Be prepared to shed layers during the day.

After mid-May the spring is in full swing and the highs are getting higher, toward the low – mid 80s during the afternoons.  By Memorial Day Weekend summer is on its way. And by June, the highs average between 80 – 90 degrees (sometimes a little higher for short spurts). Cool nights and early mornings may require an extra light layer. By 10 am it has warmed up considerably and the lightest shirt and shorts, with good walking sandals, hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses are ideal. An extra light layer is always a good idea if you can fit one in your bag, or tie around your waist or shoulders in the case of an occasional rain shower.


Taking a sec in the shade, hiking Sun Mountain in July

In July, the heat and mountainous terrain can stir up an afternoon thundershower, locals refer to it as the monsoon season. These welcome storms add a touch of drama to the skies and may last anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour delivering refreshing rains. I’d say bring an umbrella, but honestly, who cares if you get wet when it is so brief, and deliciously warm and fun!  On occasion, there may be hail that can vary in size from styrofoam looking baubles to the less common golf ball size (I’d take cover for those episodes). The accompanying lightning displays are phenomenal! And then there are often gorgeous rainbows (some doubles) arcing after or during a storm.

Rainbow DS1

And after maybe an hour of drama, you’re left with a fantastic sunset, slightly cooler temperatures and a perfect evening to take a nice peaceful stroll around the Plaza, listen to free music at the Plaza bandstand, and eat dinner at any of the favorite restaurants in the vicinity.  A light extra layer, shawl, or sweater may be needed, if not for outside, then perhaps for inside where there may be air conditioning. Air conditioning is not a big necessity here as the adobe buildings are quite good at keeping us cool in summer but some restaurants, museums and theaters may have A/C.

There is little need for high fashion, or high heels here. Casual dress is accepted everywhere, unless you have a special occasion to attend that calls for gowns and tux (rare but has been known to happen). If you do dress up for a special occasion remember, some parking lots and some small streets are unpaved, uneven, or covered with loose gravel. (Those leather heeled Jimmy Choos might want to stay home.)


Governor’s Palace Portal

Comfortable walking shoes or hiking sandals are recommended for most activities, from strolling around the many museums and sites, to the beautiful long or short hikes that can vary from easy to moderate inclines, up to extremely steep terrain. I recommend Santa Fe Walkabouts for a great variety of fun excursions. They’ll custom cater to you and your skill level. Here’s Georges Mally of SFW in January on the beautiful red rocks at O’Keeffe’s favorite place, Ghost Ranch.


Whatever the season, layers are the best way to be prepared. Year-round it is wise to carry sunscreen, chapstick and a brimmed hat and sunglasses. We are high up and the sun is strong.

**Another Very Important Thing

At 7000+ feet, the air is excellent quality, but thinner. Regardless of age or physical condition, your body may need a little time to adapt to the altitude. DRINKING LOTS OF WATER IS A MUST!!! You might think you drink enough already, but a minimum of 2 litres is a starting point here. And drinking alcohol can hinder and extend the adjustment period.

When you first arrive, it is best to allow a day or two to adjust before any strenuous activity or excursions. Take it easy, drink plenty of water, skip the alcohol, eat regular light meals, take a nap if needed. And if you feel you need some assistance, no worries, there’s the ultiMED Urgent Care facility just a few blocks from the historic Plaza, to help you out. No lines, no hassle, no appointment necessary, just a pleasant environment and swift, professional medical attention (most insurances accepted). They’ll have you back to enjoying your vacation in no time! Click here for more details on altitude adjustment symptoms.


Dozin’ by the Jemez River in late May.

There’s something for everyone in New Mexico. So be sure to add it to your list of places to visit. To help you plan your trip, find the right lodging for your needs and budget, access excellent maps, or if you have any questions about things to do, where to eat, etc., please visit SantaFeSelection.com Travel Guide & Concierge.

If you would like free personal referrals, you can also call or write to me with your questions. (505) 470-2991, email: info@santafeselection.com.

Please join my blog, I’d love to hear from you.

Happy Travels! ~ Maria!



Against The Odds: The Birth of A National Treasure

Recently, I had the pleasure of spending some quality time with the knowledgeable staff at The Case Trading Post Museum Store, located within the oldest independent, non-profit museum in New Mexico, The Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian.There is an interesting history behind the creation of the museum, and its collection.

In 1921, Mary Cabot Wheelwright, a Boston native, met Hastiin Klah, a well respected Navajo religious leader, “singer,” “medicine man.” They were introduced by Arthur and Frances Newcomb who operated a Trading Post on the Navajo Reservation near Klah’s home.


Klah believed the Navajo (Diné ) People’s culture and religious traditions were under threat. The 1863 – 68 incarceration of more than 10,000 Navajo people by the U.S Military at Fort Sumner’s  Bosque Redondo, the loss of over 2,000 people, including many tribal elders, coupled with the influx of white settlers into the west, had had a devastating effect. And the U.S Government’s attempts to assimilate Navajo children into white Christian schools and society also jeopardized the chances of preserving Diné spirituality and traditions for future generations.

After meeting Klah, Mary was permitted to witness a Navajo ceremonial. And Mary became passionate about helping Klah preserve the traditions in as many media as possible. Here is Klah with one of his own representational weavings.

Klah and Textile

They began creating and collecting the renditions of ceremonial art and artifacts in tapestries, sand paintings, and many hundreds of recordings of songs, chants and poems that Klah knew by heart. Although Klah met opposition by other Navajo elders and religious leaders, he was determined to continue.

During the 1930s Mary was encouraged by her friend David Rockefeller Sr., to found a museum to house the collection. Then she too met with opposition, from the Laboratory of Anthropology in Santa Fe, who had initially been pleased by her offer to build a “Navajo House of Prayer.”  Wheelwright wanted the building to be in the shape of a “Hogan” to honor the spirit and tradition of the Navajo people and the objects it was to house. But the octagonal, looming shape contradicted the revival of the low, flat-roof pueblo design that was trending in the 1930s.

When Mary had given up hope of ever fulfilling the dream, her friend Amelia Elizabeth White donated 8 acres on the foothills of the Sangre de Cristos, within the area that is now known as “Museum Hill.” And without the need for further approval from the Laboratory of Anthropology,  in 1937,  the original Hogan design became a reality. Sadly, Klah died just a few months before its completion, but he did ceremonially bless the land where the museum now stands.

First known as the House of Navajo Religion Museum, it was renamed The Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian in 1976 after the trustees decided to return to the Diné the sacred ceremonial items that inspired its creation. Exhibits now include the amazing historic and contemporary art, weavings, pottery, jewelry, apparel, and myriad works of well-known and up-and-coming Native American artists from all tribes. Klah’s and Wheelwright’s chance encounter, and subsequent vision and determination, led to the creation of an extensive private collection that has always been open to the public for free. A visit to the museum allows everyone to appreciate the dedication, devotion and vision of these exceptional founders.

Original Museum gallery

The Wheelwright Museum when it first opened

Image:courtesy of Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian.

It is easy and very affordable to support the good work of this museum by becoming a member.  For as little as only $40 a year, members receive discounts on purchases and many other benefits. To join please call (505) 982-4636, or visit the store (click here for address and map).

The Case Trading Post is an important part of the museum. It sits in the lower level and has its own reputation as one of the most authentic, reputable trading posts in the U.S. Complete with squeaking wooden floors and a rustic beamed ceiling, it was designed to resemble the early Navajo Trading Posts that were located at many of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad stations from the late 1800s.Store

They exhibit and sell a wide array of collectibles dating from as early as the “Harvey Era” (1878-1900s) all the way to the present day. They also show exciting works of highly popular contemporary stars, such as award winning Navajo designer Orlando Dugi’s exquisite high fashion jewelry and accessories. OrlandoDugi

The unique silk and velvet creations by fashion designer Patricia Michaels of Taos Pueblo are also available. Patricia is currently a contestant on the Heidi Klum show, “Project Runway” on Lifetime. PatriciaMichaels

The knowledgeable staff are always happy to share information on the artists and history of the Case Trading Post and the Museum. Pat was very helpful to me with all my questions, “Thank you Pat!” Patricia

The Wheelwright Museum and Case Trading Post are located at Museum Hill, just about 2 miles from Santa Fe’s historic Plaza. The link shows you a map. This is a premium location to capture breathtaking 360 degree views.MntnView

**IMPORTANT NOTE: February 10th through 17th 2013, Museum members receive 20% off purchases in the Case Trading Post. You need to call (505) 982-4636 or visit to sign up for membership, and receive the discount. This is a great opportunity to find an original Valentine’s gift for your sweetheart! (*some exclusions apply*)

Thanks for reading this article. It was a biggie. I hope you enjoyed it. Please don’t hesitate to share your comments.