Silver City, New Mexico has been a place I have been thinking about visiting for some time. It’s isolated in southern New Mexico and an hour detour off the Interstate. I finally made it there this month and nearly missed it.
I was hesitant to make the trip because of experiences in other “artsy “ towns along the way. So many places have gone from funky and artsy to bland and high end. The rents go up, the prices go up. What had been cool and interesting, is now expensive gift shops and dull galleries. The art is often well executed but generally predictable and safe. These towns have commercial centers that offer nothing for locals who are pushed to strip malls on the edges of their communities. Does it sound like Santa Fe? Well I could also be describing most towns on Cape Cod and just as many along the coast of California from Hermosa Beach, to Carmel to Sausalito, etc. I could be even describing San Francisco.
With this fear, I made the trip to Silver City, arriving from the East to be greeted by the ubiquitous sprawl of chain restaurants and motels. Keeping my mind open, I drove through town, followed the signs and found the historic downtown. What a treasure, it’s a good size, full grid of tight streets filled with Victorian, Western and Southwestern Architecture. On it’s own it’s a photogenic gem. And yes, I did see some of that high-end kitsch. But I also saw what happened when a town is relatively isolated and rents remain affordable. Now it wasn’t all to my taste, nor should it have been, but there was a real mix of art going. And in case you were having trouble finding art, those big red dots painted on the sidewalks helped you find the way.
The new prints of old photos at Lumiere Editions Gallery caught my eye. They are reproducing early prints from Kodak proto-Brownie cameras. They are a round format from a camera that was designed for amateur use. If you remember instamatic cameras, you kind of get the idea. The originals were taken by one of the gallery owners’ great grandfathers on a western trip in the late 19th Century. Now, if you want to see something new in the gallery, just look to your right, that’s a John Baldessari hanging right next to you. Lumiere Editions is also the exclusive printer for some of the powerhouses in American Art (see their website for more). That’s how New Mexico is – you never know what you’ll find in the most seemingly isolated place.
More wandering around town lead me to loud music blasting from an open door. I walked in, and before I found the art and was reminded why I need to do a second Collage meets Landscape show. I fell in love with Jean-Robert Béffort’s work (see above). His ASpaceStudioArtGallery makes me want to leave San Francisco and just to go to a place where I can have a big old warehouse full of art and coolness. Jean-Robert’s great and his art is out there – out there where more of us need to go. I also always get excited to see other artists re-purposing and doing amazing things with old globes.
Silver City, I’ll be back – just try to stay the same and not get all fancy on me.