Nothing inspires artists more than jaw-dropping natural landscapes, and New Mexico has those in spades. Perhaps that’s why the Southwestern state has been making art for millennia — from the cave walls of ancient civilizations to artists like D.H. Lawrence and Georgia O’Keeffe, the New Mexico art scene has never, ever run dry. In fact, it’s only getting bigger.
And we’re not talking art museums. Here are six mind-blowing experiences that go well beyond your standard picture frame, for when you’re craving a dose of wonder and inspiration.
1. Dwan Light Sanctuary, Las Vegas
The structure itself seems built for meditation and reflection — it’s not uncommon to see someone draped over the adobe-esque benches built into the white walls or seated cross-legged in an unfurnished corner. What’s more, prisms are positioned throughout the building to separate the incoming sunlight, casting rainbows and geometric shapes every which way. These simple yet profound features pose two questions: What raw materials are needed to create art? And what is our relationship to the aesthetic world?
The Dwan Light Sanctuary is a 15-minute drive from the heart of quirky
2. Tinkertown, Sandia Park
Located on the edge of Sandia Park, on the other side of the mountains from Albuquerque,
That’s because the eccentric hobbyist Ross Ward made a name for himself worldwide. In what seems to be almost a performance piece, Tinkertown shows what a lifetime dedicated to crafts and creativity can produce. “I did all this while you were watching TV,” he famously said of the array of bobbles and oddities that overflow the museum, now run by his wife. But really, it feels more like a living, breathing Rube Goldberg machine.
The vibe of Tinkertown is anything but pretentious. Ward didn’t think he was making a gallery — or anything of much interest to the rest of the world — during the time he was compiling his “artwork.” Rather, Tinkertown is a reminder to all artists to just invest time in themselves.
3. The Fountain Theatre, Mesilla
Hosting the occasional very artsy film festival and showing independent and foreign films seven days a week, the Fountain Theatre reminds us — in a time of blockbusters and Redbox — what it must have been like to encounter cinema as an art form 100 years ago. Walk into their teeny muraled theater (with some fancy wooden chairs in the back) and you’ll see for yourself.
4. Loretto Chapel, Santa Fe
No longer used as a Roman Catholic church, the
Books and movies have attempted to account for the mystery, but no consensus has been reached. The violent and untimely death of the original architect certainly didn’t help curtail the legend, and the lore surrounding the staircase settles on it as a simple, physics-defying miracle. An act of angels or an ingenious artist? The official story from the chapel gives equal weight to both sides. Much like Mona Lisa’s smile, the staircase is a reminder that the most memorable pieces of art carry an air of mystery.
5. Derrick Floor Sculptures, Artesia
If future generations study art the way we do, it’s strange to think that the Derrick Floor Sculptures might be among the artifacts unearthed by future archeologists. What would humans thousands of years from now think of sculptures of larger-than-life…oil well workers?
Vic Payne’s bronze statues commemorate the men and women of the oil and natural gas industry. His realist depiction of an oil rig towers 34 feet above Main Street in the little town of
And as Yoko Ono once said, “Controversy is part of the nature of art and creativity.”
6. Lightning Field, location unknown
The final, mind-blowing stop on an artsy tour of New Mexico is in an “unknown location.” Intrigued? Part natural wonder, part human creation, the exact location of the Lightning Field is a secret (well, Google knows) — you’ll have to land a coveted
When you stay in the one-and-only cabin, you’ll be surrounded by 400 stainless steel poles constructed to attract and disperse the electricity from the heat lightning rolling overhead. The result is a man-made grid system that showcases nature’s awesome, unpredictable patterns. It’s unreal.
As a conceptual piece designed by Walter De Maria and completed in 1977, the Lightning Field accepts only six visitors to the cabin at a time. This is immersive art at its best — leaving anyone who sees it feeling closer to the world and to one another…and in awe of the boundlessness of artistic expression.