Red Willow: Portraits of a Town
The Tiwa (or Tano) are a linguistic group of Pueblo American Indians who speak the Tiwa language and share the Pueblo culture. Tiwa (also known as Tano) is one of five Tanoan languages spoken by the Pueblo people of New Mexico. The name Taos is derived from the Tiwa word for “place of red willows.” The red wllow is a variety know for its reddish or purple twigs and bark rich in tannin. It is also known as the basket willow, having pliable twigs used in basketry and furniture.
Red Willow: Portraits of a Town presents portraits of the many compelling historic and contemporary members of the Taos, New Mexico community. Artists from around the world have visited Taos to capture the iconic and exotic faces of the people. “The People” include both the native Tiwa people from the Taos Pueblo and the Hispanic and Anglo populations that now form the majority of Taos' population. Taken together, these three groups have made Taos a tri-cultural and tri-lingual community.
The material for portraiture was, and is, plentiful. Many from Taos Pueblo have sat for portraits, including artist Eva Mirabal Gomez. Joseph Imhof, who influenced the young artist, would often sketch the Pueblo people. The exhibition includes a lithograph portrait of Eva created by Imhof. The piece was gifted to the Museum by Lucy Case Harwood, whose ca. 1890 oil portrait is installed nearby.
In 1932 Taos Modernist Emil Bisttram painted a portrait of agriculturalist and cowboy, Bing Abbott. Although done in 1932, the portrait appears to be an ultra contemporary, slick rendition of a questionable character, holding within it a powerful affectation. A self-portrait of Taos icon Jim Wagner proclaims this contemporary artist’s place in the chronicles of this town. Accompanying this exhibition are the narratives of these subjects’ lives. They tell a rich story that weaves their lives together as a family, in a way that only a small community could.
Jina Brenneman, Curator of Collections and Exhibitions