The 2021 Taos Fall Arts Festival and Taos Wool Festival support local artistic expression while upholding the town’s artistic legacy of gathered celebrations of the land and art.
Through 200 artists, curated by the theme “Return to the Earth, Water, Sky/Regreso a la Tierra, Agua, Cielo,” the Taos Fall Arts Festival comes to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the return of land and Blue Lake to Taos Pueblo. The Taos Wool Festival, now in its thirty-eighth year, bestows a regional display of fiber artistry.
TFAF, running since 1974, presents a spectrum of media ranging from two- to three-dimensional, allowing each artist one artwork and miniature. In past years, opening night has attracted 700 to 800 people.
“Even if you are an established artist, you do work that sometimes your gallery can’t show because of the market,” says TFAF’s Norlynne Coar. “[TFAF] is un-juried and gives an opportunity to put in new and experimental work and gives young artists the opportunity to show with others. Not the fault of anybody, but artists [and galleries] become prisoners of their brand.”
Renowned artist Jonathan Warm Day Coming, hailing from Taos Pueblo, is the TFAF poster artist with his painting A Place of Stories. Pine-rich in detail and color, A Place of Stories, and nonetheless his oeuvre, capture the raw energy of traditions and their sentiments.
Warm Day Coming’s inspiration comes from his surroundings in Taos; earlier Pueblo artwork, namely out of the Santa Fe Indian School in the 1930s; his mother, Eva Mirabal; and more—all while “living in her home where she created her work,” he says.
“Her presence is there,” says Warm Day Coming. “She got into everything… one of the first cartoonists in the country, she did murals.”
However, his first terming of art was not through his mother’s studio and house (considered more as maternal affairs, the everyday), but rather the wood furniture his paternal grandfather carved. In a trip down the road, he would look around his grandparents’ house to see “cabinets, tables, chairs, the door that you walked through, wood staircases” all carved, sometimes with geometric or Southwest designs.
His own creativity began through woodcarving, and like many other kids that carry pocketknives, “You can do that anywhere, you can just sit outside and make a mess and no one’s going to get after you,” says Warm Day Coming, who has published the books Taos Pueblo Painted Stories, Eva Mirabal: Three Generations of Tradition and Modernity at Taos Pueblo, and illustrated Luna, The Mare With the Sky Blue Eyes and Kiki’s Journey, with more to anticipate.
It wasn’t until later that the artist turned to the canvas. “I painted myself out of a corner,” he describes.
“Early on, there are people who have homesteads outside the main wall of the Pueblo,” he says about A Place of Stories, the artwork featured at TFAF. “They had plots where they planted gardens and spend the day, hours at the homestead, and then they would go back home to the Pueblo at night.”
Next in Taos, fiber artistry in the Southwest region comes together through the cabinet of curiosities that is the Taos Wool Festival.
Following the wool tradition of the Southwest of more than 400 years, the market has fifty artist booths with a plethora of woven, crocheted, knitted, and felted intricacies mostly from Churro sheep, alpaca, and, less commonly, dog hair and buffalo.
For Ruth Baldwin, former board member of the TWF and an Albuquerque-based fiber artist, the magic and intrigue have lasted throughout her career.
“Just to see it done. If you take this fiber in your hand, it’s a fluff that pulls apart, and start adding a bit of twist to it, it gives it strength and used for so many different things,” explains Baldwin. “Everything before machine that came to be, like sails for ships, were all hand-spun.”
In addition, there will be demonstrations of the artist process, including live animals such as the Churro sheep. The animal, widely used in northern New Mexico, originally arrived with Spanish colonists and remained in Diné trading after the Spaniards were driven out in 1680.
Ultimately, TWF forms a wholesome wool community in a united celebration of the animals and their uses. Holding true for the TFAF as well, Baldwin concludes, “It needs to be experienced. You must at least come once even if you are not a knitter or crocheter or weaver or anything.” And remember, per Salvador Dali, “Those that don’t want to imitate anything, produce nothing.”
The Taos Fall Arts Festival is open for viewing through October 3 at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, 205 Don Fernando Street. The Taos Wool Festival takes place October 2-3 in Kit Carson Park, 211 Paseo Del Pueblo Norte.
Admission is free to both events. COVID-19 protocols are abided by, and all artwork is for sale. Visitors can follow up the two festivals with New Mexico Fiber Arts Center’s Churro Week in Española, October 4-10.