Taos Pueblo and more
Native arts at Millicent Rogers Museum Store
By Dena Miller
Taos Pueblo may be temporarily closed but locals and visitors still do have the opportunity to explore Native history and traditions by visiting the Millicent Rogers Museum Store. Whether it’s been awhile or you’ve never been, it’s a destination worthy of a leisurely browse.
The prestigious museum was established by Millicent Roger’s son, Paul Peralta-Ramos, after the death of the New York socialite who had an immediate love affair with Taos and its people upon her move here in 1947. She became an advocate for the preservation of Native and Hispanic cultures and her stellar collection of jewelry, textiles, religious and secular art is the showcase upon which the museum itself was established.
Today Roger’s legacy is reflected in the museum’s store, where the excellence of historic fine arts and crafts handed down over generations at Taos Pueblo is offered for your consideration.
There’s an abundance of fine pottery, primarily of micaceous clay, which gets its sparkling appearance from naturally occurring particles of mica. Once formed, the pieces are wood-fired in outdoor pits, where fire and smoke create the final colors and markings and, thus, make each piece one of a kind.
Among the highlights are the works of Angie Yazzie, whose deftness with micaceous clay has earned her national acclaim. Her process begins with hand-rolled coils of the clay, which are then smoothed and sanded to an eggshell thinness before firing. Yazzie’s work consistently wins top awards at the Santa Fe Indian Market and is in museums and collections throughout the country.“Storytellers” are a singular form of clay pottery which celebrates the oral traditions of Native culture. They feature an open-mouthed elder surrounded by children or animals or both, listening raptly to the tales of yesteryear. The museum’s gift shop is fortunate to have the works of two prominent potters whose storytellers are widely regarded.
Antoinette Colcha, of Taos/Jemez Pueblo and a member of the Water Clan, and Aaron Mirabal of Taos Pueblo, are both expert in this charming and relatively new micaceous or red clay pottery motif that is unique to New Mexican pueblos.
Marie Claire Maurice fashions strands of micaceous beads whose shimmer changes with the light as you wear them. And Ben Romero has captured a following for his micaceous bears, turtles, horses, bowls and sculptures that depict images of everyday life on the pueblo, or which are adorned with feathers, beads and other symbolic embellishments.
What’s the other clay? Glass has been called “the clay that can’t be touched” by the foremost Native glass blower Tony Jojola, under whom Ira Lujan apprenticed. Today, examples of Lujan’s expertise in handblown Native themes and ancient techniques are available at the Museum Store.
The art of Jonathan Warm Day Coming is also distinguished as a visual narration of life on Taos Pueblo, but his medium is vibrant acrylic on canvas. He is also a published illustrator, having recently released “Luna: The Mare with the Sky Blue Eyes” with author Dora Dillistone. The book received the 2019 International Silver Award for Children’s Illustrated Nonfiction books, and copies signed by the artist are available in the Museum Store along with a selection of his paintings.
To many of us, though, the quintessential souvenir of a visit to the Southwest is its jewelry. Amid its vast offerings, the museum is pleased to represent the works of husband and wife Causandra and Michael Dukepoo. Sleek contemporary designs adorned with mosaics of turquoise and other semiprecious stones are the linchpin of this Taos Pueblo couple’s style.
And because you’ve been busy enjoying the outdoor beauty and indoor treasures of Taos, you’re now ready to relax with an assortment of pampering products from Bison Star Naturals, a homegrown company that prides itself on clean formulations and locally sourced ingredients. Angelo McHorse (Taos Pueblo) and his wife, Jacquelene, offer lotions, soaps, bath salts and lip balm to take care of every inch of you.
Explore, learn and, most of all, savor this cache of local artistry.
The Millicent Rogers Museum Store is located at 1504 Millicent Rogers Road, and walk-in shopping hours are Thursday-Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. See millicentrogers.org. For more information or to schedule a private appointment, call (575) 758-4316.