By Anna Racicot
In any small town of note there will be those spaces, whether they are gardens or architectural works, where residents and visitors go to immerse themselves in the spirit of the place. In Taos, one of those places is the Taos Art Museum at Fechin House.
The house itself, closed to the public for decades, now reveals to the viewer the great artistry and skill in woodcarving of Russian painter Nicholai Fechin. In the care of the Taos Art Museum, the house itself is a work of art. Fechin built the home in the 1920s and ‘30s. It displays not only his works, but those of the original Taos Society of Artists. In addition to showing these early works, the Taos Art Museum, now celebrating its 15th year, brings to Taos some extraordinary exhibits.
Fechin, born in Kazan, Russia, in 1881, learned woodcarving from his father and graduated from the Imperial Art Academy. Because of the difficulties in Russia following the Bolshevik Revolution and World War I, Fechin and his wife, Alexandra, and daughter, Eya, immigrated to the United States in 1923. Mabel Dodge Luhan hosted the family in Taos when they were looking for a place with the salutary dry air needed by those such as Fechin who had contracted tuberculosis. They had been encouraged to visit by artist John Young Hunter, who told them of the art colony here.
Fechin purchased a home and outbuildings on seven acres in the town in 1927. He not only remodeled the house, enlarging it and bringing windows from Philadelphia, but he blended his native Russian woodcarving designs with those he embraced in his new country, from Pueblo and Hispanic styles to Art Deco. The similar motifs, the carved beams and handmade furniture merge into an inspiring unity of form. Alexandra, following their divorce in 1933, continued to live in the house into the 1970s (Fechin died in 1955). In 1979, the house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and in 1981 Eya Fechin opened the house as the Fechin Institute in memory her father. After her death, the Taos Art Museum acquired the property from Fechin’s granddaughter in 2002 with the goal of preserving and opening it to the public.
This exceptionally well-crafted house with its warm, white tierra blanca walls offers the perfect environs to show the bright paintings of Fechin and his early Taos contemporaries. The museum has in its collections works by Oscar E. Berninghaus, E. Irving Couse, W.H. Dunton, Eugenie Fish Glaman, Victor Higgins, Joseph Sharp and Duane Van Vecten.
In addition to using the space to display and teach visitors about the early artists, the museum’s Executive Director Christy Schoedinger Coleman is most excited about a first-time exhibition of the varied works of artist Marjorie Eaton. Eaton, who came to Taos in 1928, is known as a modernist with cubist influences. However, she is also known as a photographer who used the camera to capture images for painting in Taos and Mexico. She turned to film in the 1940s. This exhibit, “Marjorie Eaton: A Life in Pictures,” reveals her personal life as well as her visual work, both paintings and photographs. The show runs from April 2019 through March 2020.
Other upcoming events on the Taos Art Museum’s calendar for this summer and fall are many and varied, from plein air paintings to opera performances. The summer and fall months generally feature two to three outstanding events with fewer in the winter months.
The Taos Art Museum at Fechin House is located on 227 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. Admission is $10 for adults, $9 for seniors, $6 for students, and children under 12 are free. The museum is also free to members (see taosartmuseum.org) and free to Taos County residents on Sundays.
The tranquil gardens
Hidden behind the stately former home of artist Nicholai Fechin a beautiful new garden waits to be discovered. The garden has become a special gathering place for people after they tour the museum or while they wait for a musical event.
2019 Taos Art Museum at Fechin House calendar of events
May 11, noon-4 p.m.: Meet the Artist, Debra Piedrafita, Fechin Studio
May 11, 5-7 p.m.: Taos Watercolor Society, Fechin Studio
June 2-Aug. 4: Plein Air Painters of New Mexico, Fechin Studio
June 5, 5:30 p.m.: Susan Kirk on Marjorie Eaton, Fechin Studio
June 19, 1-2 p.m.: Taos Opera Institute, Cantos de Taos, Fechin Studio
June 20, 5:30-8:30 p.m.: Italian Wine, Food and Song opera event/fundraiser featuring tenor Eric Barry, Fechin House, $150-$500
July 13, noon-4 p.m.: Meet the Artist, Frenchesca and Joel Cook, Fechin Studio
July 27, all day: Masha and Larissa Archer, Fechin Studio
Aug. 6-24: Gala Silent Auction & Celebration of 15-year anniversary, Fechin Studio. Gala held on Aug. 24, 5-11 p.m.
Sept. 7, 7-9 p.m.: Opening reception, Jennifer Lynch, Fechin Studio
Sept. 14, noon-4 p.m.: Meet the artist, Laura Megariz, Fechin Studio
Sept. 18, 5:30-6:30 p.m.: Taos Treasures, C.S. Talley, Fechin Studio
Oct. 12, noon: Meet the Artist, TBA, Fechin Studio
Nov. 5, 11 a.m.: Allegra Sleep, Fechin Studio
Dec. 7-8: Museum Store Holiday Sale