The Art of Touch

Sculptor Eugenie Shonnard was born in 1886 in Yonkers, New York. At the age of 27 she had gone completely deaf. Because of this disability her senses of sight and touch became more pronounced. Shonnard came to Santa Fe in 1927 at the invitation of Edgar Lee Hewett, the founder of the Museum of New Mexico. Shonnard felt an immediate connection to the land and its people. She befriended many Native Americans, including Maria Martinez. She was present at the birth of Maria’s son, Popovi Da.

José Dolores López, a native of the village of Córdova in Northern New Mexico, was an early Hispanic sculptor. He created Our Lady of Light during the Great Depression for the WPA. His work became part of an exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 1934 Washington, D.C. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor visited the gallery to see the work made possible through one of his New Deal projects.

A Second Chance at Life

The genesis of Santa Fe as an art mecca begins with the Neolithic artifacts embedded in the cultural fabric of Santa Fe. Decorative shards of pottery from the 13th century mark the passage of time. They remain under the protection of museum gatekeepers, allowing a glimpse into a world frozen in the past. Tuberculosis, the leading cause of death in this country from 1880 through 1940, solidified the foundation of Santa Fe as a major art center. The pristine arid climate brought hundreds of people to Sunmount Sanitorium. The solitude of convalescence awakened a core of creativity. The terrain provided a canvas for those indebted to the people and place that gave them a second chance at life.

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