True Art in New Mexico

It’s almost as if New Mexico is a work of art in itself. Many kinds of artists come to be inspired by the scenery and culture, and some even make this state their permanent home.
Because the arts community thrives here, many galleries, museums and arts centers have been erected to preserve art and to keep it alive as well.

Museums throughout the state feature everything from Native American artisans, folk and contemporary art, to paintings by Georgia O'Keeffe.

New Mexico also enjoys some of the finest institutions in the field of performing arts. From the Santa Fe Opera to The Spencer Theater in Ruidoso to the World Beat vibes of Globalquerque; New Mexico's performing arts community makes it easy to take in a play, share in the spectacle of traditional Flamenco dancing, or just enjoy listening to your favorite band.

Native American Art

“...Using tools handed down from generation to generation, Native American artists spend countless hours to perfect the craft and preserve the tradition of their ancestors. ”

New Mexico has a long history of Native American traditional art that stretches across the kaleidoscopic canvas of our land. Weaving, pottery making, silversmithing, Kachina doll making, and other arts have been in existence before New Mexico was proclaimed a state in 1912, and much longer, even before Spanish colonists came from Mexico in the early 1600s. Using tools handed down from generation to generation, Native American artists spend countless hours to perfect the craft and preserve the tradition of their ancestors. New Mexico, also known as the State of the Arts, has more working artists, open studios, artist owned galleries, Fine Art galleries, specialty and artisan oriented shops than any other state in the union per capita, which means the time-honored craft of Native American art is readily available in every region.

Scholars theorize the Navajo learned to weave from the Pueblo people, the region’s first weavers, around 1650. The Pueblo people made baskets, robes, sandals, and plaited and twined mats from fibers, and decorated them with feathers and rabbit fur. Around A.D. 700, the Pueblos began loom weaving with indigenous cotton, often using a backstrap loom, belted around the waist. Hopi and Pueblo weavers advanced the art with these materials, producing pieces of higher quality woven more tightly and with more detailed designs. Although they are generally distinct in patterns, colors and weaving techniques, some of the Pueblo, Navajo and Rio Grande weaving styles overlap due to contact among the cultures.

One of the most striking characteristics of Pueblo Indian pottery is its variety. With endless variations of texture, color, form, and style of decoration, diversity is one of the qualities of Pueblo Indian pottery that often appeals to collectors. From gourds to stones, the makers of traditional pottery continue to use age-old tools for the creation of each desired vessel. Materials local to their own Pueblo, including fuel for the fire and clay dug up from the ground, must be gathered. Impurities are removed by hand. Paints are prepared by grinding rocks or clays to create a colorful palette, or boiling plants to produce black carbon paint. Artists in virtually every one of the pottery-making Pueblos are reinterpreting traditional forms, creating new styles or even reviving old ones.

Santo -domingo -necklaceSilversmithing was introduced to the Navajo people in the early 19th Century by a Mexican silversmith who taught the craft to Atsidi Chon. By the mid-19th century, Chon had mastered the art and introduced it to his friend Lanyade, a Zuni Indian. Prior to this time at the Zuni Pueblo, copper and brass were the only metals crafted. Chon introduced the technique of stamping with designs based on Mexican leather craft. The cross-cultural relationship has made it is nearly impossible to distinguish early Navajo and Zuni silver jewelry. By 1910, the whole design of Zuni jewelry was oriented toward cluster and channel work, mosaics, and the display of gems. Today, almost all silver is signed or marked, or the maker is identifiable. It is illegal in New Mexico to proffer non-Indian made jewelry as Indian-made. A reputable dealer should be able to provide proof of authenticity in writing.

Kachinas (also spelled Katsina, the plural "katsinam") exist in Hopi and in Pueblo cosmology and religious practices. In Hopi, the literal definition of the word Kachina (Katsina or Qatsina) means "life bringer" and can be anything that exists in the natural world or cosmos. The Zuni believe that the Kachinas live in the Lake of the Dead, a mythical lake, which is reached through Listening Spring Lake, located at the junction of the Zuni River and the Little Colorado River. Kachinas are actually stylized religious icons, meticulously carved from cottonwood root and painted to represent figures from Hopi and Zuni mythology. For generations, these figures have been used to teach children about their religion. There are more than 400 different Kachinas in Hopi and Pueblo culture.

More Information

To learn more about New Mexico’s 22 Native Indian Tribes click here:

Georgia O'Keeffe and Her Beloved Landscape

“...She said that the sky, the stars and the wind were different.”

Georgia O’Keeffe believed it was impossible to be taught how to paint a landscape. She thought it was something an artist had to discover for herself; something she had to feel deep within her bones. When she visited New Mexico, she learned quickly and never stopped being inspired by her surroundings.

If you haven’t heard her name, you’ve probably seen her large-format paintings of enlarged blossoms. In these paintings, Georgia O’Keeffe tricks you into thinking that you’re peering at flowers though a magnifying lens. With these paintings, and many other works of art, she became one of America’s most important modern artists within a decade.

After making her mark in New York, O’Keeffe became inspired by New Mexico’s natural beauty in 1917 when she traveled from Texas to vacation in Colorado. She spent several days in New Mexico and instantly felt as if it were “her country.” She couldn’t quite put her finger on what drew her to the land, but she thought maybe it was something in the air. She said that the sky, the stars and the wind were different.

Twelve years later, in the mid-1930s, she began roaming areas south of Taos, such as Alcalde, Espanola and Santa Fe. She was completely inspired by the brightly colored red and yellow hills, the jagged white cliffs, the pale greens of the cedar trees, and the bleached desert bones she collected. All of these natural New Mexican elements became subjects in her work throughout the 1940s.

In 1949, she made New Mexico her permanent home and continued to paint, draw and make pottery until her failing eyesight forced her to retire in 1984. In 1986 she passed away at the age of 98 in Santa Fe. Her ashes were scattered in the wind at the top of Pedernal Mountain, which is frequently featured in her paintings.

To celebrate this internationally know artist, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum opened in July 1997, just eleven years after her death. It is the only museum in the world dedicated to an American female artist and it is the most frequented art museum in the state of New Mexico.

Located in Santa Fe, the museum’s collection of over 3,000 works comprises 1,149 O’Keeffe paintings, drawings and sculptures that date from 1901 to 1984. Some of its special exhibitions are either devoted entirely to O’Keeffe’s work or feature some of her art combined with works by her American modernist contemporaries. Other artists, such as Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock have been exhibited at the museum as well.

The Georgia O’Keefe Museum Research Center, dedicated to the study of American modernism, was opened in July 2001 as a component of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. It sponsors research in art history, architectural history and design, literature, music and photography. These two Pueblo Revival style buildings are located just two blocks from the historic Santa Fe Plaza.

More Information and Websites

To learn more about the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, exhibitions and programs click

Performance in New Mexico

Click here for a list of some of the best venues for performance art in the southwest

New Mexico also enjoys some of the finest institutions in the field of performing arts. From the Santa Fe Opera to The Spencer Theater in Ruidoso to the World Beat vibes of Globalquerque; New Mexico's performing arts community makes it easy to take in a play, share in the spectacle of traditional Flamenco dancing, or just enjoy listening to your favorite band.

Theaters and Actors Guilds

Studio Tours, Galleries and Artists's Studios

“...Many artists make their home in New Mexico and open their studios to the public throughout the year”

Studio Tours, Galleries and Artists's Studios

In New Mexico, also known as the State of the Arts, there are more working artists, open studios, artist owned galleries, Fine Art galleries, specialty and artisan oriented shops, well you get the idea, than any other state in the union per capita.

Studio Tours Listed by Month

Events & Features