Why Did the Harley Cross the Road…?

…to get to the other museum.


Today, the New Mexico Museum of Art transferred ownership of its 1940 Harley-Davidson WLD Extra High Compression 45 Special Sport Solo to the New Mexico History Museum. Longtime visitors to MOA will remember the bike on display for years, a thing of beauty and exemplar of New Mexico’s open roads. But our sister museum needed space in its collections vault, and we saw a way to blend it with the “My New Mexico” theme in our main exhibition, Telling New Mexico: Stories from Then and Now.

Eventually, it will join a broken-in-two car that juts from two walls in a lower-level theater. Short documentaries that rotate in the theater include one on Route 66, a road seemingly made for an open-throated, two-wheeled beast of a bike.

72-Pushing-2First, though, we had to get the Harley from their vault to our vault. That posed a number of problems. The engine hasn’t been started in years, so you can’t just fire it up and drive it over. The MOA folks could have loaded it onto a truck, but its bed didn’t reach our loading dock, where its delivery would have been nice, neat and behind-the-scenes. Instead, we went old-school: Their collections staff wheeled it across the street, in through our front doors, down two hallways, into a freight elevator, down another hallway and, finally, into our collections vault.

The original owner of the Harley is believed to be Chris Elliott Davis of Winston Salem, NC, who sold it in 1980 to Francis Harlow. “Frank” is a Los Alamos physicist, an artist, and a noted Native pottery collector and researcher. He specialized in studying the evolution of historical Pueblo pottery and wrote or co-wrote five books about it, including The Pottery of Zia Pueblo (2003), Historic Pottery of the Pueblo Indians, 1600-1880 (1990); and The Pottery of Santa Ana Pueblo (2005).

He moved to Los Alamos to work at the lab in the 1950s, when it was still a closed city. Maybe that explains part of the appeal of the bike. According to the booklet, Harlow, written by Jeanne Hassenzahl in 1975, Harlow wanted “a big, powerful, throaty sounding machine that really rumbled and sounded great.” In 2001, he donated it to the Museum of Art. It first delighted visitors in the 2001-02 exhibition Tourist Icons, Native American Kitsch, Camp and Fine Art  at yet another one of our sister museums, the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture. It went on exhibit at MOA in 2006.

For those who salivate for such details, here goes: The bike has a 3-speed transmission and a 45 cubic-inch flathead engine with aluminum heads. Its color is “clipper blue” with white striping. Customized elements include black leather saddle bags, black saddle and light bar. Enjoy the views:

72-HarleyInCollections 72-Tank 72-License-2



Pinhole Photo Meets Poet Laureate

Opening April 27, the exhibit Poetics of Light: Pinhole Photography took its name from the way light becomes an object of play when set between an object and a pinhole camera. The photos produced take what we think we know of the world and turn it upside-down, backward and more.

It seemed only natural to reach out to Santa Fe Poet Laureate Jon Davis to help us with events during the exhibition’s run. He agreed (see list of events at bottom), but went one better. Using Gregg D. Kemp‘s pinhole photograph, Jane Always Dreaded Flying Home, as his inspiration, Davis wrote a poem that the Palace Press is turning into a broadside.

Director Tom Leech decided to try a new technique, having Kemp’s photograph digitally printed on the paper, then applying Davis’ poem via traditional letterpress. “I’ve never seen this done before,” he said.

Here’s Leech feeding it into the press to apply the poem’s headline:


Studying the typography:


And holding the almost-finished product:


The broadside will be released on the exhibition’s opening day. Copies will sell for around $75.

For Leech, the project held a coincidental quirk: In 1974, he and Kemp owned Virginia Woodworks in Colorado Springs, where they made Appalachian dulcimers. The business didn’t last, but this photography (fittingly, a pinhole image) of the two of them way-back-when survived:


Poetics of Light: Pinhole Photography events with Santa Fe Poet Laureate Jon Davis:

Friday, May 30, 6 pm, “Santa Fe Poets 5,” the fifth of six group poetry readings Davis is organizing as part of his tenure. Joining him in the History Museum Auditorium will be Chee Brossy, Joan Logghe, Carol Moldaw, Henry Shukman, and Farren Stanley. Free.

Sunday, June 1, 1 – 4 pm, “The Poetry of Light,” a writing workshop building on inspiration from Poetics of Light images. Open to high schoolers and older, the event is free, but reservations are recommended. Call  476-5096.





Volunteers: The Hands that Make Us Stronger

Lila-XmasThey led visitors on tours. They scanned WPA oral histories. They shelved books. They catalogued rare photographic collections. They gussied up our filing system. They served cookies.

All in all, volunteers to the New Mexico History Museum and Palace of the Governors in 2013 donated something like 5,300 hours of intelligence and hard work that helped make our institution stronger. For two comparisons:

A full-time employee puts in 1,920 regular hours a year. And, by rough estimate, the Independent Sector values those 5,300 hours of volunteer labor at $117,342.

Behind the numbers is something far more important: The names and faces, heads and hearts of people who brought us their best. That includes the museum guides who led 693 tours for 198 children and 5,634 adults. Library volunteers put in 973 hours, and Photo Archives volunteers logged another 900 hours.

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Donald Woodman Photographs Celebrate New Mexico


Beginning with his early years working as a research photographer at the Sacramento Peak Solar Observatory in southern New Mexico, photographer Donald Woodman honed a photographic vision first through stars and clouds and then through sandy soil, majestic peaks and his own interior life. You can experience that journey in Donald Woodman: Transformed by New Mexico, in the Mezzanine gallery through Oct. 12.

Moon from 4x5 B&WThe exhibit represents the first of a yearlong series of events celebrating all the museum has accomplished since opening in 2009. In 2011, Woodman was the first person to donate his photographs and materials to the Photo Legacy Project at the Palace of the Governors Photo Archives. Since then, numerous other contemporary photographers have added their archives, including Jack Parsons, Sam Adams, Herbert A. Lotz, and more.

Curated by Mary Anne Redding,photography chair at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, Transformed by new Mexico includes more than a dozen examples of the Belen-based photographer’s work from the early 1970s to 1998. Among the images are ones taken at the Sacramento Peak Solar Observatory in Sunspot, NM, and intimate selections from his Therapist Series. Each one invites you to look deeply at the tones, forms and shapes; to begin to understand the relationship Woodman has with his cameras, his world, and himself as he moves quietly from behind the lens to placing himself in its focus.

Kids in doorway“In many ways,” Redding said, “Donald Woodman is one of the stereotypical free spirits who arrived in New Mexico in a VW van in the early 1970s, searching for a new life unfettered by the conservative conventions and stodginess of the East Coast, to experiment with new-found freedoms involving hallucinatory drugs and liberated sexual exploration. And yet, Woodman’s long personal aesthetic trajectory, which continues today, is uniquely his own.”

After his initial New Mexico work at Sunspot, Woodman became a personal assistant to legendary painter Agnes Martin in Galisteo. In 1985 he married artist Judy Chicago, whose paintings will be at the New Mexico Museum of Art in Local Color: Judy Chicago in New Mexico 1984-2014, opening June 6.

Images above, from top: Sand Dune with Bush — White Sands, NM, ca. 1972. Silver gelatin print, 9×12 in. Waning Moon, ca. 1970s. Archival pigment print, 5×5 in. Two Boys in a Doorway, ca. 1970. Archival pigment print, 25×20 in. All photos by Donald Woodman. Palace of the Governors Photo Archives, Photo Legacy Project.