Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos NM

Legendary connections have happened in this house

RESOURCES

Scroll down to see a resource list of related galleries and artist studios with links.
Print this page using your web browser for a copy of the resource list
.

 
 

"I have no news, nothing happens here but miracles." So wrote Mabel Dodge Luhan to a friend who had made bleak assumptions about Mabel's life in the tiny, remote village of Taos, New Mexico.

Mabel Ganson Evans Dodge Sterne arrived in Taos in 1916—a wealthy easterner who was a prominent figure in the heady world of the arts and society of New York and Europe. Her salons in New York and Florence were informal gatherings of avant-garde, outrageous and articulate artists, activists, writers and thinkers of her time. Included in her impressive guest list were Emma Goldman, Alfred Stieglitz, Margaret Sanger, Gertrude Stein, Arthur Rubenstein. She reveled in her reputation as a fabled hostess.

Mabel's move to Taos and her story fascinated the American public. A woman of such notariety, wealth and magnetism taking up residence at the edge of a dusty mountain town in New Mexico was indeed intriguing. Soon after her move to Taos, Mabel purchased a rustic three-room adobe house looking out on Taos Pueblo land. In rather short order, she divorced artist Maurice Sterne and married Tony Luhan, a dignified Taos Pueblo man who wore the traditional Indian blanket, his hair in two long rolls resembling braids.

Mabel Dodge Luhan House

Image: ©2004
Mabel Dodge House

With Tony's help and his direction of the workers from Taos Pueblo, Mabel transformed the small adobe house into the sprawling hacienda that is now the Mabel Dodge Luhan House. The house she named Los Gallos represented the coming-together of disparate communities: an elite, progressive group of international artists and thinkers from Mabel's former urban life and the people of Taos Pueblo, one of the most enduring native societies in the Western hemisphere.

Legendary connections happened in this house. Mabel brought not only her wealth to Taos but also her desire to fuel the arts, to welcome artists and writers and thinkers to her hearth. Once again, she was a creative catalyst attracting extraordinary people who, this time, were willing to make a trek not just across Manhattan or Florence but across America to this exotic village of Taos. Tony's great reserve and silent composure was as intoxicating to the growing parade of intellectuals and glitterati as was Mabel's extravagance and intensity.

Mabel summoned the best. Andrew Dasburg, the "dean of Taos painters", came from New York in answer to a telegram from Mabel: "Wonderful place. You must come. Am sending tickets. Bring me a cook." Greta Garbo visited Taos and Los Gallos on the arm of Mabel and Tony's friend Leopold Stokowski, the flamboyant conductor of the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra. The controversial English writer DH Lawrence came and was at the center of a maelstrom of personalities: a roiling triumverate made up of his wife Frieda, modest and severely deaf English painter Dorothy Brett, who worshipped Lawrence, and Mabel Dodge Luhan. These turbulent, erotic and electric times were documented in Lawrence's letters and in books by all three women. In Taos, Mabel wrote voluminous correspondance and memoirs. According to "the Brett" (as Dorothy was called by Frieda), Mabel wrote "incessently without stopping, day after day, lying on her sofa with a copy book and pencil." She wrote freely about her ego, her jealousy, promiscuity and capriciousness. And about the friends who came to Taos to stay or to visit Mabel's hacienda beneath the mountain. Her memoirs were finally made public after Lawrence's death in 1930.

O'Keeffe Grey Cross with Blue

Georgia O'Keeffe
"Grey Cross with Blue"
1929 Oil on canvas 36" x 24"
Courtesy The Albuquerque Museum remote

The miracles available were clear to the artists, writers and intellectuals who hovered around Taos. While visiting Mabel and Tony, guests such as Willa Cather, Ansel Adams, Thornton Wilder, Gustave Baumann, Mary Austin, John Marin, Robinson Jeffers and the soon-to-be-legendary Georgia O'Keeffe found inspiration that would shape their lives' works. Writings by Carl Jung that would influence mainstream thought in America and decisions made by the controversial US Indian Commissioner John Collier were partly shaped in Taos, in this house. These people enriched the cultural life of Taos and in return they were deeply impressed and clearly inspired.

The Mabel Dodge Luhan House is all about creative energy and love of Taos. Mabel's legacy requires it. Still clinging to the vigas and adobe walls of this place is the esprit of the individualists and artistic luminaries who were drawn to Mabel's home in the early 1900s.

Today, many passionate, articulate, meditative, creative and hopeful souls are drawn to Taos and to the Mabel Dodge Luhan House by contemporary magnets. One of the charismatic people who has been a critical force in helping the House maintain its role as a retreat and center for creativity is the redoubtable Natalie Goldberg.

Natalie Goldberg is a writer, artist and teacher who helps keep the torch of Mabel's legacy burning. There's not Mabel's legendary turbulence around Natalie Goldberg when she's teaching the art and craft of writing at the Mabel Dodge. But there is exhuberance and palpable delight in the experience. Once again, the house fills with people who want to stretch themselves, rekindle (or kindle for the first time) their minds and to learn about Writing Down the Bones (the title of one of Goldberg's popular books) in an atmosphere that is simultaneously serene and challenging, invigorating and calming.

Just behind the Mabel Dodge Luhan House there is a path that is shouldered by Taos Indian Pueblo land on each side. The path begins at the foot of a tall black wooden cross which stands beside an old penitente morada, or prayer chapel. One of many students of Natalie Goldberg, I walked along that path, trusting my recently learned slow-walking meditation to help shed nonsense and clutter. The path leads to another cross: the whitewashed, sun-bleached cross that was immortalized by Georgia O'Keeffe in a painting that now hangs in The Albuquerque Museum of Art and History. I walked the path O'Keeffe walked and looked up at that white cross from the precise spot. How could she not have painted that image? I could feel her eyes in mine as I looked at the cross in the blue Taos sky. And that moment was a personal miracle.

The writing workshops taught at Mabel's house by Natalie Goldberg and her colleague Rob Wilder are the crux of several annual series of creative workshops in the arts and humanities hosted by this historic inn. Artist Sas Colby has taught contemporary art workshops in Taos for more than a decade. Meditation retreats are offered by Buddhist teachers. Or, one can come as a traveler seeking an inn redolent of old Taos and possibly the opportunity to happen upon small miracles in this rare authentic place.

Learn about Natalie Goldberg's writing workshops and other independent workshops that happen throughout the year at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House by calling 800-846-2235 or 575-751-9686. www.mabeldodgeluhan.com remote

Suggested reading
Mabel's Santa Fe and Taos, Bohemian Legends 1900-1950 by Elmo Baca, Gibbs-Smith Publisher, Salt Lake City, 2002

Edge of Taos Desert, An Escape To Reality by Mabel Dodge Luhan, Univ of New Mexico Press, 1987 Utopian Vistas, the Mabel Dodge Luhan House and the American Counterculture by Lois Palken Rudnick, University of New Mexico Press, 1996

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, Shambhala Publications, Boston 1986


By Pamela Michaelis, founder of The Collector's Guide and former host of “Gallery News” radio show on KHFM 95.5 remote, classical radio in Albuquerque.

Originally appeared in
The Collector’s Guide to Santa Fe, Taos and Albuquerque - Volume 18


Related Pages

An Introduction toTaos article
Historic Houses and Sites in Taos article
1998 Centennial of the Taos Art Colony article
The E I Couse Home and Studio in Taos article


Collector’s Resources


RESOURCE LISTS UPDATED WHEN VIEWED | ARTICLE CONTENT REVISED October 14, 2009

©2014 | F + W Media
URL: http://www.collectorsguide.com//ts/tsfa14.shtml • Contact The Collector's Guide