Every year at this time in late winter, Taos Pueblo closes to visitors in order to allow tribal members the privacy to conduct rituals associated with their Native religion.

It is also a period when many of its artists and craftspeople are unable to sell their wares to visitors. That was part of the impetus to organize the “Taos Pueblo Artist Winter Showcase,” which will open with a reception Friday (March 8), 5:30-7:30 p.m., at the Millicent Rogers Museum, 1504 Millicent Rogers Road, north of El Prado.

The exhibition will be on view at the museum through Sunday (March 10). It is hoped this will become an annual show.

To help add a stellar aspect to its opening night reception, two-time Grammy Award-winner Robert Mirabal will perform a live acoustic set. Tickets to this performance are $25, $20 for MRM members.

Mirabal’s appearance is the result of a collaboration between the museum and Taos Pueblo Tourism Office.

Kathleen Michaels, the museum’s project coordinator for this event, says that visitors are often saddened by the closure because they are “hungry” to visit the Pueblo. “This exhibit gives everyone a taste of the work created by Taos Pueblo artists.”

Artist Jocelyn Martinez says, “I’m sure many have probably said before me, that the Pueblo itself and my experiences growing up here are a huge inspiration.” Martinez tends to focus on the Pueblo architecture and uses black scratchboard as her primary media. “This is a process of creating my images in reverse by scratch removal of ink from a clay panel,” she says.

In the museum’s spacious Living Room Gallery, a range of art will be on view and available for sale, such as drums, glass, jewelry, paintings, pottery, and sculpture. The works created for the show will be hung and displayed in a variety of styles. And throughout the weekend, the artists will be present at their exhibits.

Of her own contemporary jewelry, artist Jacqueline Gala says, “The stones are what help me begin the designs; they take on ‘a little life.’ ” She cites her inspiration for the jewelry as spanning from “traditional American Indian jewelry, classical American and European styles, to a Zen-inspired look transformed into a contemporary design language.”

Artist Ryan Suazo will be displaying paintings and woodcarving at the showcase. “Growing up and living at Taos Pueblo, an artist always has a visual starting point for their work,” he says. “Hopefully this show and all Pueblo artists are a reminder that there is still a community and culture associated with the place that is seen in so many other people’s photographs, paintings, and interpretations.”

Michaels points out that the “Taos Pueblo Artist Winter Showcase” also supports patron Millicent Rogers’ original goal to build stronger relationships with Taos Pueblo. “It was important to Millicent,” she says, “and Taos Pueblo Tourism helped us coordinate and recruit artists for the show.”

In her biography, “Searching for Beauty: The Life of Millicent Rogers,” local author Cherie Burns wrote: “Millicent determinedly popularized Indian jewelry designs and Native crafts to the fashion world by wearing them in fashion spreads and photos. By 1952 she had enlisted her mother’s enthusiasm for popularizing American Indian art with the major museums of the Northeast and Europe.”

Because of time and space constraints this year, the museum selected 14 artists to exhibit, but in the future, it plans to hold an open call. “There are so many Taos Pueblo artists. It was really difficult to choose,” Michaels said. “This is a really good showcase of the art that is available at the Pueblo.”

For more information, call the Millicent Rogers Museum at (575) 758-2462 or visit www.millicentrogers.org

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