A new book Taos resident Cherie Burns attempts to illuminate the woman behind the fashions, the art collecting and high society-style of Millicent Rogers.
The Standard Oil heiress who died on Jan. 1, 1953 and is buried in Taos, left a still-glittering legacy of wealthy bearing that stretches from upper crust Manhattan to the sparse deserts and mountains of Northern New Mexico. But aside from the gossip columns and black-tie parties was someone entirely different and one that fascinated Burns the first time she stepped into the Taos museum named after her.
Two events are planned during which members of the public can meet Burns and hear her impressions of this larger-than-life icon. The first is a free book-signing event on Sunday (Oct. 2) from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Millicent Rogers Museum (MRM), 1504 Millicent Rogers Road, El Prado.
The second is a talk that Burns will deliver about what went into writing the book on Friday (Oct. 7), 7 p.m., in the Arthur Bell Auditorium at the University of New Mexico's Harwood Museum of Art, 238 Ledoux St. This program is presented in collaboration with SOMOS, a local literary arts nonprofit organization. Tickets to the talk are $10, $8 for Harwood Alliance members.
The impression of Rogers as being one of the most remarkable women of Taos certainly falls in line with the tourism marketing theme the town of Taos expects to adopt for 2012. Over the course of the year, numerous events are planned to bring focus to the women who helped make Taos the destination of myth and legend.
Although Rogers is closely identified with Taos, mostly because of the American Indian jewelry and Southwestern artifact collection she left behind, which were used by her sons Paul and Arturo Peralta Ramos as the foundation for the museum named in her honor, she actually didn't arrive here until the latter part of her life.
And while she developed over time a tremendous interest in her avocation as a collector, Rogers was not a professional - but, she did have an eye for the distinctive and for items that might prove to be historically significant. Still, some people have privately commented that Rogers was not much more than a dilettante when it came to serious collecting, something that rankles Burns.
"Your question about whether Millicent was a dilettante has resounded with me," she said in an email after an interview. "I should have mentioned that she was involved in a serious effort during World War II in wartime Washington. She presided over the Medical and Surgical Relief Committee. Her life was certainly not dedicated to philanthropy, and I think her involvement in some causes is overstated, but she did a number of good things."
Burns said she helped Taos Pueblo tribal officials travel to Washington, D.C. to lay the groundwork for an Indian Health Center. "She helped fund an escape route for some of the Jews who were fleeing Austria when she lived in the Nasserein right before W.W. II," Burns said. "She championed the causes that came to her attention, that she had some feeling for. And she went about most things, even collecting, with serious determination. Her approach was not dilettantish. Her love of style and beauty shouldn't contradict that. She was not superficial."
In other words, as MRM Executive Director Paul Figeroa said, she is "one of the legends of Taos."
For more information, call the Millicent Rogers Museum at (575) 758-2462 or visit www.millicentrogers.org; or the Harwood Museum at (575) 758-9826 or visit www.harwoodmuseum.org.
Tempo editor Rick Romancito spent five years working for the Millicent Rogers Museum as a tour guide and museum assistant in the 1980s.