There are dozens of art galleries in Taos, but women-owned galleries are still rare. Maye Torres and Georgia Gersh are two women who grew up in Taos art circles, one the daughter of a gallery owner and the other the daughter of a famous artist. Both are artists themselves, and both now have galleries that have become essential resources for the Taos arts community.
Maye Torres grew up in Taos, descended from generations of Taoseñas. Her own gallery, Studio 107-B (107-B North Taos Plaza) was once home to her mother Cecilia Torres’ New Directions Gallery.
“That generation, my mom and Tally Richards, they were glamor queens and really beautiful, always so elegant,” she said. “Taos, wonderfully, has been a place that has been a magnet for female artists, specifically. and the biggest reason has been that it’s a place to get into what you’re doing.”
“It is interesting,” Torres continued. “For a long time I didn’t identify artists rather than as an activist artist, a feminist artist. As I’ve been in the art field for forty years, as a woman artist who is a woman of color, I never really looked at it until lately, until that movie ‘Who Does She Think She Is’ came out — it was a documentary, and really pointed out how few women there are in museums. In Taos, we always saw women as part of the arts community. But there were women painters who weren’t as recognized as the guys.”
The 2006 film, directed by Pamela Tanner Boll, profiled Torres along with four other women balancing art careers with raising a family.
“I think this will be seen as the age of women artists. Taos is a place for women artists. In the Spanish and Native communities, you had to be creative to survive here. Women wove their own fabric, Juanita Lavadie is doing that still. Not just rugs but they actually wove their own cloth. It was like a luxury. So there was that creativeness happening here even before the ‘broken wagon wheel,’ the attention to cooking ones own food and the art of cooking it. The Native people were always embellishing. They took common utilitarian objects and made them into art objects.
“I’m not rejecting object-art — stuff you can pick up and take home — but these are changing ideas, themes. Spectacular themes. Renacimiento, renaissance 2020. How do we give to cultures that are gentrified and don’t know who they are? How are we reborn, like in a renaissance? How do we define our relationship to our planet, politics, each other? I think art helps us define who we are.
“Beauty is all around you. My grandma said, ‘I don’t understand these painters that come here and paint landscapes, you could just look out your window and it changes every day.’ Women, pioneer women, were drawn here. That goes back to Taos being a place that, I think, accepts women as business owners today. There’ve always been women in education and business. I just think it takes more. Anything you have a vision for, or that has a vision for you, can happen. I really feel the universe wants this to happen.”
Georgia Gersh owns Magpie (1405 Paseo del Pueblo Norte), featuring the work of eighty Taos area artists. She grew up on a commune north of Taos, and spent her childhood developing her critical eye by accompanying her dad — artist Bill Gersh — to openings.
“I feel very privileged to live in a place and time where it hadn't crossed my mind that I am a female gallery owner,” she said. “I am a creative person putting my energy into a space for other creatives. I realize that people in other places, and certainly women who came before me, did not have this privilege, and I am ever grateful. I am not a feminist. I don’t delineate. I recognize that women struggle and have struggles. The majority of the art in here is from women, not because they’re women but because I like their work. When you’re talking about people like Tally Richards and Cecilia Torres — there were a handful of female gallery owners. That might have been a more pertinent time to recognize that someone was female, because they were breaking territory. In my case, I don’t feel that it’s unusual.”
“Tally Richards was freaking amazing, Maye’s mom too, and probably in that era they had to be more fierce. To them, art was very serious, they were representing the most cutting edge artists. My dad was showing at Tally’s with Fritz Scholder. It was really charged stuff. I remember the years from 1984-1989 were incredible. It was a very sophisticated scene here. I think that’s happening again now. Greg Moon, David Anthony, a handful of galleries are really on it. I think that part of being a gallerist, that aspect of having an art venue is really important — that people come together and gather in community. Meet the artist, most of them come to openings, they meet each other.
“I know I’m not the only person who feels like that. I do feel like that in itself is hopefully an indication that we’re in a more equal place. I think there’s a lot of generalizations about being female and I embody a lot of them. I love keeping things swept and mopped and dusted and placed just so. I don’t know if that’s a female thing or not, but we’re very fortunate to be in a place and time where we have free will. I just happen to be female this time. Both of my parents influenced me. I feel like my success as a female gallerist is due in part to the fact that that’s how I was raised. It feels very natural to me. It’s a lot of work, but it never feels like work. It feels like moving forward. This place has evolved so much and it does all the time. Even though I’m doing the work, the shows hang themselves.”
Studio 107-B (107-B North Taos Plaza)
Magpie (1405 Paseo del Pueblo Norte)