The Couse-Sharp Historic Site is no musty harbinger of the past. This exciting arts destination (run by the Couse Foundation) keeps alive the relevance of the Taos Society of Artists with contemporary art exhibits, forward-looking docent tours and now the grand opening of the newly restored Joseph Henry Sharp studio on its grounds.
Sharp was a founding member, along with Eanger Irving Couse, of the Taos Society of Artists in 1916. They were good friends, and the location of studios next to each other befits their camaraderie.
“The opening of the Sharp studio represents the first permanent exhibition dedicated to the indomitable spirit of the artist J.H. Sharp and the vision and compassion he shared with the world. The exhibition in the spacious two-story adobe studio he designed and built will allow visitors to stand on the site where he created some of his greatest works, read the humor and tenderness in his personal letters, be surrounded by the Native artifacts he collected and be inspired by his artistic vision,” says Davison Koenig, executive director and curator. Taos Gallery Guide had the privilege of touring the freshly renovated studio. Its full restoration – with no detail overlooked – is a testament to the quality of the artist himself. Sharp designed the freestanding adobe studio and used it from 1915 until his death in 1953. It is a gorgeous, traditional architectural gem in this region. Moreover, with an abundance of Taos light pouring in and a warm fire in the kiva, it is easy to connect to the natural essence captured in his paintings.
Historic images always show Sharp formally dressed in the manner of his time: wearing a bowtie, jacket, vest and a hat – even while painting. While studio clothing may have considerably changed over the years, Sharp continues to stand as a bellwether for the professional, hardworking artist. At any given time, his studio consisted of blank canvases, props, works in progress and completed paintings hung to dry and ultimately be placed on exhibit for sale.
The press announcement states that the studio renovation and the gala opening weekend exhibition have been made possible through the generous support of The Tia Collection in Santa Fe. Additional funding was provided by the Charlie Russell Riders Foundation of Big Fork, Montana.
Of the Taos Society of Artists (which also initially included Oscar E. Berninghaus, W. Herbert Dunton, Ernest L. Blumenschein and Bert G. Phillips), Sharp was the first to visit Taos in 1893. Ultimately, Sharp, Couse and the other artists formed the Taos Society of Artists to combine their individual efforts for the common good. It’s hard to appreciate today, but in those days, there were no art galleries. Therefore, unable to sell art locally, the Taos Society of Artists organized traveling exhibitions of their paintings to major cities, such as New York, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco.
Regardless of his background, Sharp had transformed himself into a painter of the Southwest. He used bold brushstrokes of sumptuous paint to capture the famous “Taos light” that warmly glows at this high altitude.
The Taos Society of Artists laid the foundation for transforming the remote village of Taos into one of the most influential art colonies in the United States. In subsequent years leading right up to the present, Taos became an international arts center. “Responding to the light and color of Northern New Mexico, these artists created a new American art lexicon based on the unique combination of Native American, Hispanic and Western Anglo-American cultures, set in the dramatic Taos landscape,” explains Koenig. Koenig points out that Sharp was rendered deaf at an early age, yet he possessed a courageous character and a positive disposition. Sharp quickly gained notoriety for the visual accuracy of his paintings that deftly captured the soul and humanity of his Native American models. As Sharp explained in his own words:
“[I try] to present the Indian as he is … mentally as well as physically; not as ephemeral fiction has delighted to picture him, but as a human being”
Plan your visit
JOSEPH H. SHARP STUDIO – GALA OPENING WEEKEND
June 9-11, 2017 • Couse-Sharp Historic Site • 146 Kit Carson Road
(575) 751-0369 • couse-sharp.org