Hard work pays off for Taos jeweler, gallery owner

By Kathy Córdova
For The Taos News
Posted 6/6/19

Moriah Stanton was born into an artistic family and throughout her life, she maintained an aesthetic lifestyle."I grew up in the art world, and I continue what I …

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Hard work pays off for Taos jeweler, gallery owner


Moriah Stanton was born into an artistic family and throughout her life, she maintained an aesthetic lifestyle.

"I grew up in the art world, and I continue what I experienced during my early years," said Stanton, the owner of the MoMo Taos gallery, during a recent interview.

An artistic family

Her maternal grandparents Arthur and Mary Wagner lived in New York City. Arthur, a firefighter, died of a heart attack due to smoke inhalation. The widowed Mary, mother of grown children, moved to Taos after reading about Georgia O'Keeffe and the Southwestern art scene. She had attended the Art Student League in the 1940s and early 1950s, so moving to Taos suited her. Mary Wagner spent many years involved in the local art scene, including at the Rod Goebel Gallery and La Fonda.

In the 1970s, Mary's daughter Roberta (Moriah Stanton's mother) moved to Taos. As a painter, Roberta Wagner enjoyed notoriety as a featured artist at the Harwood Museum in the 1980s. She married Ed Stanton, 16 years Roberta's senior, in the 1970s. The couple had two children: jeweler Rede and Moriah Stanton.

When Ed Stanton first arrived in Taos, he partnered and opened the M&M Garage in the 1960s. Following a move to Mexico and back, he opened the Ed Stanton Gallery in Taos at the current location of Bella's Restaurant. He also owned and operated another gallery, Galeria Moriah in Edgartown, Massachusetts. After closing the Ed Stanton Gallery, Stanton continued working with private dealers. His daughter recalls trips to "the big city" (Santa Fe) with her father. "He'd tell me, 'Dress nice,' because we'd visit the art scene on Canyon Road and enjoy cappuccino and croissants. Afterward, we'd attend openings in the blooming art scene here in Taos in the '90s. This was an impressive time for me as a high school student," she said.

As Chamisa Mesa High School, Moriah Stanton immersed herself in the literary art world of creative writing. She received a GED (Graduate Equivalency Diploma) and attended University of New Mexico-Taos for two years.

Stanton marveled at her father's ability to recognize artistic talent. "Prior to Ed Sandoval and Kimberly Weber's success, my dad said, 'They're going to make it big.'

"He had quite the eye," Stanton said.

An artist develops

Moriah Stanton worked for awhile in the Hamptons in Long Island in an art colony. Wealthy New York patrons supported the arts, and in this environment, she enjoyed the art scene. Throughout a period of many years, she returned to Taos every possible opportunity. While living in Santa Fe and working at La Boca restaurant, she apprenticed to Taos jeweler Rick Montaño. "I'd stay at the studio when I came to Taos. I worked at the studio, and while I made creations for Rick, I also worked on my own collection. I'd wear the items I made and sell them right off my body," related the jewelry artist.

After many years of travel and residency in other localities, Stanton returned to Taos full time in 2012. Jennifer Hart, with whom Stanton grew up, hired her to work at The Love Apple. Hart's restaurant provided Stanton the opportunity to move to Taos on a permanent basis.

One day, a friend told Stanton about a space for rent on Bent Street. She used her "gut reaction" and said, "I'll take it." The jeweler prepared the two front rooms as a gallery and lived in the back section.

The gallery, at 133 Bent Street, is located at the west end of the road, near Lambert's restaurant. Stanton recalled the Aug. 5, 2016 opening of her MoMo gallery as a grand occasion, complete with a tent and appetizers prepared by chef and Stanton's former classmate Sophia Vigil. A one-man show of Eli Walters' paintings graced the premises.

MOMO Gallery opens daily except Monday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. While strolling down the street, don't walk past the little space tucked away near the end of the one-way road without a visit. The contents may surprise you. Stanton's business has grown from 5 to 25 artists, Some of the artists include: jeweler Rick Montaño; sculptor-jeweler Julie Lake; ceramic sculptor Carol Sue Ross; award-winning African jeweler representing UNESCO, Moussa Albaka; and porcelain potter Rachel Donner, a local favorite and great granddaughter of Russian artist Nicolai Fechin.

Stanton currently uses the entire building as a gallery. She continued waitressing by night and tended to the business during the day. Friends helped, one through a start-up loan and others created a jewelry case. Stanton created a concept store offering fine art, pottery, jewelry, clothing and photography. All the shows remain tied together with a selective, curated aesthetic.

Stanton's travels and life in various locations influenced her artistic vision. She envisions the gallery's future as "growth, establishing a brand working with artists and perhaps an additional MoMo in Santa Fe or Albuquerque." She aims to create future exhibits, including Eli Walters' fifth and current show in August.

Travel and Residency Elsewhere

"I spent my childhood in Taos, but I've traveled to at least 13 countries. I've developed a taste for worldly things. When I curate in the gallery, I choose quality and uniqueness," Stanton said.

She visited Russia, Laos, Vietnam Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Portugal, the Canary Islands, Mexico and, several times, Spain.

Travel wasn't always easy. For over three years, the family lived in a school bus in Mexico, creating a bilingual background for Stanton. Later, the family lived for a time in Pilar with no electricity or running water. For several months, Stanton cared for her ill father prior to his death at Martha's Vineyard. In 2007, Moriah returned to New Mexico.

Enjoying local life

In addition to the art world, Stanton enjoys spending time with her daughter, 16-month-old Lucia Schuessler-Stanton. She co-parents with the toddler's father, Ryan Schuessler.

Stanton enjoys skiing and the rustic Italian and French food prepared by Schuessler, whom Stanton calls "an amazing chef."

Moriah shares her love for and knowledge of art at MoMo Taos gallery. She invites locals and tourists to visit the premises.


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