Home General Rebecca James, Half Two: Taos

Rebecca James, Half Two: Taos

Rebecca James. Picture courtesy of the Taos Historic Museums.
Again in Taos in 1933, Becky (as she now known as herself) began a brand new life. She renewed friendships with Spud Johnson, Dorothy Brett, and Frieda Lawrence, amongst others. She additionally reconnected with entrepreneur Invoice James. He had first observed Becky whereas porch sitting in entrance of his newest enterprise enterprise, the Equipment Carson Buying and selling Firm. They found a mutual Buffalo Invoice connection: Invoice James’ father had identified Choose Beck who was Nate Salsbury’s guardian. This was however one in all many commonalities shared by Becky and Invoice. They married in 1937. The gregarious Invoice launched his new bride to members of the Sunshine Membership. Becky joined within the group’s poker events. Once in a while poker membership members wore costumes—she dressed as a nun—and so they often imbibed in Taos Lightning, the native bootleg whiskey. As Spud Johnson later famous, Becky started to behave and speak more durable (he in contrast her tough language to that of a stevedore’s), “merely out of enjoyment to find herself ‘free’.” Becky grew to become a Taos character. Her look was each putting and unmistakable: platinum hair tucked below a wide-brimmed black Stetson, denims with an open shirt (typically topped by a flowing black cape), black cowboy boots—all set off by her basic profile. A marked change from the sedate Victorian-influenced clothes of earlier years.

The Nice Taos Poker Society. Courtesy of Taos Historic Museums.
Dedicated to Invoice, the love of her life, Becky supported his enterprises. When he entered politics in 1938, first as a councilman, then as a gubernatorial candidate, she penned articles and editorials for Taos and Santa Fe papers. When he based the New Mexico Aberdeen-Angus Cattlemen’s Affiliation, Becky served because the group’s secretary. She additionally bought the ensuing dairy merchandise to townsfolk.
All of the whereas, Becky continued to obtain recognition for her landscapes, nonetheless lifes and style topics. The Denver Artwork Museum confirmed 31 of her glass work in 1933. Two different solo exhibitions adopted at Santa Fe’s Museum of New Mexico in 1934 and a second exhibiting at Stieglitz’s An American Place in 1936. A reviewer for her 1939 exhibition on the Colorado Springs Effective Arts Heart commented on the distinctive high quality of Becky’s model which was without delay trendy, summary and filled with symbolism.

Rebecca James White Roses at Twilight (1941)*

In accordance with the Colorado Springs reviewer, Mabel Dodge Luhan gave a superb overview of Becky’s work in Taos and Its Artists:

The work on glass by Rebecca James, which might be sometimes to be seen right here in exhibitions, are maybe essentially the most beautiful productions of any Taos artist. Flowers—typically solely a single flower—fruit, still-lifes composed of objects discovered within the valley, an historic cross, an previous Santo, are reproduced with a most poignant sensitivity to paint and which means.
When the modernist Rio Grande Painters group invited Becky to exhibit with them, she found a brand new medium. She additionally made a brand new good friend, E. Boyd. Becky present in E. (as her shut associates referred to her) a fellow aficionado of Spanish Colonial artwork. E. Boyd grew to become the Museum’s first curator of Spanish Colonial Arts. Her seminal e book, In style Arts of Spanish New Mexico, and her analysis laid the muse for all future students on this area. Little question E. primarily based the e book on her notable assortment of 1200 objects. Via her Becky would have most likely seen museum-quality examples of colcha embroidery.
Colchas captured Becky’s creative curiosity. She took classes from her Taos neighbor, Jesusita Perrault, who had earlier taught the particular sew to adults and schoolchildren. An authority on Spanish Colonial embroidery, Jesusita had a advantageous assortment of genuine colcha patterns. She had stitched her personal indelible fowl, animal and flower designs. At first mastery of the tiny sew baffled and defied Becky. Nonetheless, when she lastly gained competence, she put the identical love for the locations and issues that she portrayed in her work into her embroideries. By the early 1950s Becky’s colcha items had attracted the eye of museum curators. In 1952 E. Boyd put in 100 of her good friend’s unique embroideries in a solo exhibition on the Palace of the Governors. That very same 12 months Becky’s good friend and fellow artist, Dorothy Benrimo, organized the present on the Harwood Basis in Taos. In an article in El Palacio journal that 12 months, Frieda Lawrence commented on seeing Becky’s colchas: “I bought a vivid impression of Rebecca herself—the artist….You would really feel how a lot of herself she had put into her work.” Additional, by means of “her personal genius” Becky had efficiently combined Spanish Colonial and European iconography. The consequence was “enchanting.”

“For Dorothy” Courtesy of the Millicent Rogers Museum

Becky herself spoke to the artistry of colcha embroidery:
This versatile sew, for me, has supplied a artistic means to make a press release with stitches. The dwelling world round one—the skies, the land, the folks, grasses, bushes—might be imbued with fast life in a approach by no means achieved by the mere ornament of a doilie, a pillowtop, a skirt.
Her colchas got here to nationwide consideration. In 1963 editors of Girls’s Day journal visited Santa Fe for the primary time. On the Museum of Worldwide People Artwork they considered the “Embroideries by Rebecca James” exhibition. Delighted by the great thing about these colcha work, they requested Becky to jot down up their historical past, supplies and stitching technique. Her article appeared within the journal’s April 1964 challenge. In it Becky likened portray to embroidery. Whether or not with a paintbrush or with needle and thread, “each the painter and the hand-stitcher begin with equally easy, unusual instruments—and for each the duty is identical—to create one thing that lives, speaks and provides delight.”

Holy Youngster of Atocha. 1963.024  Courtesy of the Museum of Spanish Colonial Artwork**
After a 20-year hiatus, three prestigious establishments hosted solo exhibitions of Becky’s work. In 1951 her glass work had been invited to San Francisco’s Palace of the Legion of Honor and to the Santa Barbara Museum of Artwork. The famend San Francisco artwork critic Alfred Frankenstein praised her work: “Mrs. James paints her folks very naively, however with infinite pathos, sympathy and love.” He deemed the present,“one of many 12 months’s most poignant.” In 1954 the Martha Jackson Gallery gave Becky her third New York exhibition.
Of Becky’s artistic work, her writing is much less identified. She had typed up a few of Mabel’s memoirs within the 1930s and compiled artists’ biographies for Mabel’s Taos and Its Artists, so she had a good suggestion of the work that went right into a e book. Since a lot had been written about artists and writers, Becky elected to jot down biographies on dwelling women and men, folks she knew properly. Most focused on frontier varieties, ideally linked with playing, cattle wrangling or bootlegging, a number of such characters appeared within the 1953 publication Enable Me to Current 18 Women and Gents, 1885-1939. Among the many folks she portrayed had been Invoice James, Jesusita Perrault, gamblers Doughbelly Value and Curly Murray (who fled the Texas Rangers on a trumped up homicide cost), and Gerson Gusdorf (who launched such ”firsts” to Taos as the primary sewer line, Western Union, the phone). Completely different as all of them had been, these women and men had one factor in frequent. As Becky put it: “neither mud nor snow nor sleet nor wind nor lack of public utilities might invade their love for Taos.”

Becky’s world got here to an finish when Invoice died of a coronary heart assault in June1967. Becky misplaced the desire to dwell. She already suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, which compounded her ache. A 12 months later, following a final exhibiting of her colchas on the Millicent Rogers Museum, she took her personal life.
Rebecca James life work is preserved by means of her artwork, her writing and her scrapbooks. Taken collectively these knowledgeable essentially the most complete therapy of Rebecca James so far: “Within the Shadow of the Solar : the Life and Artwork of Rebecca Salsbury James” (Ph.D.dissertation) by Suzan Campbell. And now, Debra Simon and Judy Sokolow are within the homestretch for his or her documentary, BECK.

Wishing you all a Completely satisfied Thanksgiving.

Adios for now,


To seek out out extra or lend your assist to the “BECK” Documentary, please contact Debra at Rahriemon@aol.com for additional info.
Donations to Ra~Rie~Mon Productions in assist of this movie are tax deductible.  

* Rebecca James White Roses at Twilight Courtesy of the Taos Historic Museums.
** Picture of Rebecca James colcha embroidery, Holy Youngster of Atocha, courtesy of the Museum of Spanish Colonial Artwork, Collections of the Spanish Colonial Arts Society.

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