Home General Salons: Mabel Dodge Luhan and Two Exceptional Girls of Taos

Salons: Mabel Dodge Luhan and Two Exceptional Girls of Taos

Photograph of Mabel and her son John within the Gran Salone, Villa Curonia*

My obsession with phrases and their meanings coupled with studying in Mabel Dodge Luhan’s European Experiences (one in all her memoirs) and a Exceptional Girls of Taos occasion on July 28th despatched me to the dictionary for the definition of “salon”.

I famous how itemizing quantity 2 – “a trendy assemblage of notables held by customized within the dwelling of a outstanding individual” – readily utilized to Mabel who presided over some of the well-known salons in American historical past at 23 Fifth Avenue in New York. From 1913 to 1916 she hosted pre-World Battle I “movers and shakers” who supported avant-garde concepts within the arts, politics and society. Revolutionary on the time, salon subjects ranged from the concepts of Freud to the virtues of free like to anarchistic and socialist views of working-class struggles.
Mabel defined the recognition of her Evenings and her raison d’etre for holding her salon:
There have been so many individuals with issues to say, and so few locations to say them in. There gave the impression to be no centralization in New York, no assembly place free of charge alternate of concepts and speak. So many attention-grabbing individuals solely assembly one another in print! So I assumed I might attempt to get individuals collectively slightly and see if it wouldn’t enhance understanding if they might all speak amongst themselves and say what they thought. And I feel it did…some who had been enemies for years within the hateful half-truth of newspaper columns got here an increasing number of to know each other as they aired their views collectively within the open.

Previous to her salon in New York, Mabel spent a dozen years residing in Italy. In European Experiences she documented her first night in Florence as she gazed down on the Arno River from the salone or suite of rooms within the lodge, a palace as soon as owned by an previous Florentine household. Looking for a house, she and her then husband Edwin Dodge discovered the Villa Curonia in Arcetri a area within the hills to the south of the town heart. Perched on a “excessive particular hill of its personal,” the imposing construction resembled the “imperial villa” under it, constructed on the identical time and owned by “grand dukes.”

In her ebook Mabel describes Villa Curonia’s North Salon, a large, 50-foot lengthy room, and the Gran’ Salone constructed on the west finish measuring 90 toes in size. Artist Jacques Blanche used the bigger salon because the setting for Mabel’s solo portrait in addition to a portray of her and her son John. Wanting on the room’s splendid vintage furnishings and damask wall coverings delineated as backdrop in Blanche’s canvas, the primary itemizing for salon – “spacious and chic residence or lounge” –  applies on this case.

Portrait of Mabel and John by Jacques Blanche
In these and different rooms, Mabel hosted as her dinner visitors luminaries just like the world-renowned Italian actress Eleanora Duse, artwork connoisseur and critic Bernard Berenson, live performance pianist Arthur Rubenstein, author and Paris salon hostess Gertrude Stein and her brother Leo Stein, collector and one of many first prophets of Modernist artwork. One can think about the vigorous conversations that occurred across the lengthy, slim dinner desk on the terrace. I consider that the ambiance Mabel created in her Italian villa served because the impetus for her salon in New York, and later, in a unique type, in Taos.
The custom of the salon lives on, although the residing rooms have modified. That’s one other subject for an additional time. Nonetheless, I consider that you simply’ll have an interest to know that the artwork of dialog prompted a salon-style gathering in Taos this previous weekend.
As a part of the Exceptional Girls of Taos, Lily’s within the Backyard of San Jose hosted Taos locals Gail Russell and Dana Micucci. Tea and light-weight refreshments accompanied the sharing of concepts, inquiries and insights with these two fascinating ladies. Permit me to introduce them and share what salon attendees and I discovered about them.

Gail Russell

Resident in Taos for the previous 33 years, picture artist Gail Russell’s photos seize the Southwest’s essence of sunshine and spirit of place. As a baby Gail was all the time portray, drawing and making prints. Supported by her mother and father (Gail’s mom, a sculptor, studied on the Artwork Institute of Chicago), Gail pursued a profession in nice arts. Whereas finding out on the Pratt Institute in New York Metropolis she arrived at an inventive crossroads. She might both purchase an costly etching press or choose up the digicam that her employer and mentor vogue photographer Richard Davis gave her. Gail selected the digicam as her predominant technique of visible expression. Her curiosity in Native American spirituality and her pictures expertise quickly mixed to information her on her life path. In 1972 she was requested to doc a gathering of non secular leaders from many tribes who had come to New York to talk in help of native sovereignty. Gail received the respect of a number of of the elder delegates. Three years later as a trusted buddy she participated within the “Longest Stroll” and photographed the stretch she coated on foot from Baltimore to Washington, D.C. for Newsweek. Gail continued to {photograph} and work with varied Indian tribes.

In 1987 her involvement with Indian individuals took one other flip. Whereas touring within the Black Hills in North Dakota, Gail skilled the horrific February snowstorm that shut down a part of the state and struck the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation significantly onerous. Within the aftermath, when three Lakota Sioux elders had been discovered frozen to loss of life of their cabins, Lakota elder Nellie Purple Owl requested Gail to do one thing. An concept of Nellie’s led to the 2 ladies founding the Undertake-a-Grandparent Program  that helped elders in want on the Pine Ridge Reservation in addition to some Taos Pueblo elders.

Gail operated this system for 17 years out of a tiny workplace inArroyo Hondo, the place she and a number of other staff over time, together with Jason Immanuel, Guida Liecester, Mary Hambrock and Steven Martinez. Gail stepped down from the Undertake-a-Grandparent Program in 2001 to pursue pictures full time. Her physique of labor testifies to her long-time curiosity in temples and antiquities, inspirational photos, the human type in addition to the Southwest and American Indian life based mostly on years spent amongst Sioux, Taos Pueblo and different Indian individuals.

All through the afternoon, Gail confirmed examples of her work. The picture titled Evening Tune struck a deep chord inside me. Recalling Taos Society of Artists member Joseph Sharp’s work of comparable scenes in Montana over 100 years in the past, it thrilled me to find the continuity of conventional tradition translated into modern occasions. I found that Evening Song was a specific favourite of Gail’s. After I requested her concerning the picture, she put her emotions to phrases:

The Drum was the Coronary heart Beat
carrying the singers all by the evening,
Prayers touring as much as the Heavens
With the smoke from the Sacred Hearth,
Awaiting the Morning Star….

Relating to her pictures, it’s Gail’s hope that her work “would possibly remind the viewer of a better thought, a spot crammed with gentle, or maybe a reminiscence that touches the guts.”

Dana Micucci

A newer arrival, journalist and creator Dana Micucci divides her time between Taos and New York Metropolis. Her fascination with the written phrase started in childhood. After receiving a BA and an MA in English Literature, Dana fulfilled her long-held dream of residing as a Bohemian author in a garrett of her personal on the Left Financial institution of Paris.

Upon her return from Paris she started her profession as a contract journalist in New York Metropolis, with a stint working as senior publicist for the worldwide artwork public sale home Christie’s. Over the previous twenty-five years her articles and essays on subjects of tradition, artwork, design, journey, and non secular and socials points have appeared in such newspapers and magazines as The New York Occasions, Chicago Tribune, Architectural Digest, and Artwork & Antiques. Famous figures Dana has interviewed in the middle of her profession — amongst them architect Richard Meier, choreographer Twyla Tharp, writers Toni Morrison and Doris Lessing, and artists Louise Bourgeois and Kiki Smith — represent a up to date roster of movers and shakers.

A ardour for fiction landed Dana in Columbia College’s Artistic Writing Program, the place she was a senior fellow. She printed poetry in literary journals, and her expertise in Paris and curiosity in cultural historical past led to the publication of Artists in Residence, a information to the properties and studios of eight 19th-century artists in and across the Metropolis of Mild. She can also be the creator of two different books on artwork and amassing. 

Artwork-related journey tales took Dana all through the world and introduced her to most of the world’s sacred and unique lands to check and write about their cultural and non secular traditions. Chronicles of seven sacred journeys spanning fourteen years of her life inform Dana’s most up-to-date ebook, Sojourns of the Soul: One Girl’s Journey across the World and into Her Reality (Quest Books, 2011). Transpersonal psychologist and three-time recipient of the American Psychological Affiliation Award for Journalism Homosexual Luce deemed Dana’s ebook “A simple learn, elegantly written, that is the gripping story of a lady’s profound transformation, with journey as a non secular trainer. It’s a vivid expertise, each nicely researched and provoking.”

Educated in quite a lot of therapeutic modalities, Dana employs these expertise and her written work to foster cultural and non secular understanding. As she says, “Now greater than ever, present world crises demand that we develop a deeper understanding of various cultures, and subsequently ourselves.”

Simply right this moment whereas searching by the stacks on the Santa Fe Public Library, a ebook leaped off the shelf into my arms. I’ve spent the higher a part of the afternoon riveted to its pages, and as synchronicity would have it, this passage gives the proper ending to this submit on salons. It’s from the introduction to The Pleasure of Dialog: The Full Information to Salons (Utne Reader Books, 1998), the paragraph the place creator Jaida N’ha Sandra states:

Salons are gatherings the place individuals speak “large speak,” speak meant to be listened to and maybe passionately acted upon. Salons are incubators the place concepts are conceived, gestated, and hatched, generally in a matter of minutes or hours. Salons are the frontiers of social and cultural change. Salons are the live performance halls the place dialog is offered in virtuoso model.

In these occasions of sound bites and Tweets it looks as if the genuine face-to-face dialog of a salon might assist individuals discover which means of their lives, come to belief their particular person voices, and develop the flexibility to guage the mind-boggling quantity of data that comes over the web. Little doubt that the salon can play simply as integral a social and cultural function now because it did in Mabel’s day.

Adios for now,


* Artist Jacques Blanche photographed Mabel and John in preparation for his portray of them. The pictures are taken from Mabel’s ebook European Experiences printed by Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1935.

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