Community Matriarchs as Artists

The Millicent Rogers Museum’s newest exhibition, Community Matriarchs as Artists, is now open to the public. The museum dedicates this exhibition to Lydia Garcia (1936-2023), beloved santera of Taos. This celebration of women artists of the Southwest is also a gesture of support of the new Historical Women of Taos mural at the UNM-Taos campus on Civic Plaza Drive created by artist Jenny Ustick in honor of DeAnna Autumn Leaf Suazo (Taos Pueblo/Diné), María Rosa Villalpando, Cleofas Martinez Jaramillo, and Helene Wurlitzer.

Lydia Garcia
Mary, 1993
retablo, acrylic on wood
Gift of Barbara W. Miller, 2022.003.001
Image Courtesy of and Collection of the Millicent Rogers Museum

Community Matriarchs as Artists focuses on women’s roles as artists as just one of the many positions they hold in life. The works in the exhibition exemplify women’s leadership in arts of the Southwest, particularly in the forms of pottery and painting and also including basketry and jewelry. Moreover, the exhibition highlights art forms that reflect an expansion of function of creative expressions, like Helen Cordero’s (Cochiti Pueblo) clay storyteller and Angie Yazzie’s (Taos Pueblo) micaceous clay vessels, both conveying cultural legacy and serving as visual art.

As a community matriarch and a lifelong teacher, Lydia Garcia's devotion to sharing the arts of retablo painting exemplifies her leadership in northern New Mexico and beyond of passing on artistic knowledge to community members across generations. Her long relationship with the museum reflects a partnership of cultural legacy through the workshops she gave and the artworks in the museum's permanent collection. Lydia led her life through prayer and expressed it vividly in retablos that paired visual and poetic arts together.

The exhibition also features works by Pop Chalee (Taos Pueblo), Anita Rodriguez of Taos, Alyce Frank, Dorothy Brett, Pablita Velarde (Santa Clara Pueblo), Tonita Peña (San Ildefonso/Cochiti Pueblos), Enedina Vasquez, Maria Martinez (San Ildefonso Pueblo), Millicent Rogers, and more.

The museum will be offering docent tours focused on women's art upon request, with two days advance reservation and an additional fee. Please contact Karen Chertok, Director of Education, at 575.758.2462 x215 for more information.