New Beginnings: An American Story of Romantics and Modernists in the West

Jan Matulka, Rodeo Rider, Santa Fe, c. 1917 - 1920.

After an extended four-year tour, Tia Collection’s largest traveling exhibition makes its final debut this month at Dayton Art Institute in Ohio. New Beginnings: An American Story of Romantics and Modernists, featuring over 130 works spanning the late 1800s to 1983, offers a fresh yet comprehensive insight into the evolution of art in New Mexico.

New Beginnings not only allowed Tia an unprecedented opportunity to share the scope of our Western art collection with the public, but also served to strengthen ties within the art community at-large. The exhibition was a joint effort in many ways — from working with esteemed fine art dealers without whom we would not have been able to acquire the important works that distinguish our collection — to our close collaboration with MaLin Wilson-Powell, art historian and former Curator of the New Mexico Art Museum and McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, TX, who authored the show’s extensive catalogue essay and helped curate the thematic subjects that gave the exhibition its focus.
Andrew Dasburg, Dahlias, 1930.

Just as the artist communities of Taos and Santa Fe influenced incoming hopefuls seeking the light and culture of the Southwest, so too did New Beginnings create new relationships, allowing Tia to further our mission and share our collection with as diverse an audience as possible through a broader network of museums. While we had the pleasure of working with over half of the venues before, several were new institutions that have become valued collaborators.

When we began planning this exhibition in late 2016, we thought it might comprise about 50 works. However, that number quickly doubled as we acquired new artwork by artists whose stories complimented the narrative we wanted to share. Aside from the notable artists of the Santa Fe Art Colony and the Taos Society of Artists, we highlighted creators who mingled with these established groups and also found beauty in the Southwest.

Polia Pillin, Untitled (New Mexico), 1938.
Exhibition catalogue. James Hart Photography, Santa Fe, NM.

New Beginnings offers an original perspective and dimension to the history of the Taos and Santa Fe art colonies and their enduring legacy by introducing unknown or little-known artists to the conversation, including the many talented women who were active in New Mexico during the early to mid-1900s. The show furthermore would not have come to life without the thoroughly researched essay by MaLin Wilson-Powell, which sought to highlight this group of marginalized and lesser-known works among the whole.

Installation image at Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, Scottsdale, AZ.

The inaugural opening in 2018 took place at Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, marking Tia’s second collaboration with the museum, following a loan to their comprehensive Taos Society of Artists exhibit in 2017. Chief Curator Tricia Loscher, Ph.D.; Richard Lampert; and a major museum patron shared our vision for the show. We worked together to decide the layout of the show, paint colors for the walls, and the first version of the 250 page exhibition catalogue.

Kenneth Adams, Walpi, 1925.
Photograph courtesy of The Booth Western Art Museum, Cartersville, GA.

The second venue, The Booth Western Art Museum, which is located in Cartersville, GA, is one of the first museums Tia Collection worked with, beginning in 2010. Executive Director Seth Hopkins was eager to show this exhibition in the broader context of the museum’s presentation of Western art. Hopkins’ collaborative network includes his guest curator role at other museums, including the recently opened exhibition The New West: The Rise of Contemporary Indigenous and Western Art at Steamboat Art Museum in Colorado, which includes 18 works on loan from Tia and is currently view through mid-April of this year.

Photograph courtesy of Yellowstone Art Museum, Billings, MT.

Yellowstone Art Museum (YAM) in Montana was the show’s third location, taking place from March through June of 2021, and marking our second time working with them. Previously, YAM hosted Modernist Intersections: The Tia Collection which had started at the University of Arizona Museum of Art in 2016. Like the early Montana Modernists that are regularly exhibited by YAM, the artists of New Beginnings also pushed boundaries, adopted new ways of seeing and thinking, and embraced originality. These core components were important concepts that YAM wanted to share with their patrons.

B.J.O. Nordfeldt, Portrait of Two Men, c. 1920.
Photograph courtesy of National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, OK.

The next stop was The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City from September 2021 to January 2022. Although Tia had previously loaned works to The Philbrook and Gilcrease Museums in Oklahoma, this was our first time working with The Cowboy Hall. We knew we were in excellent hands with Michael Grauer, McCasland Chair of Cowboy Culture & Curator of Cowboy Collections & Western Art, who had previously been at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum for over 30 years, and brought his dedication and scholarship to add extensive programming and lectures to their presentation of the exhibition.

Photograph courtesy of Harwood Museum of Art, Taos, NM.
It was especially exciting for the fifth installation of the show to take place at the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos, New Mexico. This venue allowed the artwork to come full circle back to the community where many of the artists lived and/or visited. Lucy Harwood established the Harwood Foundation (predecessor to the Museum) with the Taos Society of Artists members after her husband’s death in 1923, and it has showcased local artists since that time. New Beginnings was once again given context in a building dating to 1861 that was a central fixture within the Taos community from the time the Harwoods moved there in 1916, one year after the founding of the Taos Society of Artists.
Installation image of George Winslow Blodgett, Head of a Tewa Indian (Albert Lujan of Taos Pueblo), 1931.

Through May 21, 2023, the final venue for New Beginnings is the Dayton Art Institute (DAI). Curator Jerry Smith introduced Tia Collection to the museum when he moved there from the Phoenix Art Museum. “We are thrilled to continue our relationship with the Tia Collection by presenting New Beginnings,” Jerry wrote. “As someone who used to live in Phoenix and is familiar with art of the American West, this is a particular treat for me personally. Several of the pieces, including E. Martin Hennings’ Beneath Clouded Skies and B.J.O. Nordfeldt’s Corn Dance, Santo Domingo are works I had borrowed in the past for gallery installations and exhibitions. Seeing the works in Dayton brings to mind the days of the early twentieth century, when the artists working in Taos and Santa Fe sent their paintings to the Midwest on traveling exhibitions.”

If you visit their show, make sure to also say bonjour to our small collection of French Impressionist paintings and sculptures from Tia Collection that are on long-term loan to DAI!