Black Mountain College and New Mexico
The night each plows/A furrow of death/In the field of stars/Who calls? I am nothing/But one with the one/That makes the nothing All. -
- Charles Bell
Three years ago, while mounting an exhibition of works from the Harwood Museum of Art's permanent collection, I came across an unusual modern piece by artist Cliff Harmon. The work was so reminiscent of Josef Albers that I wondered out loud about its origin. Working with me on this exhibition was Harwood Governing Board member Charles Strong. “I think Cliff went to Black Mountain College," he said.
Several months later, I visited the home of Jennifer Sihvonen. The purpose of the visit was to consider the work of her father Oli Sihvonen for an exhibition. Again, Josef Albers’ objective and disciplined approach to composition struck me as I looked at the astoundingly dedicated body of work of Oli Sihvonen. The rigorous, chromatic interactions with flat colored squares concentrically arranged was consistently sought and obsessively studied. Again, I heard the name Black Mountain College.
It was finally after meeting with long time Taos gallery owner, resident, and political activist Rena Rosequist—also a Black Mountain College alum —that I discovered more and more Black Mountain College students who made New Mexico (and mostly northern New Mexico) a place to live, or a place to create. At one point I went to Rena and asked “Where is Cynthia Homire? I can’t find anything about her?” Rena pointed out the window of her Kit Carson gallery and said, “She lives right there.”
After conversations with Rena Rosequist and Cynthia Homire, I compiled a final list of visual artists, writers, an art historian, and a film maker who had studied at Black Mountain College and found their way to New Mexico. During the last two years contacts were made with family members, collectors, students, and institutions that focused on one or another of these important intellectuals. Family members contributed photographs, work, correspondence and other ephemera. The exhibit has grown to become a memorial to the lives of these extraordinary human beings who, together with their contemporaries at Black Mountain College, changed the culture of our nation in ways we are yet to fully understand.
To date, the focus of this exhibit centers on the following Black Mountain College students: Charles Bell, Samuel Emmons Brown, John Chamberlain, Robert Creeley, Fielding Dawson, Elaine De Kooning, Ed Dorn, Helene Dorn, Jorge Fick, Cliff Harmon, Barbara Sayre Harmon, Cynthia Homire, Hazel Larson, Ann Slater Marquis, Lucian Marquis, Beaumont Newhall, Nancy Newhall, Joel Oppenheimer, Joan Loveless Potter, M. C. Richards, Rena Rosequist, Oli Sihvonen, Robert Turner, Carol Warner Williams, and Jonathan Williams.
Jina Brenneman, Harwood Museum of Art Curator of Collections and Exhibitions
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