Time and again I’ve been asked what Santa Fe’s art scene is like and it’s now that I realize I’ve answered that question incorrectly all this time. In the past my answer has been to talk about the galleries and museums; the different kind of art available for consumption.
But this isn’t what people want. People want to know what the scene is like, not the art. They want to know if it’s a drug fueled community of eccentrics or a small group of genius. They want to know whether it’s like Paris in the ’50s, San Francisco in the ’60s or New York in the ’80s.
So, what the hell is Santa Fe’s scene really like? Well, take the recent opening (pictured above) put on by Bang!, a local roving art gallery curated by David Solomon. A Bang! opening is a great look at the scene because Bang! has no permanent home, and relies on connections with others in the local art community for its physical presence. Santa Fe’s scene is small, so there are all the problems of a small town, but the benefits are that even the ‘non-artistic’ have a home within this community. It’s more about discipline and interest than talent. Those who make the art that inspire the rest play, sometimes unknowingly, mentor to those who want to do.
Eventually, everyone overlaps and everyone becomes, in his or her own way, an artist. This doesn’t mean that everyone’s art is accepted with the same enthusiasm and on the same merits, but the community seeks out skill and enhances that so that the budding artist — so long as he or she is the kind of person with whom someone can get along — has a voice. An opening, such as the one at Bang!, is a who’s who of the scene. There are hidden tensions between people because of personal actions, and often a shallow friendship runs through the hellos but people show up as much to see the art as to be seen appreciating it. This means that the art actually ends up taking a backseat to the socializing. Rooms are often so packed there’s no chance to take in the art, to decide if it’s worthy of the several hundred people deep room. Art buyers must come back when they can see the pieces they are thinking of putting in their homes without hordes of 20 and 30 somethings in the way. The buzz created though, when everyone who matters in town shows up to an event, raises the value of the pieces. These people wouldn’t be here if not for the already known talents of the artists involved.
The Bang! scene overlaps with that of High Mayhem, which in turn crosses The Process, which bleeds onto Meow Wolf and every other scene in town. There are pockets, cliques, but in the long run, there are only the few hundred young artistic souls in Santa Fe who all know one another, the sexual histories of nearly everyone in the room and such varied gossip that the scene turns quickly into the largest family reunion on the planet. It’s not so much a tight-knit group as a series of overlapping circles who can’t get away from one another, no matter how hard they try — and for the better. These tensions make the work that is actually the focal point of events louder, more progressive and bleed with the socialistic fervor only available in a community that is one step away from communal life.