Santa Fe in Focus

Celebrating the artistic capital of New Mexico

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‘Awakening in Taos: The Mabel Dodge Luhan Story’ explores the life of Luhan, left, a friend of Gertrude Stein and Pablo Picasso, and a champion of Native American rights in New Mexico.

Shining a contemporary light on a part of the country best known for cowboy films, Wells Fargo commercials and a popular chicken sandwich at Carl’s Jr., the Lark Theater will be hosting a day-long celebration of the film, food and art of Santa Fe, N.M.

“There are so many brilliant artists living and working in Santa Fe and throughout the state,” says filmmaker Mark Gordon, director of the feature-length documentary Awakening in Taos: The Mabel Dodge Luhan Story, “that when I started talking with Ellie Mednick, executive director of the Lark Theater, about screening my film, the idea quickly expanded to a whole day of programming with films made by Santa Fe filmmakers, or shot in and around Santa Fe.”

The event, taking place Saturday, July 14, will include two screenings of Awakening in Taos (at 1pm and 7pm); a block of shorts about influential artists and writers who made New Mexico their home (2:30pm), including Georgia O’Keeffe (Memories of Miss O’Keeffe and A Woman on Paper) and Pulitzer-winning poet and author N. Scott Momaday (Return to Rainy Mountain); the award-winning documentary Grab a Hunk of Lightning, about Depression-era photographer Dorothea Lange (4pm); and a screening of Jeff Bridges’ Oscar-winning feature film Crazy Heart (8:30pm), much of which was shot in the bars and on the streets of Santa Fe.

According to Gordon, who will be in attendance to introduce and discuss his film at both of its screenings, Awakening in Taos began as a way to call attention to the artists of New Mexico, and quickly became a 10-year-long cinematic obsession to tell the story of Mabel Dodge Luhan.

“I had relocated to Santa Fe, and soon became really interested in this time period in Taos, from 1910 to 1920, when a lot of East Coast artists moved to Taos,” Gordon says. “They had a lot of style and did a lot of very interesting work, and became known as the Taos Society of Artists. I was talking to a docent in a Taos museum, and I mentioned that I was interested in making a film about the Taos Society of Artists, and he said, “You know, they’ve already made movies about that. What about Mabel Dodge Luhan?’ I said, ‘Who’s Mabel Dodge Luhan?’ and he replied, ‘Well, I don’t care for her writing. She’s kind of a chatty feminist. But you might like her.’”

The docent suggested Luhan’s memoir Edge of Taos Desert: An Escape to Reality. Once Gordon read the book, he knew he’d found the subject of his film.

“I immediately fell in love with Mabel’s life story,” he says. “She was this wealthy New York woman who became connected with all of these famous movers and shakers of the 20th century.”

A lifelong patron of the arts, Luhan had spent time in Greenwich Village, Santa Barbara and Paris, where she became acquainted with Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso and others. Over the course of her life, Luhan had many lovers, both men and women. Once in Taos, she fell in love and eventually married a Native American, Tony Luhan, and soon became a champion of Native American rights.

“She was a 21st-century woman coming out of a period that was still steeped in the 19th century,” says Gordon. “I knew her story would make a great movie. And I knew I needed to do a little more research. I just didn’t know it would take me 10 years. But they’ve been the best 10 years of my life.”

Cinema Santa Fe, Saturday, July 14, 1–10:30pm, at the Lark Theater, 549 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur. larktheater.net.

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