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147 Tey Marianna Nunn Introduction Tey Marianna Nunn is a native Nuevo Mexicana, born in Albuquerque into a family of scholars. Dr. Nunn is currently the director of visual arts and chief curator for the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque. She was formerly the curator of Hispano and Latino collections at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe. Tey Nunn has an abiding interest in New Mexican artists of Hispanic descent. She is the author of Sin Nombre: Hispana and Hispano Artists of the New Deal Era that was published by the University of New Mexico Press in 2001. Many of the highly talented native Nuevo Mexicanos of this period were relegated to secondary positions relative to Anglo artists , who received broader attention and higher salaries through the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Art Project. Tey’s research for Sin Nombre has brought to light the great array of talents and art forms practiced by the large coterie of Nuevo Mexicano artists during the Great Depression. Nunn has also focused a great deal of attention on the multitalented Santa Fe artist Eliseo Rodriguez, whom she and many others regard as one of the truly great artists of his time and a man who has inspired many younger artists to pursue their art forms. Nunn shares with her mother, Tey Diana Rebolledo, a passionate Tey Marianna Nunn, photo by author 148 / Economic Depression in the Land of Clear Light interest in the lives of Nuevo Mexicanas whose enormously important roles have been otherwise largely overlooked by most historians. The interview reveals the depth and beauty of Nunn’s point of view while providing a glimpse into the influence of the handcrafted life-style on the art of New Mexico. Tey Marianna Nunn JL: One of the notions that fascinates me is how the Hispano and Native American cultures were still pretty much subsistence based by the time of the Great Depression. It seems to me that the New Deal basically introduced the prevalent economic paradigm that existed in the rest of the country to the American Southwest. Money was certainly not plentiful, but it wasn’t as necessary as it seems to be today. Do you have any thoughts on that at all? TMN: I think it’s really true. The mind-set then among Nuevo Mexicanos and Native peoples and New Mexicans was so much different . One of the things people don’t even concentrate on is the fact that there were so many northern Hispanos who traveled , who were actually migrant workers who would travel up to Colorado to pick sugar beets or go to Texas. So there was an agricultural-based existence here. Even sheepherders traveled back and forth seasonally or back and forth across the different states’ borders. That’s a component that gets left out of histories a lot. So it was very agriculturally based, and people didn’t make a lot of money. The WPA came in and introduced this whole other way of looking at things. You didn’t need that much then. There were simple pleasures. It was a really wonderful way— sometimes I think we should go back it. But you’re right, and those stories like [the ones] Eliseo Rodriguez tells about Santa Fe in the ’20s and the ’30s are remarkable. Tey Marianna Nunn / 149 JL: What I’d like to do is ask you to talk about how the arts actually came to be sort of a flourishing situation in the 1930s during the Great Depression as a result of the WPA. TMN: One of the reasons I got interested in Hispano artists of the ’30s and the ’40s was that I figured that because of language and culture, there had to have been a connection between New Mexico in the ’30s and the ’40s with that flourishing of Mexico art and how Mexican art was becoming so popular with the muralists, with Diego Rivera and [José Clemente] Orozco and [David] Siqueiros. There’s a book called The Enormous Vogue of Things Mexican where inter-American relations and Pan American relations were all focused on in Mexico. Diego Rivera was creating all the murals here in Chicago and San Francisco and New York. But I kept on wondering, because of the artists’ colonies in Taos and Santa Fe and the artistic legacy in New Mexico, if there was any connection, if any of the Hispano artists had gone down to Mexico or if any of them had...


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