New ventures wear a gloss that may wear off over time—or may not.
Right now I am privileged to be at the birth of two new ventures: a gallery in Santa Fe, designed, stocked and overseen by my son Barry, and Apache Mesa Ranch, a wild mesa top and deep valley near Las Vegas, New Mexico.
Both ventures are about a year old. Barry’ gallery, which bears his last name, Ellsworth, is situated on a busy two lane road just off the plaza in Santa Fe, a prime location.
Half the space, developed from a dark, low-browed old adobe, is devoted to samurai armor.
As a boy growing up in Manhattan, Barry loved the medieval armor dramatically displayed in the Metropolitan Museum. He has gone on to be a collector and a connoisseur, and his collection in the gallery fascinated and even startles our multiplying summer tourists who may come expecting oils of desert sunsets or pueblo weavings and pottery.
Like all intentional collections, the armor teaches, in this case an appreciation of a culture remote in time, space and aesthetic. Each terrifying mask, each gilded scale of armor exudes mystery. The semi-obscurity of this gallery, where delicately beautiful Japanese scrolls adorn the walls, adds to the atmosphere. It is an experience to see our backpack toting, sandals and shorts wearing tourists staring agog at these formal ceremonial figures.
The other half of the gallery, which is higher and brighter, is devoted to a changing display of contemporary art in all its forms, some produced by artists here in New Mexico, others from around the world.
Carlos Motta’s brilliant somber video of his identity as a gay Latin man is unspooling in an adjacent room. I like to believe that for some of our older visitors, the video is an introduction to a vision as exotic, to them, and as tantalizing as the Samurai.
One man exclaimed as he came out, “Everything turned upside down and inside out!”
My new venture stands in contrast although it exists only a little more than an hour’s drive from the gallery. In New Mexico, the landscape can change dramatically within fifty or sixty miles; at Apache Mesa, the Sangre de Cristo mountains fall away and the great plains, once Comanche territory, begin to unfold.
Bare, bald, bristling with pinion, starred with lakes now seared by drought, the ranch lies at the end of a precipitous gravel road. Remains of the ranching days abound: a sheepherder’s hit, built of rough orange stone, a tumble down corral that may have been used by horse thieves.
At the bottom of a fifteen hundred foot drop, a great plain sweeps to the horizon. After dark there is not a light to be seen.
Whether I will ever retreat to the one room stone school house, the only structure, we have rehabilitated with kerosene lamps, a wood stove and a bathhouse heated with propane remains in the realm of mystery, and does not depend on me alone.
While the future unspools, I’ll enjoy the glow of adventure, risk and change that the gallery and the ranch incorporate and symbolize.
I think this glow may never wear off.