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News Release — January 18, 1999

"Modernists in New Mexico: A Community of Writers, 1916-1941"

Seeking to escape from the constraints and pressures of a rapidly industrializing world, a number of prominent writers migrated to Santa Fe and Taos beginning in 1916. There they hoped to create a community free of conventional mores and inspirational to the individual and creative spirit, a sort of rustic American "Left Bank" interwoven with the region's Indian and Hispanic cultures and reverential of its natural beauty. Central figures in the movement included D.H. Lawrence, Mabel Dodge Luhan, and Alice Corbin Henderson. Their presence drew visits from Carl Sandburg, Willa Cather, Thornton Wilder, and Robert Frost.

Opening February 1, 1999, Modernists in New Mexico: A Community of Writers, 1916-1941, features rare manuscripts, photographs, and original works of art, offering an inside view of the bohemian communities these and other artists created in Santa Fe and Taos during the first half of the 20th century. In celebration of the exhibition's opening, a reception will be held Thursday, February 4, from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Both the reception and exhibition will be held in the Leeds Gallery, located on the 4th floor of the Flawn Academic Center, found just west of the clock tower on the campus of the University of Texas. The exhibition and reception are free and open to the public.

In conjunction with Modernists in New Mexico, the Ransom Center is hosting a noontime lecture series beginning Tuesday, March 23 and continuing on consecutive Tuesdays until April 13. All lectures are free and open to the public. They will be held in the Knopf room, also on the 4th floor of the Flawn Academic Center. The schedule of lectures is as follows:

  • On Tuesday, March 23, Dr. Desley Deacon will discuss modernism and community in New Mexico.
  • On Tuesday, March 30, Drs. Andrew Causey and Jane Henrici will discuss the impact of tourism on native cultures.
  • On Tuesday, April 6, University of Texas doctoral candidates Maureen Reed and Natasha Sinutko will discuss the lives and work of Alice Corbin Henderson, Mabel Dodge Luhan, and Mary Austin.
  • On Tuesday, April 13, Dick Holland, former director of the Southwestern Writers Collection, will discuss Southwestern literature.

Exhibition Highlights

The exhibition contains over 300 items, featuring rare books, manuscripts, photographs, and original works of art. Highlights include original manuscripts by D.H. Lawrence, including volume one of "Quetzalcoatl" which later became The Plumed Serpent (1926); rare photographs and correspondence of Carl Sandburg, Witter Bynner, Alice Corbin Henderson, Mabel Dodge Luhan, and Frieda Lawrence; three original drawings by John Marin; satiric social commentary by poet and journalist Spud Johnson; and three watercolors by Pan Y Pin of Tesuque Pueblo.

Three themes are showcased in the exhibition:

  • "Artistic Endeavors" provides an overview of the writers' involvement in the arts and features Writer's Editions, a series of texts published in Santa Fe by the writers themselves in an attempt to promote regional literature.
  • "The Best of Intentions" chronicles the writers' efforts on behalf of the area's Native American and Hispanic populations.
  • "A Modern Community" examines how the writers interwove their art, politics, and personal lives within the context of their adopted home.

Materials for Modernists in New Mexico were selected from the Ransom Center's extensive archives of D.H. Lawrence, Frieda Lawrence, Alice Corbin Henderson, Spud Johnson, Oliver La Farge, and William Penhallow.

Modernists in New Mexico was curated by Ransom Center Associate Librarian Cathy Henderson, Reading Room Librarian Rachel Howarth, Research Librarian Tara Wenger, and intern Cliff Farrington.

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Alyssa Morris
Communications & Marketing Manager