Savage Pilgrims

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20170205

"The moment I saw the brilliant, proud morning shine up over the deserts of Santa Fe, something stood still in my soul, and I started to attend" wrote DH Lawrence when he arrived in New Mexico in the 1920s. Since the turn of the 20th century a steady stream of sculptors, writers, painters, and composers have made New Mexico their home, along with a caravan of people seeking new ways of living in the high desert. Sara Mohr Pietsch heads to the American south-west to discover what it was amongst the piñon trees that first attracted them, and why so many now have their homes and studios there.

On her journey around the state she meets composers Raven Chacon and Meredith Monk who talk of the peculiar acoustic propoerties when performing outside, author Henry Shukman traces the early Anglo artist colonies at Taos, poet Mei Mei Berssenbrugge and artists Richard Tuttle reflect on the nature of spirituality, and artists Lynda Benglis and Tom Joyce talk of a deep connection with the land. Sara visits the ancient Taos Pueblo, home to a Pueblo Indian community for over 1000 years, to

hear how the native communities of the land became the focus of so much artistic interest, and sits quietly at the Harwood Museum of Art to look on some of the last paintings made by minimalist Agnes Martin, another New Mexico resident.

There is no one answer to why artists are drawn to New Mexico, but through interviews with those who live there, Sara discovers a deep connection between the people - be they Native, Hispanic or Anglo - and the red land, the clear light and the humbling, savage vastness of this "Land of Enchantment".

Produced by Peter Meanwell

A Reduced Listening production for BBC Radio 3.