Selected photographs from
RED WHITE BLUE AND GOD BLESS YOU: A PORTRAIT OF NORTHERN NEW MEXICO
For two decades, living in a beautiful and isolated place, among Americans with a distinct language, character, and culture, I have often felt myself an expatriate in my own country.
Many American writers, photographers, and painters decide to leave the familiar in hopes of gaining insight and perspective in another land. Some flee the values and prejudices of provincial America to bask in what seems a more sophisticated foreign light. To harvest their art, others cultivate isolation in a place where responsibilities are few and time for work is ample. For still others, the new country itself is the primary interest. They want to enter and explore it, to render it, to come to know it in every way possible. If they are welcomed, if doors are opened to invite them inside, they may feel so at ease in new rooms, so immersed in another life, that the adopted country begins to look and feel like home, while the country of their birth seems foreign or strange.
Alex Harris, from the introduction to Red White Blue and God Bless You, 1992
In fastidiously painted and restored automobiles guided slowly – sometimes agonizingly so for anyone behind and in a hurry – over the winding mountain roads, I began to make color photographs. As scrupulously as Jacobo’s generation tended their farms, these younger men restored and cared for their cars. Sitting in the backseats of their sedans and convertibles, I witnessed the unlikely juxtapositions of Hispanic, Anglo, and Indian culture that were their everyday experience, viewed the natural landscape through frames of plastic and chrome, and observed the remnants of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries through their twentieth century windows.
Levi Lobato was a partially disabled Vietnam veteran and a remarkable woodcarver from Chamisal. He spent months on his sculptures, gradually altering the surface of soft, white aspen wood, carving in the old style without electric tools. His favorite subjects were inspired by the Bible.
Levi also sculpted the interior surface of his 1972 Monte Carlo. From the wonderfully surreal vantage point of his immaculate white tucked vinyl interior, I could see the traditional world the ancianos had created from an entirely new perspective. I had visited and photographed the well-preserved Catholic church at Las Trampas on many occasions, but viewing that eighteenth-century Spanish mission one summer evening from Levi’s backseat, I might as well have arrived by spaceship from another planet.
From the introduction to “Red White Blue and God Bless You”