Tips from Artist Bettina Lancaster
by Travel Editor, Amanda Stuermer
New Mexico has long been called “the land of enchantment.” Santa Fe’s art scene definitely helps to cast the spell. There has been art in Santa Fe ever since there have been people there, from ancient Anasazi pottery to the modern day profusion of creativity. Who better than to offer Santa Fe travel guidance than an artist? Bettina Lancaster is a Bermudian-born artist who has lived and created in Santa Fe for over three decades. We asked Bettina to share a few of her favorite spots with us.
The food menu is a creative bridge between the agricultural traditions of New Mexico and the vibrancy of Mexican cuisine, and the traditionally made agave spirits are an ode to Mexico and the spiritual connection between the master mezcalero and the land. Bettina recommends “the marigold margarita and chicken tacos.”
The Rim Hike in Abiquiu
A six-mile moderate hike with beautiful views of Georgia O’Keeffe country. You can dip into the Abiquiu Reservoir after your hike to see Pedernal Mountain, painted frequently by Georgia O’Keeffe herself. Be sure to stop at Bode’s General Store for drinks and snacks, and a wander through their collection of merchandise ranging from propane tanks for camping to artisan gift items. You can also check out the Bosshard Gallery where you can find all sorts of treasures. “I found my favorite vintage brown cowboy hat there, fits me perfectly, and a ram’s skull.”
Artist Roxanne Swentzell
Roxanne is a Native American clay and bronze sculptor from the Santa Clara Pueblo and one of Bettina’s favorite artists. You can see her work at the Tower Gallery in Pojoaque. While you’re there, stop by El Parasol for more margaritas and tacos.
Bettina loves a great bookstore for inspiration, and unsurprisingly Santa Fe has a few to choose from. The Ark is a new-agey treasure hidden away on a quiet little street called Romero. Collected Works downtown is also fabulous, as is Garcia Street Books just off of Canyon, the gallery-lined road that is a must-wander for art lovers.
Taos Road Trip
There is nothing like a drive to Taos. Head north out of Santa Fe on 285 for a twisting, turning route along the Rio Grande river. The ideal time is fall, when the chamisa and aster bloom yellow and purple. Bettina’s favorite restaurant in Taos is the Love Apple, set in an old adobe New Mexican church. The setting and food are both divine. If you can’t get to the Love Apple, you can eat at the more casual Café Manzano on the Taos plaza, also owned by the Love Apple folks. Head to Chokola for a chocolate trio: a mousse, a truffle, and a drinking chocolate—bliss.
Wander Bent St. and check out Common Thread for their textiles, and Michelle’s clothing store for women. On the plaza, Taos Mountain Outfitters always has some fun colorful outdoor merch to drool over. The toy store Twirl is also a magical stop. Be sure to visit the Harwood Museum to see the Agnes Martin room, an octagonal-shaped room with eight of her paintings. “It’s a religious experience. See the apricot tree that friends of hers purportedly stole into the museum at night to bury her ashes under.”
Chama River Camping
This is another enchanting experience, especially in October when the cottonwood trees glow a brilliant yellow, and the elk are bugling. Take 285 North past Abiquiu and then take County Road 151, the road to the Christ in the Desert Monastery. Go about 12 miles on a dirt road. There are many great camping sites sprinkled all along the river.
Artist Alexandra Eldridge
Alexandra is another of Bettina’s favorite artists, whose mixed media paintings are a feast for the eyes and soul. She has a studio/gallery space on Second Street, which is a delight. “I always come away from seeing her work, filled up in a way I didn’t even know I needed filling,” says Bettina.
Artists need art supplies! Shout out to Artisan, a fabulous local art store, and the newer L’Ecole des Beaux Arts located on Canyon Road, where they make handmade watercolor paints and offer classes.
Artist Grant Hayunga
Grant opened his own gallery a few years ago at 640 Canyon Road. Bettina is a huge fan of Grant’s pieces that mix animal and human forms together “in a wild and primal way.”
Because she works alone in her studio much of the time, connecting to people and the daily bustle is important. “Santa Fe has a bunch of wonderful cafés, but my favorite at the moment is CrashMurderBusiness at 312 Montezuma.” Started by the artist Ranier Amiel, CrashMurderBusiness is a fun, funky creation that feels right at home with Santa Fe’s eclectic vibe. The café serves drinks such as a Crash of Rhinos and a Glory of Unicorns. Ranier has also created several artist studio spaces adjacent to the building and her fitness studio, Tiger Barre, in the back.
About the Artist
Bettina Lancaster will be participating in the Santa Fe Studio Tour this October. The studio tour takes place the last two weekends in October. You can find out more information at sfestudioart.com.