Stepping inside the centuries old building that houses the Two Graces Gallery in Ranchos de Taos, one feels as if one has entered a magical les cabinets de curiosités.
An assemblage of fine Art and Antiques, rare books, Americana, Native American Crafts, Antique Hopi Kachina’s, vintage silver jewelry from the Pueblos to the Plains; Pottery and Weavings; the entire scope of the West has been collected here, in these rambling, ancient rooms with their three feet deep adobe walls.
An artist and former Art Professor from Boston, Cafazzo (also a Gourmand and great cook besides), and his fellow Artist wife, Holly came to Taos in 1990 and he has established himself here in Taos, not only as a Gallery owner, but a writer (he contributes frequently to the Taos News), and blogger (his blog is listed in my Taos links), a long time docent at the D.H. Lawrence Ranch and an important member of the local Arts Community.
I’ve visited Robert at his gallery here on taoStyle, but the day I went to see him last week, he had just unearthed an Ila McAfee from behind a lesser quality image he had acquired for the frame.
His collector’s eye serves him well often. He sees what others might miss. A rare JFK poster hangs in the gallery now along with an O’Keeffe poster signed by the artist.
“She rarely signed her paintings!” Laughs Robert.
If it’s the unique and one of a kind find you are looking for as gifts for special people in your life, this is where you’ll find them. Robert doesn’t mess around.
“I’m the guy who’ll get to the Estate Sale three hours before they open the door,” he says. “Just so I can get the first look.”
What follows is an email Q&A we had done a day or two earlier.
1) How do you feel about the way Taos is taking on Tourism?
There’s often a lack of transparency for how the town works on tourism. Through the last few years I’ve stayed in touch with Tourism and Marketing Director A. Karina Armijo, just trying to stay in the loop, anyone can make an appointment to do the same. They don’t seem to get the word out very well of what they are doing and how to participate. In reality, I don’t think they know how to. I just wrapped up a story about the 2018 promotional Banners that will utilize imagery submitted from Taos Artists. It’s important to me personally to be involved with this project to share the information and that it isn’t a big secret where people will later ask the question: “Why didn’t I know about this?”
2) I hear the new CEO at UNM Taos, is wide open to expanding the campus and encouraging kids from afar, to come here to study – sort of a Destination College Town – how do you think that would impact the community?
UNM Taos, has been supported by certain outstanding citizens in the community one of which has been former mayor and town councilor Fred Peralta. I’m glad to see a higher education component becoming more prevalent in the community. With higher education you also need to attract GREAT teachers, which is a challenge in Taos. A low pay scale does not attract the best of the best to teach people who truly want to learn. UNM may also need to think about student housing. The best example of a terrific under appreciated university in the state of New Mexico is the school IAIA, Institute of American Indian Arts. We were recently invited to tour the facilities, it’s amazing, the teachers are committed to their students and the students love their teachers. This may be at this moment in time the very best art school in the US. If I were to go back to teaching at a top-notch Art School which I stopped doing 15 years ago, this would be where I’d want to teach. By the way, they accept students who may not have any Native American bloodline whatsoever.
3) You’ve lived here a long time, what would be your advice to someone entertaining the idea about moving here?
I first moved to Taos in 1990, at that time, Taos completely befuddled me, I had no idea what to do here. Later I read the book Moving to a Small Town, it spells out quite clearly everything that will happen, things not to do, what to expect and how to avoid pitfalls. Read it, that’s my best advice, because every small town or small section in a larger city is exactly the same across the US.
4)Your gallery is in the old Ranchos Plaza which is not only home to the church (St. Francis), but also to so much history – can you tell us a bit about the Plaza community and the other shops and businesses around you?
The iconic San Francisco de Asis Church was indeed the draw for me as I first drove into Taos 27 years ago. I wanted to be there, I wanted to thrive there and to soak in what all of the artists and photographers through the years soaked in. What all of the prayers that emanate from that Church emit, the power of prayer and what it means in the world. I believe the Church sits on a vortex, a spiritual center of creativity. There are many Adobe Churches across New Mexico, there are none that have this strong a connection for artists.
Two Graces Plaza Gallery has been here in Ranchos for 14 years. Our back room is the 300 year old section of the building, we opened this space to the public last year. My neighbor Chimayo Trading del Norte has been here for the same amount of time as well. In between us is a little known shop Velvet & Horns,
The rest of the Plaza includes the well-loved Church Gift Shop which was begun my the beloved Carmen Velarde, what an absolute jewel to the entire community she has been through the years. The second most photographed building in the plaza is the home of the Rivera family, with the beautiful picturesque Taos Blue doors and shutters, lace curtains in the windows.
Although Two Graces has been offered more central locations throughout the years in Taos proper, we love being where we are, we may just have the best space in all of Taos.
5) You are a painter, a collector, a trader, tour guide/docent at the D.H. Lawrence Ranch and also write a blog that is super informative – you’ve been featured in magazines and had your own work featured by them – how do you manage to do it all?
There are times that I think I’m about to have a nervous breakdown at any given moment. You need to learn to juggle and as people know in Taos, to survive you need to wear more than one hat.
My wife Holly Sievers and I run the gallery together. We take turns being in the gallery, she’s there for a week and I’m there the following week. I am always there on Sundays, and she is always there on Saturdays. We are open 7 days a week throughout the year. Once in a while we take days off together and close the shop for a day, this happens randomly, usually on our birthdays.
Painting for me is what I came here to do, it is our primary source of income and in the words of my cardiologist, “It is the one thing that relieves stress.”
With painting I need inspiration, this is why I travel and spend most of my free time in museums, I read and research a lot and I experiment. When I was teaching, critiques were my passion and forte, How can a student do this and do it better, what are the problems that have arisen, what direction are they going in and who did it before that I can use as an example.
I wouldn’t say I’m a trader, I learned long ago that anyone who wants to trade with you always wants the upper hand. I am a picker, I am extremely fussy and picky about the items I select for the shop. I am someone who is known as having a good eye.
My recent retirement as president of the D.H. Lawrence Board Alliance is evidence that I can not do everything. Holly had been a docent at the Couse-Sharp Historic properties, she too recently resigned from volunteering for this.
I also do repair work which seems to be never-ending mostly on Kachina dolls which I specialize in, and then Santos along with most wooden objects. As a sideline to this I do painting restoration as well, but that’s another of my secret jobs.
I write for my own blog (Two Graces, linked below and under Taos Links on the sidebar) I’ve also written for other publications.. This past year I’ve written 18 articles for Taos News Tempo about art issues in Taos.
6) What is it about Taos?
As an artist it is about the light, you can say there’s more to it, but it is the light.