In Madrid, New Mexico, along what’s called the Turquoise Trail, we happened upon Connie’s Photo Park. No attendant approached us, and there was no gate or admission fee. A slot with a sign suggesting a donation sat quietly off to one side.
My husband, Dave, and I were the only two visitors while we were there. Paintings were varied but several were vaguely reminiscent of the old West.
Some had a cut-out for one face and some for two. Clearly somebody had a good time creating all these characters. I wish I knew more of the story behind the paintings.
In the back was a big empty bathtub on what looked like an old set for a western. I got Dave to get in the tub for a photo.
No, it was not exactly a day in a museum, but we had a blast.
The building itself used to house a bowling alley, but with aid from George R.R. Martin (yes, that George R.R. Martin), it now has only faint vestiges of that era.
It is at its heart an artists’ collective. The art even spills out into the parking lot, where huge sculptures of a robot, a spider, and a wolf loom over cars and picnic tables.
Its website has this under “About us”:
Meow Wolf is a Santa Fe, New Mexico based arts and entertainment group that established in 2008 as an art collective.
The company is composed of nearly 200 artists across all disciplines including architecture, sculpture, painting, photography and video production, virtual and augmented reality, software and hardware development, music and audio engineering, narrative writing, costuming and performance, and more. Basically everything.
The centerpiece of Meow Wolf is The House of Eternal Return, a 20,000 square foot art exhibit that has secret passages and a mystery involving the Selig family. The person who took our tickets explained that about 30 percent of the experience could be enhanced with 3D glasses, which he handed us. After listening to a man on a video warn us not to gossip once we were inside, we entered, knowing almost nothing about what we were going to see but excited in our anticipation to discover what lay ahead.
Here’s the website’s attempt to describe it:
House of Eternal Return is a unique art experience featuring an astonishing new form of non-linear storytelling that unfolds through exploration, discovery and 21st century interactivity.
The first structure you see is a Victorian house with several rooms, ostensibly belonging to the Selig family. There are many references and clues surrounding their disappearance, including audio recordings and papers. Family photos hang in some rooms, and bedrooms are decorated in such a way to make it clear which family member lived in each one.
The kitchen seemed quite ordinary until I saw someone emerge from the refrigerator, bathed in brilliant white light, looking equally surprised to have found herself in a kitchen. The family room at first appears like any family room across America, but if you stay long enough you’re bound to glimpse someone crawl through the fireplace and disappear.
At one point, I put my hand against the outline of a hand on the wall, and a door opened into a futuristic travel agency, where one could choose from among several different vacation destinations. And the names were already somewhat familiar to me because I had read a brochure that had been left out on a coffee table in the family room that advertised the various trips available.
And there was this space pod filled with child’s furniture that defied gravity, a dinosaur skeleton whose ribs were musical, a little chapel with an amazing ongoing light show, a video arcade where you needed no quarters, and staircases that took you to other equally interesting spaces. Stepping into a commercial-sized freezer led me to a small dark room that is mirrored and equipped with four distinct lightscapes to experience.
Everything is self-led, but there are employees in white lab coats who wander through, in case of emergency, I suppose, or to ensure that people are behaving themselves. Some of it is painted in fluorescent colors and indeed looks even better through the 3D glasses.
My favorite room was a kitchen and dining area painted in black and white.
Because we were there on a Thursday morning, we were surrounded by tourists, families, and middle-aged folks like ourselves and older. I imagine that in the evening, visitors might include more young people, locals, and more than a few individuals taking recreational drugs.
In addition to the House of Eternal Returns is the David Loughridge Learning Center, a maker/art space dedicated to all kinds of creativity. There are jumbo foam blocks, a mural created by a group of middle-school teen girls, boxes of art supplies, and a large papier-mache rendition of Meow Wolf’s mascot, Snaggy. Classes, workshops, and various gatherings convene here.
Meow Wolf hosts musical entertainment as well.
The funky cafe/bar offers snacks and beverages, and there’s a super-cool gift shop.
I’m not sure this long-winded account truly captures Meow Wolf, but I hope it provides a taste of this unique place. If you ever go to Santa Fe, it is well worth spending half a day at Meow Wolf. In fact, I think it’s a perfectly good destination all by itself.
I have always loved Marga Gomez. I remember seeing her at a comedy club in Emeryville that is no longer there and at The Marsh when it was just a nook carved out of a little cafe in the Mission. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen every solo show she’s done in the Bay Area, and I even watched Sphere, a science fiction movie (not my thing) because she had a small role in it. I also spotted her at a Poets & Writers conference, where I was brave enough to pass her a note during a presentation. And when I was protesting some underhanded activities by Berkeley’s former library director, Marga was doing her bit to entertain the small but loyal group of librarian supporters. I may have also caught sight of her at the dog park once.
So I guess you could call me a devoted fan.
Marga’s current show, Latin Standards, is poignant, funny, and insightful. If you’re already a fan, you’ll recognize the hysterical rendition of her primping mother and loving portrayal of her charming showman dad. But this show plunges more deeply into her father’s career and how this background directly shaped Marga, despite his plan that she should become a doctor.
She is the kind of performer who connects with her audience and is sensitive to mood of the crowd, who was loving her the night I saw the show. Despite her plea for folks to turn off their phones, which she explained were distracting, one cell phone ringtone blasted mercilessly from a purse a few seats to my left. I was furious on Marga’s behalf. Luckily, the guilty party was able to silence it swiftly.
I saw her on a sad day in history–Brett Kavanaugh had just been confirmed. This was not lost on Marga, who proclaimed that she was performing the show that made it the greatest night of her life–on the worst day of her life. And it being Berkeley, nobody wondered what she was referring to.
I urge you to go whether you’re already familiar with Marga’s work or not. She puts her whole heart into every word. And since she claims this is her final one-woman show, you don’t have much longer to be able to see one of the finest solo performers around.
Latin Standards is playing through November 17 at The Marsh in Berkeley. Don’t miss it!