Early Ampex reel-to-reel
Dorothy Brett in the early 1960’s
During summers, in the sixties, I visited Taos and became acquainted with some of it’s artists. Several Taosans were recorded, notably The Hon. Dorothy Brett, an English painter, brought to Taos in the early twenties by D.H. Lawrence and his wife Frieda. With the encouragement of Mabel Dodge Luhan, Lawrence had hopes of starting a colony of international artists in Taos. Many artists had already discovered Taos, but it was after Lawrence’s death that many more from East and West coast came, went, or stayed for the rest of their lives; persons such as Georgia O’Keefe and the three Lawrence women, Frieda, Brett and Mabel.
Three hours of Brett’s recorded recollections were selected and edited, then broadcast by Pacifica radio KPFA in Berkeley and KCRW in Los Angles. John Manchester, Brett’s neighbor and conservator of her work, reported that the programs brought many new visitors to Taos to view and collect her paintings. A final interview was recorded, but Brett requested that it be withheld from broadcast until she completed her autobiography, which was covering similar material. It was never finished. She died in 1977. That final recording is currently being edited and will be added to this archive.
Brett was usually out painting during the day but by five o’clock on those summer afternoons, she had done her day’s work, had a nap and arrived at her neighbor, John Manchester’s, house for her drink and our recording session. She sat on an enormous plush white sofa. In front of it, on a low table, a large silver goblet was filled with chilled martini. Dressed in her brilliant pueblo daily wear, she would adjust her hearing gadget, named Toby, her Father’s name, and record story after story about her life.
Remembrances of her past in England flowed with amused wonder that it all had happened so long ago: her coming to Taos with Lawrence & Frieda, sharing the land with Mabel Dodge Luhan, the good times and terrible fights they all had. There were notable visitors, writers, poets, painters, musicians, Leopold Stokowski among them (a romantic episode for Brett) and Carl Gustaf Jung, who baffled the Pueblo elders with his questions about their sex habits.
Brett was impressed by the Taos Pueblo Indians, their customs, dances and way of life, so much so that her painting took on a new simpler native style. Gradually the interest took on a way of life: her bearing, her clothing, make up, a colored band she wore around her head. She acquired a bright yellow Volkswagon van, riding it off into the hills and villages to do her painting. Her appearance greatly impressed the newly arrived Hippies a few years later. They greeted her with awe and regarded Brett as one of their own, an original tribal personage.
Her book, Lawrence & Brett, A Friendship, has a personal and expressive style in the writing, but her voice, as it comes to us from the recordings, brings a live Brett, a personality, that is only hinted at by the printed page.
Lawrence & Brett: a Friendship
Dorothy Brett reads her autobiography (24 half-hour episodes). It’s a moving and detailed account of her life in Taos with D.H. Lawrence, Frieda and Mabel Dodge Luhan. Each of the women wrote their own book, but we have only the one actual voice, Brett’s, telling her side of the story.
Manchester befriended Brett and guided her painting career and her everyday life from his residence next door.
Spud Johnson was a central figure in the artistic Taos of the 1920s. His Laughing Horse magazine, conceived during college days at UC Berkeley, continued with its outspoken and sardonic humor when he moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Later he made Taos his permanent home. His reports on the political and cultural scenes were printed in regional newspapers, as well as his accounts of Taos residents and passers-through during his long life. Reluctant to record his many old stories, he contributed a brief conversation at his home about D. H. Lawrence and the three women from his Taos days, and a fine reading of his volume of poetry, Horizontal Yellow, at the home of Milford Greer. Spud died in Taos, in 1968.
Spud in Taos
Spud Johnson talks about the times of Taos and D. H. Lawrence.
Spud Johnson reads his volume of poems
The El Rancho Mission Church of St Francis de Asis
Genevieve Janssen and Claire Morrill discuss the famous mission church at Ranchos de Taos and the attempts made by the church Fathers to cover the original adobe with a permanent layer of cement. It was cemented, remaining in that condition for 12 years, long enough for the cement to crack and rain water began to corrode the adobe bricks beneath. The cement was removed and the adobe bricks restored. But when further attempts were made to modernize there was resistance. The parishioners preferred to use their own hands, yearly, to keep the walls of their church reapplied with the earth of their ancestors…adobe.
The voice of Frieda Lawrence reading her husband’s poems. The reading is taken from an original recording provided us by Spud Johnson.
The poet, in later life, made Taos his home. He reads from his poetry, and discusses it with Erik Bauersfeld. Recorded in the home of Milford Greer.
Jaime de Angulo
The man who walked away! During his visits to Taos in the 1920s Jaime was captured in his own way by the Taos altitude. The dissident Anthropologist befriended Mabel’s new husband, Tony Luhan, and promised not to reveal anything he told him about the Pueblos. But that didn’t include letters to many people in many places. Particularly to Carl Gustav Jung, who soon joined them all in Taos.
We are planning to extend this series by a return to Taos with the San Francisco poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Lawrence is also known as Lorenzo, as D.H. Lawrence was named by Mable Dodge Luhan in her autobiography, Lorenzo in Taos. Our Lawrence spent time in Taos when these earlier writers and artists were also there. Thus we would have a past revisited, seen through earlier and current eyes.