The opening of the visual arts extravaganza that is the art collective Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return may, in one swell swoop, put Santa Fe firmly back on the map as a serious art destination.
By now the plot should be familiar to anyone paying attention to what’s going on here in Santa Fe: A very large and mixed group of seriously talented artists embark upon an odyssey to create a permanent installation of scale ambition that has never been seen before. They enlist another local talent, Game of Thrones magus George R.R. Martin to provide them with a piece of real estate in a slightly scruffy, quasi-industrial part of town. With begging bowl in hand, they approach the public and private sectors, and, amazingly, get the buy-in they need to pull the whole thing off.
Within the old Silva Lanes Bowling Alley a full-scale Victorian house is erected, complete down to the minutest details. Passing through rooms, up and down staircases, the mash-up of hand-made construction, light and sound installations, painting, sculpture, is nothing short of visual and technological wizardry. Caves with stalactites house a musical mastodon skeleton. A refrigerator door or a fireplace are portals leading to other-worldly experiences. A contemporary version of a Hanging Garden of Babylon replete with trees, interactive mushrooms, spiral staircases and tree houses is to be found somewhere in the center of the complex, with endless visual distractions and surprises radiating out in all directions. To say there is nothing like it anywhere is no hyperbole.
The House is not a mere kaleidoscopic hodge-podge of disparate virtuoso elements; there is a basic narrative: it was the home of the (fictional) Selig family whose members seem to have suddenly vanished, leaving photographs, notes, drawings and other personal items behind, perhaps as clues. It becomes (somewhat) clear that the house is a time machine of sorts or a port of entry to other universes.
There are no maps, no single or right way to travel through the house. Visitors are simply left to their own devices to make discoveries. The House of Eternal Return cannot be fully experienced with just one visit and that was the intention. It will require multiple trips to the old bowling alley to unlock its mysteries.
Whatever the future holds for the artists of Meow Wolf, this is one tough act to follow.
David Richard Gallery hosted an anniversary celebration and pop-up benefit exhibition, Happy Birthday Meow Wolf, as part of its DR Projects. The exhibition featured artworks by individual artists of Meow Wolf and a portion of the proceeds from sales went to those artists and Meow Wolf. See the individual artworks and installation using this link: http://www.davidrichardgallery.com/Exhibit_Detail.cfm?ShowsID=297.
Howard Rutkowski and David Eichholtz
Santa Fe, NM
March 24, 2016
Meow Wolf, Nico Salazar, 100% hand drawn using only sakura paint markers
Meow Wolf, Dylan Pommer, 20's Cartoon Room
Meow Wolf, Matt King's "Ghost Town" and band stage
Meow Wolf, Erika Wanenmacher's Animal Eye Dome