While vacationing in Taos this Summer I arranged to have some oil painting instruction with a favorite local artist, Michelle Chrisman. It was a wise choice; not only is Michelle supremely talented, but she is also a gifted teacher and I learned so much, not only about painting, but also about a very interesting aspect of Taos history - the Morada.
To understand the Morada, a little background is necessary. The Penitente, a secret society which existed in Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico during the late 1800’s to present day, and whose beliefs were that sin could only be forgiven by suffering and self-flagellation, held secret meetings which took place in designated structures referred to as “Moradas”.
The Moradas are typically simple adobe buildings with no windows and a single entrance, and a cross on the roof is the only hint that there is a spiritual connection. The Taos Morada sits on Pueblo Reservation land, and the Native Americans allow visitors to this small strip of land, since their land is normally off limits to outsiders.
It was at the Taos Morada that Michelle suggested we meet for our painting lesson. Located at the end of a winding, narrow lane, the old adobe structure sat with a slightly forboding and mysterious presence. Michelle admitted that she often felt a strange vibe when painting at this lonely spot, and I could easily understand this sensation.
We painted the Morada with the backdrop of the gorgeous Sangre de Cristo mountains and, of course, the beautiful blue New Mexico high desert sky. It was 3 hours well spent, I learned some of the ins and outs of oil painting and Plein Air technique, now to put it to practice!
After the lesson, my husband and I explored the area further, and much to my surprise we found a black cross, like those immortalized in a series of paintings by Georgia O’Keefe, on the other side of the building!
If you ever have the urge to paint, be sure to contact Michelle: http://mmichellechrisman7.fineartstudioonline.com/
Here are some photos Mike took of the location, if you are ever in Taos, it is well worth a visit: