Turner/Carroll Gallery

Magic Mountain meets Magic High Desert in Santa Fe

Art on the Road: Friderike Heuer travels the high routes of northern New Mexico with her camera and discovers parallels with Thomas Mann

EDITOR’S NOTE: In the first of two stories from her recent visit to northern New Mexico, Portland photographer and artist Friderike Heuer discovers layers of history, art in abundance, and a cornucopia of vivid images from the streets, museums, and galleries of Santa Fe. The accidental sculpture of walking sticks in the top photo was on display near the Rio Grande Steel Bridge, where a street vendor was selling wares. In addition to the region’s deep history, Heuer found evidence of a futuristic streak: The rest of the photos, except for the book cover, are from “the ultimate Dionysian experience of art meets entertainment at the indescribable Magic Castle known as Meow Wolf.” Coming Monday: Georgia O’Keeffe in the Southwest.

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HANS CASTORP, THE YOUNG, ARTISTICALLY INCLINED protagonist of Thomas Mann’s novel The Magic Mountain, visits his dying cousin in a sanatorium for people with tuberculosis in the Swiss mountains. Infected himself, he ends up staying there for seven years before joining the military for World War I in 1914, expected to meet his doom. As a patient, he might as well have come to Santa Fe, New Mexico. This place also attracted health-seekers at the beginning of the last century, many of whom never left, given that the dry high-desert air was beneficial to people with lung diseases.

Mann’s novel was begun in 1912, published more than a decade later, and by that time completely revised to incorporate the lessons from the Great War. The trek of “lungers,” as they were called, to Santa Fe also saw significant changes. A few TB patients arrived in the early 1900s. Others followed as word of mouth spread. People suffering from the disease from all over the United States were soon actively pursued by local politicians and administrators, who persuaded them to come to the area by the thousands. The first wave consisted of artists and educated, mostly wealthy people – the kind you would have also met at Mann’s Berghof sanatorium. Next came soldiers and veterans, then all sorts of poor people unable to pay for their stay and yet welcomed with open arms and plenty of sanatorium beds. What was going on? Why the pursuit of a population carrying a dreaded disease?

Continues…