Just before Ruth & I arrived there, the Millicent Rogers Museum won a Taos best local museum award. It took top honors on 2-21-21. It had recently reopened after a long COVID closure. The award was enough to cause us to want to see it. We did not know who Millicent Rogers was before seeing her collected works. We had always focused our attention on Mabel Dodge Luhan while in Taos. Both were strong, opinionated women who knew each other. They did not especially get along.
The Millicent Rogers Museum first opened near Taos’ famous Plaza in 1956 with the help and blessing of Millicent’s youngest son Paul. He had 2 brothers, and Millicent was not said by any of them to be a wonderful mother. I now know a lot about Millicent because I was so impressed by her museum that I got a copy of the book about her by Cherie Burns called Searching for Beauty published first in 2011. It was not hard to find. I just finished reading it and am now deeply into a biography about Enrico Fermi. They could not have been more different.
Millicent Rogers was an heiress who very much lived the life of a woman of privilege in the early 20th century. She was the granddaughter of the founder of Standard Oil. Her grandfather’s business partner was John D. Rockefeller. Born with millions she died in need of money in Taos mainly because she loved to collect.
Her Museum moved to its expansive current location northwest of Taos city center in the late 1960s. According to its Gallery Guide, a mandate went into effect on 7-29-21 requiring mask wearing inside the museum. Check about current conditions before going.
Millicent Rogers only lived in Taos for the last 6 years of her life. She led an international life before settling in New Mexico. She owned property all over the world before that final, permanent move. She selectively knew a lot of famous people and had vivid affairs with men like Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond. She died at the age of 50 after a lifetime of poor health and self-abuse. She is buried in Taos because it had a profound affect on her attitudes, spirituality, and interests.
While a Taos resident she continued to collect and influence jewelry design, textiles, and art. Cezanne had been a particular lifelong passion, and Native American potter Marie Martinez became a friend after Millicent arrived here. The Millicent Rogers Museum has more than one gallery devoted to Martinez’ works. Humble Maria Martinez, whose works are in major museums throughout the world became one of the world’s greatest potters first with her husband Julian and then with her son Popovi Da. The secret of her glossy sculpting genius was the animal dung used while she was putting the San Ildefonso Native American Pueblo on the art map. Millicent designed and wore chunky jewelry while in Taos but this didn’t apparently help her amass wealth. A lot of her designs are in this museum as are Native American blankets and more.