With a lifelong devotion to the development of American conceptual, minimalist art, and Earthworks, philanthropist and visionary Virginia Dwan is the patron saint of the 20th century art world. In 1996, Dwan designed a space in Montezuma, New Mexico with Charles Ross and Laban Wingert as a generous gift to United World College.
The sanctuary is nestled in the mountain foothills of the Sangre de Cristo mountains near the UWC campus, a restored historic Queen Anne style Montezuma Hotel, a hot springs resort built in 1881. This completive quiet space is surrounded by a landscape of richness. With a mixture of earth and water, hundreds of tall pine trees enclose the solitary building with a Victorian era tiered brick enclosed hot spring pools open to the public below creating an otherworldly atmosphere from the exterior.
The interior structure an illuminated stark white contrast. A study and mediation on light, the transformation of light, and the movement of light powered by the Sun.
Conical in shape, the sanctuary is laid bare in neutrals save for sets of black minimal candelabras. Two sides of the space house giant windows with six long triangle prisms that work in conjunction with prism skylights to provide the projected array of ever changing rainbows and light structures. Personally, the beauty of this space is that unlike light specific artists like Dan Flavin and James Turrell, who depend on full or partial artificial light, the Dwan Sanctuary of Light uses only natural light, architectural structure, and the sun to manipulate color and space. Moment to moment the color, shapes, and spacial depth illusions transform based on the outdoor natural light sources.
The idea of natural light proves to be radical in this day and age when we are exposed to an overwhelming amount of artificial light in art. Spending time in this space, you realize that the power of this art space is a testament to the purity of natural light and the basics of what the Earth already provides us with, if we are clever enough to use it properly. Given that Dwan spent her life being an advocate of Earthworks, you can naturally question whether the sanctuary is a critique of light installation and the current standardized overuse of it.
It was a joy to shoot in the natural light of this magnificent space. The complexity of how to interact with colors, shapes, and light to illuminate our pieces, added another dimension and understanding of how the space operates.
If you ever find yourself near Santa Fe, we highly recommend a day trip, minutes away from Las Vegas, New Mexico.
All jewelry pieces shot at the Dwan Light Sanctuary can be found on new arrivals beginning 11.4.17