Day 14 – Santa Fe, NM to Colorado Springs, CO
Truly, I would like to be chronological about writing this – but really the lead story is that the passenger in my car is fearless. Today we sauntered our way from Santa Fe, checking in at a couple of “old” folk art environments, breakfasting at the historic Plaza Hotel in the other Las Vegas (New Mexico – thankfully devoid of slot machines.) So let’s start with one of the most amazing folk art sites in the country…
Bishop’s Castle – Jim Bishop – Beulah, CO
Nothing can prepare yourself for the moment you see the castle. Winding roads up the mountain, a sketchy cell phone call to the folk art GPS master – Narrow Larry Harris – to be sure if we were on the right path (yeah, I gotta adjust the app coordinates – it was a bit further up the mountain than I thought).
Jim Bishop is high, as he likes to say, high on a drug the government can’t control. It’s called adrenaline and after one look at Bishop Castle, you’d get no argument from me. Soaring towards the clouds for some 16 stories in all, it’s made from stone; hand selected, hand carried, hand lifted and mortared into place by, you guessed it, hand. Jim Bishop’s hands. He’s been working the site for nearly 40 years now, that is when he isn’t busy fighting with the government about giving it up. It’s surrounded by National Forest land, and they’ve been itching to get his for some time now. But that’s another story and it distracts from the sheer magnitude of what he’s created.
16 stories tall? No drawings. Towers and flying buttresses and rooms of glass and stone? No engineers. A fire-breathing dragon on the roof? No plans. No plans indeed, except for those in Jim’s head. (thanks Randy from RVRR for sharing your well-crafted insights, and letting me pass some of them along…)
Casa de Colores – Casimiro “Casey” T. Marquez – Las Vegas, NM
But the day really started with a check-in in Las Vegas, NM (yes, on the old, original alignment of Route 66) at Casey’s…he passed away earlier this year and rumor had it that his place was being dismantled. Not true, although, I think that some of the spray paint art was created by another…and he did mention that he was getting on in age, and having others help…so I am not sure about the origins of the new, cartoon images. Nonetheless, it was great to see the place still in tact.
I originally met Casey when traveling with the guys from Rare Visions in 2008. The “House of Colors” lived up to its name, both outside and in. Maybe its Technicolor trapping shouldn’t be a surprise, since Casey worked for years in auto body repair. He was a nice man of few words, who told us he did this because “it makes me happy.” Casey also reminded us that “mi casa no es su casa.” That is, he loves for people to look it over, but only from outside the gate.
Casey passed away on Dec 17, 2010. Most of his work is painted on the plaster inside and stucco outside. The entire structure is just about to collapse. Anything that local art patrons considered for removal/preservation would just hasten the collapse. The electric in the ceiling had already failed from the poor roof. Hopefully, you can get by to see the site before is is gone.
Robert “Bobby” Valdez – Las Vegas, NM
While in Las Vegas, I had to do a drive-by at Bobby’s Valdez’s house just to see that it, too, was fairing well since my first visit in 2008. Cartoon rodents, birds, spiders, dinosaurs, a nun and an anatomically correct caveman are just part of the party in Bobby’s yard. Still a hoot.