A famous French fashion designer, captivated from his youth by Hollywood Westerns, returned from his first trip to the American Southwest utterly disappointed. He said, “It was nothing like the movies.”
For over one hundred years, the entertainment industry has been creating fantasies of the American Southwest. (Think of John Wayne riding through Monument Valley in Stagecoach, John Ford’s classic western. Or uber-cool 60s it-boys, Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda, motorcycling across the Arizona desert and camping in the shadow of the Wupatki ruins in the film Easy Rider.)
Even back in the late 1800’s, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West vaudeville show toured Europe eight times to a rapt audience, introducing a theatrical version of Western lifestyle while stoking a passion among the well-healed for traveling to the “exotic west.”
Artistic visions of the southwest are equally compelling, though not always realistic. Notable exceptions include the barren, stirringly spiritual landscapes of painters like Georgia O’Keefe and Maynard Dixon. These artists understood the land and the soul of the Southwest, as do the principal cultures that gave her life: The Native American tribes, Mexicans, Spaniards, and the frontier settlers of European descent. The distinct and intermingling aesthetics of our Southwestern cultures, artists, Hollywood, and the majestic land that inspires them all, have forged an iconic style that rises and falls with fashion trends but never disappears.
Before I go on, let me introduce myself. I’m Sandra.
I’ve lived most of my life in Southern California and Northern Italy, places where style and cuisine is a way of life. My academic and professional background has always revolved around art, jewelry, and fashion. With an unexpected move to the southwest, I had all but resigned myself to a life of mid-tier shopping malls and chain restaurants. I was wrong.
In my travels around the southwest, I have seen wild mustangs sip pristine water from a canyon creek in the last remaining primitive area of the United States. I have watched sunsets ignite skies over painted desert canyons. I have perched atop a pueblo and felt the winds that weathered the ancient stones. I have tasted bread baked with ancient Sonoran wheat carried by Spanish missionaries in the 1600s. I have sipped Whiskey made from mesquite-malted barley, fragrant with spice and desert campfires. I have rested at a gracious, Spanish colonial hotel on the Santa Fe Railway in the high desert.
I have fallen in love with the Southwest, and I want to share it all with you: Fashion, jewelry, travel, cuisine, shopping, interior design, film, music and literature.
The Southwest aesthetic, at its best, reflects an indomitable spirit — a wild, rugged, sparse beauty. Seeking out what is still wild in the Southwest, and the creativity she has inspired, have become something of an obsession for me. Join my tribe and be prepared for a journey! But if, like a certain French designer, a brief visit has convinced you there’s little to admire here, then get off the interstate, mon ami!