Visitors come to Taos to experience its beautiful landscapes, architecture and cultures, and many also feel a deep spirituality. Taos has strong medicine. The mountains, desert sunsets, historic adobe casitas, native arts and delicious foods all contribute to its unique atmosphere, but the true source of its mystical quality comes from the people.
I am blessed to have a relationship with one of those people – a great friend of more than 30 years who embodies the Taos spirit: Blue Spruce Standing Deer from the Taos Pueblo. I want to share with you a little about this incredible man, whose love for mother Earth, wisdom, connection to nature, and reverence for his people and their beliefs inspire me every time I see him.
Standing Deer is also a gifted artist. As he talks about imagery coming to him through music, it becomes clear that his paintings are an expression of his values and traditions coming together – a mystical nexus where time, space, history, culture, family and earth and sky meet in harmonious union.
“I get my inspiration through song,” says Standing Deer. “Ed goes out there and feels mother earth because that’s what it’s about for him, and for me I feel the music and translate the sounds into images. I meet men and the medicine bird in space when I’m singing – I meet them in the spirit world and can see them, talk to them and bring them into this world through songs. They tell me how they want to be painted, and I paint them.”
Standing Deer had a pivotal, life-changing experience through art that influences his paintings to this day: “Star Dancer saved my life when I was living on the reservation. I was outrageously drinking too much – Jack Daniels used to be my best friend, but he almost killed me. Then Star Dancer came in. I remember it so clearly. I was painting…and the canvas was shimmering with light pinks and blues. Suddenly, I heard these bells and saw dancing.
paint to music and on this day, Buddy Red Bow was on the cassette player nearby singing “The White Men Are Coming,” but that song went away and all I could hear were these bells and all around me was beautiful dancing.”
“The next thing I knew, my colors changed to the dark blues and purples that I still use to this day, and I saw a man coming toward me. He was dancing and coming at me. His hair was all over and stretched out into space, and his body was moving and dropping stars down to the earth. I was looking down – saw the stars hitting the earth. Star seeds. He came right up into my face, and his breath was lavender sweet. He was pure space. He said, ‘Blue Spruce Standing Deer, I came to see you. You either quit, or I can take you.’ I knew exactly what he was talking about.”
“He continued, ‘I know you and your dad’s medicine, but your medicine is different. My name is Star Dancer. I am your guide. I am your inner self. To love me you have to love yourself.’ I had chills and could see right through him, and every time he moved stars fell from his shoulders and fingers and body. He said, ‘I’ll come back for you to paint me.’”
Turning his back on his friend Jack Daniels, Standing Deer began painting his new friend, Star Dancer, and his life changed. Eventually, he met Marti Fenton who was being compelled to paint white deer although she didn’t know why. Standing Deer says, “I gave her a name: White Deer Song.” Marti says, “White deer are really visible. All my life I had been hiding, and when I came to Taos I found out that I couldn’t hide any more
. That’s when the white deer image came to me.” The white spirit deer is unique and visible. It represents hidden parts of yourself that define you from the rest of the herd.
Art has been a part of Standing Deer’s entire life. He says, “My dad was a painter and a medicine man too. Dad would make his brushes out of horse hair, and he would take me out in nature to get earth materials to make colors. "Dad painted for Millicent Rogers.”
When Standing Deer first saw Millicent Rogers, she was standing in a doorway framed with light from behind, with her slim silhouette and blonde hair shining. Standing Deer, who was about ten years old, was so taken by her beauty that he stumbled back and fell on the floor. His dad came over, looked down at him, and said, “What are you doing?” As a kid, he also knew other notable Taos figures. Tony Luhan, who married Mabel Dodge even though the Taos Pueblo did not condone the union, is Standing Deer’s great grandfather.
I have known Standing Deer for over 30 years, and our connection is incredibly close and special. Standing Deer says, “We adopted each other, as brothers. Every time we met, it’s like we almost cried about how glad we were to see each other. I told my dad about that, and he said, ‘That’s what medicine is.’”
Art helps us make a connection with nature and people. Standing Deer says, “Her [Marti/White Deer Song’s] paintings and my paintings are connected, but in a different way. And Ed is connected – he is spiritually connected to Taos, to the earth.”
Standing Deer and White Deer Song welcome you to attend their
Saturday, March 24 from 4:00 to 7:00 pm at Dragonfly Blue,
a new gallery located in Taos at 109 Kit Carson Road, Suite B.