Let Us Now Praise Doris Fields

Doris Fields at the opening for "African American Legacy"The new exhibition on the museum’s second floor, New Mexico’s African American Legacy: Visible, Vital, Valuable, has been drawing visitors keen to learn more about how Black families planted their roots in Las Cruces and Albuquerque. At the exhibition’s opening last month, we were particularly honored by Dr. Doris A. Fields, who wrote a poem specifically for the exhibition’s stay at the New Mexico History Museum, through Oct. 9.

She graciously agreed to allow us to reprint it (below) that we might share it with an even larger audience. (Personally, my heart felt an extra thump when she read the line, “Selling goods/not being goods sold.”)

Doris is a performance artist and poet whose work has appeared in publications like the most recent issue of Malpais Review. She holds a doctorate in International Communication Competence,  is an activist and scholar of health care, and teaches a variety of courses at the University of New Mexico, including “Health Issues in Death and Dying” and “Stress Management.” She has conducted workshops for Black women, gifted students and women across cultural differences.

On top of all that, she’s simply one of the warmest people you’ll ever be lucky enough to meet. Her poem has now entered the archives of the Fray Angelico Chavez History Library, and we hope you’ll enjoy it here, as well.


Movers and Journeys in Freedom

Sacred                       -ness

Of        footprints

Impressions   in dust

Rising like phoenix                powder

Free to            drift                  to roam

Settle              where Ever

It pleases

That is the implication of freedom




I see you                     do you             see

You                  see me

Peer    through eyes

Of  dead         soldiers

Heads of wool

Come alive

Dressed         in foreign fare

Traditional skins

Left on mother continent’s shores


Left behind


Iridescence    you see

Threads    a cultural quilt                   into being

Being as how

The vital organs of existence


A shelter of light         -ness



Critical for survival     freedom

Build   churches                    towns



Links to Eatonville




Miners            mine    coal                gold

Silver              turquoise

Defying stereotype


Lawyers          archeologists             pastors

Soldiers          salesmen                   cowboys

In saddle

Ride                            the range


African silhouette in one

Brilliant           orange




Markets                      cannot             dictate

What   determination            mitigates


Retailers                      wholesalers

Selling goods                        not being goods sold

Unquenchable           thirst for knowledge

Drinking freedom like moonshine on a Saturday night


Soak up dried desert bones

Swallow life whole

Breathe          in


To break chains

Explore depths of death-defying souls


Turn earth                   water               seed

Into apples                 pears                          peas

Quench thirst              for        freedom


Resolve that   skills count

More than color

Ingenious        to wash alkali             from soil

Enrich dirt                   with brown sweat

Talk of promise

Teach the soil                        its own potential

Black soil                   black dirt

Fertile as Africa         herself

Cooks             porters            rail workers

Link     with Chinese             to join

West with East                      South to North


Find faith in one another

Hearers of G-d

Finding G-d                inside

Outside           the limiting      expectation


Visible                        Vital                            Valuable

These             are the sounds           of freedom


Doris Fields

05/14/ 2011


History in the Faking

Here’s a tale of how the development of the upcoming Home Lands: How Women Made the West exhibit is mimicking history–in particular, an archival image taken by Russell Lee that’s become the cornerstone of our advertising for the exhibit.

First up, the historical image:

Spanish American Woman plastering, Chamisal, New Mexico, photograph by Russell Lee, 1940. Courtesy Library of Congress

Next, the modern-day image:

Plasterer Kathy Brennan checks the finish on her mud wall in the exhibit space for “Home Lands”


See the connection?

Exhibition designer Caroline Lajoie wanted visitors to Home Lands (opening June 19, btw) to be greeted by something elemental to the Rio Arriba section of the exhibit. At that heart is the role earth played in how women prevailed over often-daunting conditions. Whether they were using it to form cooking vessels and, eventually, fine-art pottery, or mudding the walls of their homes and churches, or wheeling, dealing and preserving the real estate of northern New Mexico, the dirt beneath of our feet has been a constant thread in the story of New Mexico women.

And now that story is on the wall, too, thanks to plasterer Kathy Brennan.

Brennan used American Clay Earth Plaster to mud the exhibit’s title wall in the style of how women have plastered the walls of adobe buildings for centuries. “It’s a type of veneer plaster,” she said, “that you can transfer to sheetrock.”

Although the precise recipe’s a secret, it includes clay, marble dust and natural pigments “straight out of the earth,” Brennan said.

She also added bits of straw and twigs for that old New Mexico look and used the Russell Lee image as an inspiration, though she didn’t don the overalls and straw hat of the photo’s plasterer.

“When Caroline called me, I thought it was really exciting–how to figure out how to come up with the color she was looking for and so on. I liked it, but it was a bit nerve-wracking at the same time. Still, I was really psyched. I love the photograph.”

This is her first experience mudding in a museum. Mostly, she works on home interiors, where people often ask her to include their handprints, their dogs’ pawprints, or their grandchildren’s footprints.

Home Lands focuses on the lives of women across the centuries in three regions–New Mexico’s Rio Arriba, Colorado’s Front Range, and Washington State’s Pugent Sound. Originally organized by the Autry National Center in Los Angeles, it features additional materials from the History Museum’s collections. It joins three smaller exhibitions–Ranch Women of New Mexico, New Mexico’s African American Legacy: Visible, Vital, Valuable, and Heart of the Home to put a spotlight on the unsung heroes of American history.

You can see Brennan’s mud wall in person June 19-Sept. 11, on the second floor of the History Museum, just north of the Santa Fe Plaza. Our grand opening, with refreshments in the Palace Courtyard, will be from 2-4 pm on Sunday, June 19. Admission is free on Sundays to NM residents.