Austin Bright Light Design had that traveling itch, so we packed up the Tesla with Firefly Cloaks and hit the road to Santa Fe, New Mexico to visit Meow Wolf. After 14 short hours and several super charging stations later, we were welcomed with open arms to the beautiful mountains and desert ranges of Santa Fe!
Meow Wolf is generally known as an artistic experience company, with their first major project, The House of Eternal Return, opening in 2016 with the support of George RR Martin of Game of Thrones fame. (Yep, that guy!) So, starting early on a Saturday morning, we donned our Fireflies and headed inside Meow Wolf and started our journey through The House. We had a good feeling that this was going to be an experience of a lifetime!
After getting some tips and tricks from Austin folks that had gone or performed onstage at The House, like our buddy Psymbionic, we knew that the next 4 hours were going to be epic, to say the least. He had told us to try and indulge in as much of the side stories as possible to get a feel for the overarching themes and plot that they have built into this space. After our visit, I can tell you that this is easier said than done!
So, how can we best explain this wonderous exhibit with its mind bending, tripped out vibe to someone? Have you ever been sucked through a portal into another dimension?
Entering past the gift shop, you walk to the mailbox at the front of the House, open the letter inside and start your adventure. This is your first clue to a wider narrative, and trust us, it is a doozy!
In terms of space, the House is entirely built inside of an old bowling alley, which gives you a mental picture of the confines but truly does nothing to tell you the insane uses that they have found for it. This gaggle of hundreds of Meow Wolf artists have created a magical escape from reality inside these walls, and a complex and interesting mythology to tie it together (if you have the patience!) through scattered videos, documents, books and other guides on this tour through the universe.
In broad strokes, there’s multiple stories threading their narrative into each room of the House. There is the big picture story about how the creative force of the universe was doled out and controlled between two factions/powers called the Anomaly and The Shadow People. The Anomaly is the creative spark of our reality, while the Shadow People represent order and rules. It’s kind of like the Tai Chi Tu, or yin/yang.
So that the creatives don’t run wild across the galaxy, the Charter, or agreement, is made between the two forces and the Agent is deployed to make sure that it is kept. Earth, however, was specially imbued with creativity by the Anomaly and has given rise to psychics, scientists and artists that are stretching the bounds of what is acceptable to the Shadow People with regard to the Charter.
That brings in the Selig and Pastore family, who both have history as owners of the House of Eternal Return. While we understood something about a grandmother who passed, the rest was a bit hazy. We know that one family member tried to exploit his psychic powers and start a cult, which had really dumb tenets and beliefs, and there was another that used the grandfather’s tools to bring portals into being that allowed inter-dimensional travel throughout the universe. This toolkit was used to bring a get-rich-quick-scheme like a travel agency that had direct access to the 5 best beaches in the entire galaxy all from a couple of doorways. It gets more convoluted and crazier from there!
House Hunters Intergalactic
The letter in the mailbox was only the beginning of the clues. We broke down random clips of video in the living room with the walk-through fireplace to an ice cave, wandering into the clothes dryer portal to find missing socks, and hitching a ride to interplanetary vacation hot spots through the refrigerator.
Each and every room offered an opportunity to deepen the mystery and enjoy the sheer size and scope of this wonderous vision. From playing a xylophone on a full adult mastodon skeleton,
to playing a laser piano in a bedroom, to finding secret passages behind bookshelves that lead to crystal caverns, to a crazy acid dream black and white cartoon art wonderland - this was a mind-bending journey! And we loved every minute of it. The funniest part was the other patrons who thought that if they solved the mystery of THER, they would get to wear a Firefly Cloak like we had on! Fantastic thought, but, nah! Gotta bring your own, folks!
Our favorite room had to be the “Unity Chamber” that happens to be in the middle of the complex away from the house and near the concert stage area through the forest. The two-story arcs combine here with the Anomaly and the Selig plot lines coming together in a crazy confluence that left us with a sense of oneness with the universe (and Meow Wolf). Plus, the light show across the latticework frame and alien clock piece behind it was DOPE!
While we couldn’t stay longer, as our hatch chili fix came calling after hour #4, we knew that there would be more to unwrap and uncover on another visit. Meow Wolf will forever be inked into our memories as the best fully interactive art exhibit we have ever seen. We shall return!
If you have never been to Santa Fe, go! This bohemian art community grew out of the nation’s oldest capital city at over 400 years old and is an interesting cross section of Native American, Spanish and New World America cultures. The cuisine reflects that cross section (get those green hatch chilies on everything!) as well as the architecture, monuments and people. Rooted in tradition, but always looking forward, the art style reflects the forefront of “ancient tradition meets new age”.
One great American artist that made New Mexico her home is Georgia O’Keeffe, and we got to spend the day walking her museum in the heart of the city. While familiar with her later works of desert landscapes and impressionistic paintings of native flora and fauna, what was really eye opening was her early work in New York of bold architecture and cityscapes which were all on display. Carefully curated and presented in a minimalist style, the museum was a poignant look at a true icon’s milieu over several transitional decades of her life.
ABLD will remember this trip for a lot of reasons. First, knowing that there are artists out there that think so out-of-the-box, and have been for a generation, makes us feel so good about the American Southwest. The traditions that Georgia O’Keeffe started decades ago are reflected in the experimentation and artistry that the Meow Wolf crew are bringing together with their projects and visions. Second, this was our first weekend stay in Santa Fe and the people, food and scenery were all fantastic! It really did feel like home away from home. And finally, our creations fit right into the mix! The reactions that we received with our Firefly Cloaks made us feel plugged in and tuned onto the same wavelength of this crazy cool atmosphere, and that gave us the warm fuzzy’s all over. See you soon, Santa Fe!