The GPS directed us to an old Bowling Alley just off the through way in Santa Fe. Far from the high-end purchasable Art of Canyon Road or the historic native museums housing works of Georgia O’Keeffe and massive folklore collections from Girard, here a glowing neon bowling pin stands over the parking lot patrolled by polished a metal two-story Wolf and an equally dominate spider. Immediately I hop out of the car and snap a photo just under the front right paw. I am about to experience this experience called Meow Wolf.
Before heading to New Mexico for the Santa Fe Film festival I had been hearing weeps of Meow Wolf. All recommendations expressed little details but great enthusiasm, much like not spoiling a film plot, (It’s better to not know that Bruce Willis’ character was dead in The Sixth Sense). Lucky for us a private party was planned as part of the Film Festivals celebration at said venue. I will tell you before I share my experience, I still can’t grasp what the hell just happened. It might explain why others could not tell me what to expect either. I just know that I came out inspired, excited, intrigued, puzzled, smiling and a little creeped out. Art takes so many forms and immersive art can travel even further. In this fictional world formed inside walls of cement blocks, a collective of Artists birth a House of Eternal Return. Promoted as an immersive playhouse, multimedia experience and backdrop to an upcoming film, this is no cookie cutter home. The lobby is surprisingly normal with accent of popular styles of diverse art images. There is a petite bar with a lounge of chatting film creatives on the left. The quirky gift shop spills out with objects… bird head puppets, underground t-shirts, plastic toys, magnets and do it yourself art kits. Young hipsters man the admission counter while generally looking uninterested. After donning a wristband, they point us to the back where towering walls bask colorful dim lights. Clean and orderly graffiti designs line the hall. There is large work space on the right with observation windows that allow you to peer in like a laboratory. They called it a Maker’s Space. I am surprised at the neatness. Posts explain the Collective of Artists occupy the raw wood cubicle and work benches while developing new ideas. It allows them to create, experiment and “Make”. At first glance it is less Artist studio more Zappos Call Center built by Home Depot.
Selfies seem to be the prime purpose of the corridor. There is a backdrop for all likes and tastes. Black light swirls, tattoo gnomes, sound waves, serpents, and unexpected universes. I stop in the men’s room and step into a black and white photographed forest. It was the first time I actually took a pic in a public bathroom and I didn’t want to leave. Thankfully I still had a beer with me to help linger my pit stop.
Through the double doors we are met with a Giant Bunny…no Rabbit. He seemed a little too intellectual to be consider a Bunny. None the less, they got me at Rabbit! I was hooked and joyous there was no Alice insight. No overused cliché. Just an enormous white Rabbit in a white room.
Cool, no explanation needed.
A gatekeeper in a white Lab coat greeted us. “No drinky beer in the House of Eternal Return”. Luckily through a tunnel of lights and frames there was a performance space. An OZ of sort. Hand crafted miniature houses overlooking a mosh pit at the foot of a stage. The was a wooden porch right out of a spaghetti western, a tall electric pole strung in lights and speakers. The floor zigged and zagged with neon graphics. I got the feeling I was in a crazy little shanty fishing village with no HOA fees. Paint your house whatever you like. The space’s anchoring structure was a New England lighthouse. It housed the DJ booth. Just a floor up you could hang out in its beacon and enjoy the band. Which I did. An Indie rock singer belted tunes from 1950’s crooners that I hardly recognized, but it set the mood. After touring the bandstand village/club, we rushed down our beers. It was time to find Meow Wolf.
I didn’t ask but I think the gatekeepers in lab coats had something to do with the mystery of the world we were about to explore. Plus, it didn’t matter, I had one beer and I was good. Just know, I spent about an hour and a half in the multimedia realm of storytelling. I climbed, crawled, wandered, sat, stepped, touched, ducked, opened, pulled, peaked, struck, listened, pointed, questioned, returned, laid back, slid down, stared up, reached for, discussed and even played video games of Galaga. Half way through I stopped taking pictures. I don’t know if I just forgot or I just needed to be in the moment. I was in a fusion of Artistic worlds and expressions. There were ripples of space and time. I mean literally ripples. I sat on old couch at a foot of a tree, waded in stream of textiles carpets, sat in a bus racing to the moon, opened a wall with just the touch of my palm. There were birds and exotic foliage from every imagination. Lights and darks, balance and cantilever. Sounds with mystic breezes. Colors and stalactite. A spiral stair up and spiral slides down. Hidden coves and observation decks. A Chinatown street hidden behind domes of Arctic capsules. A fuzzy boo, sleepy bats, unknown creatures. There were Mechanical hands, underwater neons and even a xylophone skeleton.
In the center of all these immaculate vignettes stood a Victoria house, as real as you would see on main street USA. It was illuminated as a typical early evening day would appear. It was so very detailed I felt as though I just walked into a neighbor’s home without them there. I opened the front door and walked in. It got oddly quiet. Only the mutters of other guests who too were whispering as though were sneaking into someone house. The front parlor was an Artist studio. Picture perfect and left untouched. In the rooms you could open their books, read their notes, look in their drawers, or even sit on their sofa. I saw someone crawl out of the fireplace and laugh as they headed upstairs. There were vintage framed photos lining the curved staircase. A generation of family. Inside the bathroom the floor ripples with waves black and white tiles. I peeked into the medicine cabinet behind the mirror out of curiosity. Normal but not. In the teen daughter’s bedroom there were large boy band posters covering the walls. Their faces, all erased out. Back on the first floor, I opened the refrigerator there was a bright white light. I hesitated a moment then stepped into the light. Yes, I walked into the refrigerator. The next thing I knew I was in another universe. I was glad I wasn’t alone.
Remember when I mentioned about not spoiling the plot? Not telling what happened in The Sixth Sense. Well here is where it stops. Like the first thing about Fight Club, don’t talk about Meow Wolf. Just go. I was immersed and involved. I was a kid again. I love that it was so well put together and well executed. It really took my attention and forced me to be in the now. The selfies stopped and my imagination began. There was no cutting corners or limited explorations. I think they let the Artists do what they do and make what they make. That in multiple universes aligns us all. Do your thing and it will out. Maybe that’s why I felt something. I got to step into an Artist’s mind, get lost a bit and come out with a work of Art.
Foot note: While doing some research after my visit, I learned that Meow and Wolf were just two words they pulled out of a hat. Funny how a title works. Here Kitty, Kitty. WOOF! LOL
House of Eternal Return
1352 Rufina Circle
Santa Fe, NM
Open daily except Tuesdays
As a working Artist I have always been curious about the creative process of others. No matter the form, the medium, or the end result. My joy comes from the physical action of creating. I am less optimistic and most hopeful when designing. When I am physical painting none of that matters. I am in the moment. By the time I clean up and put away my working tools, the emotional attachment often lessens. Here at Floating Boats I aim to capture their and my impressions. Act2Art is my verb to exploring methods of artistic expressions.