VALLEY OF SHINING STONE: The Story of Abiquiu by Lesley Poling-Kempes


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A freelance writer's acute, compelling history of one of America's more endangered landscapes. The austere beauty of northern New Mexico's Piedra Lumbre basin has been seared into the American imagination by the paintings of its most famous resident, Georgia O'Keeffe. Her stark images of cow skulls and sensuous landscapes contributed greatly to the Southwest's ""transition from a country of hardship and struggle to a land of mythic beauty and serenity,"" Poling-Kempes maintains. The hardship was caused by the land's isolation and barrenness and complicated by a convergence of Native American, Spanish, and Anglo cultures. Dubbed ""the land of war"" by the conquistadors, the area became a flashpoint for violence during centuries of expansion by Spain, Mexico, and the US. The transformation to ""the good land"" accelerated with the discovery of New Mexico by Depression-era East Coast intelligentsia, O'Keeffe chief among them. Ultimately, the story of the region is the record of locals losing control of their land. Beginning with the prehistoric Indians who built the area's first pueblo, Poling-Kempes chronicles the ongoing cultural displacement in the village of Abiquiu by tracing its ever-shifting citizenry: Anasazi, Tewa, Ute, Navajo, Hopi, Apache, Hispanic, and Anglo. The book's second half, which deals with the growth of the O'Keeffe mystique and its contribution to the area's overdevelopment, makes it clear that locals are still losing the battle for the land. A lake floods much of the region's old grasslands, and movie stars are pricing their farming neighbors off the land. Poling-Kempes proves that the greed of developers, far from new, is merely an extension of ancient trends in this much-disputed region. Digging deeply into the history of a place, Poling-Kempes mines a rich vein of lore and myth that sadly suggests that natural majesty is no match for human folly.

Pub Date: Sept. 19th, 1997
ISBN: 0816514461
Page count: 265pp
Publisher: Univ. of Arizona