Touchstone: An Artist’s Paradise and Sanctuary for Transformation
An historic adobe dwelling transformed into an art gallery and further re-shaped into a Bed & Breakfast at the foot of Taos Mountain, bordered both by the quiet Rio Pueblo stream and property owned by a Taos Pueblo medicine man, surrounded by ponderosa pine, elm, willow, and cottonwood trees, set within wild plum and apple trees…
Are you getting the picture? This is a special place, what owner and acclaimed watercolor artist, writer and educator Bren Price calls a Sanctuary for Transformation. “I began painting and making things at a very early age,” Bren told Taos Magazine. “I have always been an artist. It is not a profession—it is who I am.” Here, at Touchstone Inn, Bren melds this artistic expressiveness with comfortable, soul-enriching hospitality, offering a quiet respite amid historic surroundings known for attracting creative souls from around the world.
Texas-born Price, daughter of a cowboy, taught art in Texas and Oklahoma before coming to New Mexico. For the past thirty years she’s developed her non-profit Touchstone Foundation (consisting of art studios, a gallery, and a destination spa and inn) into a center where the arts, creativity and spirituality flourish.
Her paintings, expressionistic watercolors with Southwestern and Oriental imagery, have been featured in shows throughout the US and are found in public and private collections around the world.
“The most often asked question of my work is ‘Why is there no face?’ There is a Chinese saying that goes, ‘It is the sides of the bowl that shape the vessel, but it is what is not there that gives it purpose.’” Price explains that her figures are universal personality studies. We all wear many masks, she says, but the real you is not the face you are. Or, as one of her poems has it, inside her illustrated book Inside the Wind (1983), “I know you by the who you are, not by the face you wear.”
Touchstone is located on 110 Mabel Dodge Lane, named for Mabel Dodge Luhan (1879-1962), a wealthy socialite whose colorful and controversial career influenced artists and writers on two continents, and whose life exemplified many of the conflicts of the early twentieth century. Her friend Frank Waters recalled “The public consensus was that she was willful, unpredictable, spoiled and selfish, a catalyst with the sole talent of attracting others.” And biographer Lois Rudnick said of this New Woman, “She offered the worst of herself on the public altar because she wished to facilitate the destruction of the system that had produced her.” In 1922, Mabel invited writer D.H. Lawrence and his wife Frieda to Taos, a place to which Lawrence would again return and later found that he was never as happy anywhere as he was when in Taos. Over the course of her life Mabel Dodge also entertained Georgia O’Keeffe, Sigmund Freud, Gertrude Stein, John Dos Passos, Lincoln Steffens, composer Leopold Stokowski, Walter Lippmann, Ansel Adams, Carl Jung and many others. As you will find in your visit to Touchstone Inn, Mabel Dodge had a close connection to this property as well as a strong influence on the Taos community at large.
At Touchstone, Price named her eleven rooms after artists and writers who left a profound impact on Taos and New Mexico. We stayed in the Lawrence room (after D.H. Lawrence), equipped with a wood burning fireplace, Jacuzzi bathtub, and in-floor radiant heat warming the Mexican tiles. Several Bren Price watercolor prints enlivened the thick, adobe walls. A series of peeled logs supported a ceiling of tongue-in-groove cedar boards and a ceiling fan over the center of the room. Colorful Talavera tile adorned the bathroom and shower area and a king-size bed with comfortable mattress made our cozy room that much more enjoyable. Robes hung in a closet where a small refrigerator and microwave were found as well as a coffee maker, wine glasses, and a collection of books. Internet connections were best made in the breakfast gallery and living room, as connections are difficult to get through the armor of thick adobe bricks lathed with metal and plaster.
The Miriam room is named for Miriam Hapgood Dewitt who fell in love with the property that includes today’s Touchstone Inn. In 1929 Miriam wrote to her father, “I am sitting on the roof as I write this. The sun is setting. The mountains are very blue and peaceful and against them is a line of marvelous trees.” The front garden at Touchstone Inn is named in her honor.
Other rooms at Touchstone were named for the aforementioned Mabel, as well as Mabel’s fourth husband Tony, a large quiet man of Kiowa decent from Taos Pueblo. Tony Luhan built the kiva fireplace in the living room for Miriam Hapgood and was married to Mabel Dodge for 40 years. There is also a room named “O’Keeffe” (for famed artist Georgia O’Keeffe who lived west of Taos in Abiquiu and visited with the Luhans) and another room named “Lady Brett” (for Dorothy Brett, an artist with an aristocratic heritage who lived with the Lawrences in Taos). In all, the inn can comfortably sleep 19 persons in 8 rooms but can facilitate up to 150 persons for outdoor events such as weddings, anniversary and birthday parties and family reunions.
USA Today calls Touchstone Inn “THE place to stay in Taos,” an endorsement you will find on the sign as you enter the property.
During the year, Taos offers many different cultural events that draw over a million visitors during the summer months alone. Bren Price happily recommends local hiking spots that were some of her favorites as a young girl such as hikes to Arsenic Springs, the Sargaso Sea, Stagecoach Hotsprings, and Italianos Canyon. There are also recommended scenic drives, such as the Enchanted Circle, a 2.5 to 3-hour loop with spectacular scenery and quaint villages. This 84-mile National Forest Scenic Byway is the most popular tour of the area. Other options include drives to Ski Valley, the Gorge or to Angel Fire. Taos is well-known for its shops and art galleries, as well as art museums and history museums. Within walking distance of Touchstone are a number of restaurants offering a variety of cuisines, while many more are just a short drive away. Taos Pueblo is just two miles away, one of the oldest continuously inhabited Native American communities in the U.S. Here, Native Pueblo craftsmen and artists create works of art available in on-site shops and galleries.
Touchstone Inn offers an optional vegetarian breakfast served from 8:30-9:30 a.m. There is an infrared sauna available for rent and studios to rent by the day. Guests may schedule a cooking lesson, art lesson, or a custom-designed meal with the chef. All rooms have luxurious textiles, fireplaces, and feature intimate patios, many with spectacular mountain views.
The beauty of lodging here in this tranquil adobe estate is that you can fill up in so many areas of life—spiritual, mental, physical—or simply sit back and soak in the color, textures, aromas, and vistas that bring refreshment and renewal. As Bren Price would say, “We would like for your stay to be a pleasure at our pleasure.”
Direction of wind within a circle is always the same.
Out here on the edge…
one never knows.
Maybe I’ll fall off,
Maybe I won’t.
Maybe I’ll learn to fly,
Maybe I’ll blow away.
But I’d rather be here in the tempest
Where one never knows—
A child of the wind.
Bren Price, Inside the Wind, p. 47
Gallery & Spa
110 Mabel Dodge Lane
PO Box 1885
Taos, New Mexico 87571