The Santa Fe, New Mexico, home of Todd and Marjolaine Greentree features art that connects with their travels and interests.
Afghanistan, Somalia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Ethiopia, Nepal, Democratic Republic of the Congo and El Salvador are places where Todd and Marjolaine Greentree have lived and worked in their careers. He as a Foreign Service Officer and she with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the United Nations. They now live in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the City Different in the Land of Enchantment. Todd, who was living in a commune in California hitchhiked through Santa Fe in 1969 “the time of Easy Rider,” he notes. Marjolaine visited Santa Fe with a friend on a tour of the American West in 1989.
The couple met in Africa on 9/9/99 and was married there. When they were living in Newport, Rhode Island, while Todd was at the Naval War College, they began making plans to retire. Todd recalls, “We asked, of all the places we’d been around the world, where did we want to live.” Marjolaine describes their criteria: “We were looking for a place that would be cosmopolitan, have history, mountains, good food and not be enormous. Santa Fe
seemed to be the place.”
Todd recalls having posters in his room at the commune and taking an art history class when he was studying at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
Marjolaine says, “We grew up with art around us in our home in Switzerland. Our parents encouraged our interest in art and gave me my first watercolor on my 12th birthday. One of the first artists my father responded to was Walter Mafli, who we met—he died last year at 102. My father gave a painting to my sister and one to me, and we still have it in our collection.”
Also in the collection is a painting by Éliane Bouvier, who was Marjolaine’s mentor at the ICRC. Bouvier’s father served three times as president of the Swiss Confederation and her husband, Nicolas, “was well-known as Europe’s Jack Kerouac,” Todd says.
“We both brought things from our previous lives,” Todd explains. “You can walk around and identify something from every corner of the world.” The couple has avoided what he calls “Foreign Service style” in which works from all over are assembled and displayed almost haphazardly. “One of the things I love about Marjolaine is her ability to create harmonious arrangements so that one thing goes with another. She can walk up to an item and move it 2 inches or turn it just right so it’s perfect.”
Marjolaine notes, “It was important to me to have some art of the region where I was working in my little house. Mostly, they were conflict areas where it was difficult for people to create art. I brought back what I could.
“We have a mix of outsider art and some sort of non-academically-trained art,” she continues. “We found it in places where
people want to do something artistic but don’t have an education. The Collection de l’Art Brut, Lausanne, where I studied, is a museum of outsider art. It took the art of people who were in institutions and put it on the international stage.”
Jean Dubuffet, who assembled a collection of l’art brut, wrote, “By this [Art Brut] we mean pieces of work executed by people untouched by artistic culture, in which therefore mimicry, contrary to what happens in intellectuals, plays little or no part, so that their authors draw everything (subjects, choice of materials employed, means of transposition, rhythms, ways of writing, etc.) from their own depths and not from clichés of classical art or art that is fashionable.”
Todd recalls being in El Salvador “during the dark days of the war. I was interested in architecture and anthropology and expeditions in Mesoamerica. Then I discovered the contemporary art scene. Salvadorans really value their art. Even places at war that don’t encourage art have an art scene.”
A large mask in their entry hall is from Rio São Francisco, Minas Gerais, Brazil. “The São Francisco is a huge river less known than the Amazon,” Todd says. “It was settled by Portuguese boatmen. Woodcarvers always had a roll in boat-
amazing old maps of New York,” Marjolaine says. “It’s a metaphor for life and destiny. There are still things to discover in it—and the sheer beauty of it!”
They have collected several portraits by outsider artist Lor Roybal who lives off the grid with her dogs in a compound she constructed among the giant boulders on her property. She is watched over by the brothers at Pecos Benedictine Monastery. “We’ve traded firewood and dog food for paintings,” Todd said.
They are awaiting delivery of a special piece from Armando Adrian-López who lives in Abiquiu and comes from Michoacán, Mexico, which Todd describes as a “dark, mysterious village.” López visited the Greentree home and is creating a sculpture of the Aztec creator deity Quetzalcoatl out of woven grasses on a wire frame.
“He learned to weave grasses with his grandfather,” Todd says. “We love his stuff. He’s a fabulous, loving person who’s absorbed in his art. It’s who he is.”
López says, “My life is not separate from my art, my life is art and has always been art. I am, for all intent and purposes, self-taught. I have an unshakable belief in La Unidad, Unity in all things. I believe we are all connected to everything and everyone. I see myself as a spiritual storyteller; the narrative-symbolic allows me to tell a stories in which I am not the sole interpreter, the viewer is also an interpreter.”
The Greentrees’ connection to the places they have been, the art they have acquired and the artists who have made it echoes the philosophy López expresses.
3The White Palace, 2009, oil on canvas, by Rodney Hatfield (“Art Snake”), hangs above a 19th-century pine chest from Switzerland and a 19th-century ladder-back chair from France. The weaving is from Nigeria.4Alexandra Eldridge’s Les Mysteres de la Main, 2007, mixed media, hangs in the master bedroom.5 Reflected in the bathroom mirror is Crane, 2012, acrylic on linen by Nocona Burgess (Comanche). On the counter is a pot by Stella Chavarria (Santa Clara), which is next to a Triple Face Mask from Lega-Lengola, Democratic Republic of the Congo. The tall bronze figure is from West Africa, circa 1970. Alexandra Eldridge’s mixed media on board,Life’s Flying Needle, 2010, hangs on the wall.
8The large mask in the hallway is from Rio São Francisco, Minas Gerais, Brazil. It hangs above baskets acquired in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 2009. The painting on the near wall is Helena, circa 2005, acrylic on paper, by Lor Roybal. Her Adonis, circa 2005, across the hall, is also acrylic on paper.