Books + art = Taos Book Gallery

books and art

Books and art meet in Taos Book Gallery

Originally published in Taos News

Aptly named Taos Book Gallery, a new bookstore on Kit Carson Road showcases books and artwork.

From a collection of signed first editions to the latest new books on New Mexico like Mabel Dodge Luhan and Company (that accompanies the exhibit at the Harwood Museum), the printed word is well represented.

And then there is the art. The store carries Mary Jane (M. J.) Butler’s figurative sculptures created from sticks, bones, fabric, and found items.

The owners

Mike and Mary Jane Butler came from Colorado a year ago “intending to relax and enjoy Taos.”

“We did,” he said, “but soon our creative juices started flowing again and Taos Book Gallery is the result.”

Their main goal is to bring a variety of great books to Taos and introduce Taoseños and visitors to Mary Jane Butler’s sculptures and dolls.

“Browsers will find many new books on Taos, western art and history,” said Mike Butler. “Used books will also be a staple here. I have brought together an extensive group of western railroad books and western history books from my own collection as well as other fine books purchased from private collectors and book sales. We are still seeking to purchase more fine hardcover books so people should contact us if they have some to sell.”

Butler believes that the only way a bookstore can survive today is by carrying a mix of used and new books.

“A bookstore that carries only new books just can’t make it because so many new books are purchased digitally,” he said. “People still love to come into bookstores, though, and find that special treasure. That’s why we’re here. It’s always great to get the physical book into someone’s hands.”

For the love of books

The couple has had a longtime love affair with books. They first got into bookselling in 1977 with the Avalanche Bookstore in Durango, Colorado.

“Every summer we hosted Louis L’Amour for an autograph party,” said Mike Butler. “We still have some of his autographed books for sale at Taos Book Gallery.”

After four years in the book business, they sold the store and moved to Denver. Mike Butler managed the Colorado Historical Society Museum Store and later became an administrative manager with Denver Parks and Recreation.

He is also a prolific writer, the author of five books published by Arcadia Publishing in their “Images of America” series.

“The books that I have written are pictorial histories,” he said. “I really think it’s important for people to get the printed book to enjoy the historical photographs. And as a reader, I like to hold the book in my hands and turn the pages. I love the smell of new books, and I try to purchase and sell used books which are not smelly!”

Contemporary bultos and more

M. J. Butler has a background in art education. She was a teacher and managed the Denver Art Museum Shop for twenty-two years.

“I started to use hand-painted fabric in small quilting projects,” she said. “I also worked with different types of clay and began to incorporate found objects and natural materials like bones and sticks.”

After retiring from their Denver jobs, the couple moved to southern Colorado, near the town of La Veta. It was there where she found the cattle bones that inspired her “Range Walkers,” figurative sculptures with bones as heads.

“My art doll adventures lead me to discover an interest in figurative three-dimensional work,” said the artist.  “I also find people to be very interesting and amusing, and I am inspired by them.”

Butler has a series of whimsical dolls that Robert Parsons called “contemporary bultos” when he saw them displayed in the store’s window. She uses polymer clay for the dolls’ face and hands. All their garments are handmade.

“I like the otherworldly features of her sculptures,” said Fran Swensgard, who is visiting from Montana and came into the store attracted by the artwork. “They are bright and the faces are so unique.”

Taos Book Gallery is located at 117A Kit Carson Road (between Amore Gallery and Wilder Nightingale Fine Art).

Phone: 575-751-7161

The store is open now from 11:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, with expanded hours planned for the summer and fall.