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Randall Davey’s Murals at the Will Rogers’ Shrine of the Sun

November 9, 2010


Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun
Then and Now

Another in a long list of reasons why I had to move to Colorado Springs was to spend time with the Randall Davey murals at the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun on Cheyenne Mountain. Randall was one of the early Santa Fe modernist painters that I adored but never met before his death in 1964. His mural work was the early inspiration for me to paint every floor and every wall of all the houses I’ve lived in. His house, a sawmill he converted into his studio on Canyon Road in Santa Fe, belongs to the New Mexican Audubon Society and I’ve spent quite a lot of time hiking around the museum’s 135 acres of gardens.

Like all the other bits and pieces of vintage photos and torn magazine articles that clutter my studio, I’ve carried the 1940 postmarked linen photo postcard of the Shrine of the Sun, waiting for my chance to photograph his work.

Hunting Buffalo
Randall Davey ~ 1937

The incredible Davey murals on the lower floor, that commemorate historic events in the Pikes Peak region, were even more wonderful than I expected. The black cast iron lights and narrow stairways make them almost impossible to photograph so I go back as often as I get the chance with my Zoo pass to stare at them wall by wall.

Built and decorated in the 1930’s, the small chapel in the Singing Tower at the top of Cheyenne Mountain is the resting place of Spencer Penrose and his wife. Rather than name the building after himself, he named it after his friend Will Rogers, who died in a plane crash during its construction.

 


Randall Davey Mural
1st Floor

Reachable only by Sheercliff Drive, a long, narrow drive that winds through the Cheyenne Mountain
Zoo, my first trip up made my heart pound. After climbing the steep steps, the views from the tiny, creaking locally-made black iron doors are literally as breathtaking as the murals.

I was prepared for the paintings and the views but not for the hand-cut stonework tower that took 30 wagon loads of cement and 200,000 pounds of steel. I’m just amazed when I think about the work it took to bring the men and supplies up to 8,000 feet.

The chapel has a full-sized bronze sculpture of the Goddess Quan Yin which seemed a bit out of place but since she’s the patron saint of artists, my guess is that she’s there to keep the murals company.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. November 14, 2010 12:36 pm

    Karen,

    What a discovery or rediscovery. Will Rogers Shrine to the Sun! Davey murals. So much to do and see about your new location. And, we’ve got to see the Davey place in Santa Fe. You’ve opened up so much to me and Brenda. I thought I knew most everything about Santa Fe (well, not really) and now I have a new place to visit: the Audubon Society. Hope all is well in Colorado. –Jack, Sage to Meadow

    • November 14, 2010 4:06 pm

      I’ve shot video of the Shrine of the Sun and recorded myself reading the Will Rogers letters that fill the top three rooms. If I can manage, I’m going to cut the video and post it.

      It’s amazing how much the two areas, Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado, have in common. I’m beginning to see them as one and the same artistically. It’s all in a 5 hour radius and seems that most of the artists that influenced me slipped back and forth as needed to make a living or to play in different mountains. It means that I can do it, too.

      Please do check out the Davy museum next time you are up that way. They’ve maintained it, not just restored it, and walking around is incredible. It made me feel as if I was back with the Taos painters in New Mexico.

      I read your last ranch pieces out loud to Doc (the brittany) and David. I loved being out in the open spaces. Thanks for that.

  2. Michael permalink
    March 16, 2011 4:44 am

    I just visited the shrine today and was also curious about the Quan Yin statue in the chapel. There seems to be a little Buddhist influence that I’d like to know more about. Also the Chinese guardian lions or “Foo Dogs” at the entrance are of interest. Does anyone know why these statues are there?

  3. Kim Straus permalink
    September 28, 2011 3:57 pm

    Karen — I am a member of a group of three working on a long-overdue book on Randall Davey (need to raise the funds first through Audubon New Mexico) so your comments are much appreciated! I’ll try to let you know of our progress! Hope to spend time in Colo Springs soon.

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