Scrapbook Two Hundred Three…


August, 2019

Eli’s book was published in 2007 and I wrote my review soon after. It was printed in the local paper. The last time I saw Eli he had a small house up in the mountains, maybe Penasco, or some other small town in Northern New Mexico. I don’t remember which one for sure. He told me that he still had his home in Santa Fe, and that he moved from one place to the other every two weeks. Yeah, it’s just like Eli to do something like that. f 


Santa Fe Bohemia
The Art Colony 1964 – 1980
By Eli Levin

A book review by Forrest Fenn

The book signing took place near the top of Lower Canyon Road at Argos Etchings and Paintings, there on the left, next to Ed Larson’s gallery, whose large sign reads “Jesus Says Buy Folk Art.” All of this fits Eli exactly, I thought as I splashed up the steps and into a small but pleasant gallery space. It was crowded with people I didn’t know.


Argos Etchings and Paintings in Santa Fe


Ed Larson’s Gallery in Santa Fe

Well, there was Eli, standing beside the exit signing books. His brown, Humphrey Bogart hat fit like it was sewn on, and the heavy sweater he wore in the warm room suggested he was ready for a quick exit down the steep steps, through the mud and away, should one of the characters in his book arrive in person to disagree with his take on him or her. And there are many of both genders that felt the swath of his laser sharp pen.

Most chapters contain interesting geographical descriptions of the person whose name appears in the chapter head. Some of what he calls “little jibes” about his friends are:

“…a puffy old alcoholic,”

“It was hard, looking at her, to imagine her with a man.”

“…her worst feature was her brown teeth.”

“…was tall, with a sunken face, dark crooked teeth, bugging eyes and a balding pate fringed with scraggly grey hair.”

For him to say that the wonderfully petite and sensitive Carol Mothner was “quick at repartee,” and high strung and aggressive and had a sharp voice, shows me that he spent too much time holding down bar stools at Claude’s – which he readily admits to on nearly every page.

His books were selling well when I arrived at his signing, as buyers and well-wishers, three or four at a time, slowly moved up the line to get his signature. When my time came, I said, “Eli, I hear you gave me hell in the book.” So we both laughed as he wrote, “I gave you hell,” and signed his name. Anything less would have disappointed me.

Book cover – “Santa Fe Bohemia” by Eli Levin

Now, I’ve always had a warm place in my heart for Eli, though the reasons are not at all clear. Perhaps it’s because he seems to personify the underdog. The sincere smile that always curls his face seems perfectly at home, his down-beat eyes and gentle manner, the intensity with which he engages his craft, his “lookout” for fellow artists, are all traits we’re quick to admire in anyone. We didn’t socialize over the years because we never happened to be in the same place at the same time. He’s a New York Jewish Bohemian and I’m a recovering Texas Baptist. There was little reason for us to mix even though art made our paths cross on several occasions.  Chapters in his book describe several such events.

In 1968, when I was fighting the unfortunate war in Vietnam, Eli was in Santa Fe expounding on how tough life was for him. His feelings were honest; he was having a hard time. That’s the definition of an underdog. In 1972, when I moved to Santa Fe and built a gallery, Eli was well established in the barrios and Canyon Road art places. He had become the Chief Cultist, the professional underdog, or the head of the art world underground as “Pasatiempo” recently insinuated. He had a large following of admirers, most of whom were painters and drinkers, as he describes them. And nearly all are barb recipients in this book.

Somehow I envy what he had, and has. While I was working forever in my gallery office he was holding court in smoke-filled kitchens and bedrooms that were clouded with jabbering, coffee and wine drinking soulmates – all artists, whose studios housed easels and sincere canvases hoping for a magical brush-stroke that would make their masters famous. It didn’t happen, and the mourning continues. I’m not talking out of school, saying those things, because that’s what Eli’s book is about over and over. Santa Fe Bohemia – The Art Colony 1964-1980.

Along with renderings by other artists, Eli’s paintings and etchings decorated the walls of Argos gallery. I told myself that all of the artists showing their art there must be friends because there seemed to be a cohesive warmth in their combined display, maybe a “togetherness” of sorts. That seemed to fit. Many works by the artists, all unknown to me, were pleasant and soothing.

Although I had seen pictures of Eli’s work before, this was the first occasion I remember taking a close-up look and having an opportunity to examine them with my magnifying eye. His folk art, mostly bar room scenes, is graphic and funny and it’s easy to see that he doesn’t sketch anything on the canvas before his brushes arrive. And what he lacks in technique he makes up for with warm visual dialogue. His work makes me wonder whether he paints because he likes it or likes it because he does it. In any event, his rewards must mostly be the satisfaction he gets from the participation and its associated camaraderie. The shameful thought came to me that perhaps he should be showing next door where Jesus might buy one.

It had been a long time since I had seen Eli but I swear he has not changed a hair since we first met thirty-seven years ago. And as he remembers and reminisces in this book about the old days in Santa Fe I must also admit to remembering a few things about the people he describes – about Don Fabricant quitting his job as critic for the New Mexican because of me, and about his newspaper review of Susan Rowland’s show at St. John’s College, saying that her work “isn’t too bad if you get back far enough, like clear across the street,” and knowing that she cried for days because of it. And I remember consigning a Macaione painting to Margaret Jamison that was so cluttered with thick paint clusters that, for three years, we didn’t know it had seven bullet holes through the canvas, and might not have known even today if we had not taken it outside so the sun could shine through the holes. Everyone, it seems, was a critic.  Someone said the bullet holes made the painting more valuable so we went up on the price. Those were the good old days.

The Santa Fe art history about which Eli writes was so vibrant with energy you could feel it tingling in your bones. Today we have more galleries and more artists, but the energy is gone. Hopefully this review will start it anew. Your turn Eli. f


Back cover – “Santa Fe Bohemia” by Eli Levin







100 thoughts on “Scrapbook Two Hundred Three…

  1. Seems like Eli did well for himself with art, but look at you, you wrote a fenntastic poem, and hid a treasure. I think u have one up on him. 🙂

    • Lol, I just read this again, see seems like every time I read something from Forrest, somebody always distracts me, it’s either Duane or one of my family members. I don’t understand why that is. Lol ha ha.
      I see now Eli was the underdog.

      Some things that were said in this scrapbook I can relate to.

  2. Sounds like an interesting read! Thanks for the recommendation, Forrest!

    Ok Chasers, how many hints did you count in this scrapbook? I found 147!

    • There may be a few here in this scrapbook. I enjoyed reading it.
      I will read it again.

    • I wonder how many of ’em will help you solve the poem.

      Okay, I’m through wondering that.

      Thank you for helping the blog(s) provide entertainment.

      All IMO.

    • But Eli’s book came out in 2007, and Forrest’s review shortly thereafter (presumably in the Santa Fe New Mexican). So three years before TTOTC came out. How far in advance do you believe Forrest was thinking in order to secret hints in a book review?

      • Zap – Ditto.

        But I use Forrest’s scrapbooks and ATF comments, and his books, and the Poem to profile Forrest. I try to act like a detective on The Chase; playing Sherlock Holmes to find Forrest’s motive and means and opportunity for hiding the bronze chest.

        After that book review came out in the Santa Fe New Mexican in 2007, do you think that made it easier for Forrest to publish the three stories he wrote for the West Yellowstone News in 2008? Two of those, in slightly revised versions, ended up in his treasure books. The ones with the ‘hints’.

      • Hi Lisa: let’s just say I’m skeptical that Forrest was forward-thinking enough to hide the sorts of hints in this SB that searchers are suggesting. Sure, you can get a general sense of how his mind works. Now … if there are differences between what’s in this SB and what Forrest originally wrote in the New Mexican, that could be worth paying extra attention to. “My War for Me” is an example of this — there are differences, and I think some of those differences might have been made to help searchers. But otherwise, I think “Important Literature” (despite being much, much shorter) is a far more important chapter in TTOTC when it comes to looking for hints.

      • Zap – Just checked Forrest’s blog for the story corresponding to “Looking for Lewis and Clark” in the TTOTC, where I noticed Forrest added this sentence:

        “And we got a map of the Gallatin National Forest that would really come in handy later on.”

        I believe that map title detail in “God Protects Foolish Kids” from the West Yellowstone News was missing on Forrest’s blog story previously. Is it shown in your copy of TTOTC?

        Parade Rest Ranch is still not mentioned in Forrest’s blog story.

        Love, Sherlock

          • Zap – The sentence was added to Forrest’s blog recently. I had commented that it wasn’t there previously. Glad Forrest corrected it, since that story on his blog has the header, “From my memoir The Thrill of the Chase”, without the “Looking for Lewis and Clark” story title.

            The quote from the West Yellowstone News story was “near Parade Rest Ranch”, rented from a friend.

          • Hi Lisa: so that map detail wasn’t on Forrest’s blog when it first came out? And sounds like you’re saying it wasn’t added until years later. I guess there’s a way to use a Google “Wayback Machine” to figure out roughly when the change took place, but it is enough to know that it happened.

          • Okay, Lisa. To summarize: the version in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle (which I had read years ago) is indeed different from what appears in the book. (I still can’t believe you don’t have the book after umpteen years — remind me why you are hobbling yourself needlessly?)

            March 27, 2008 version in the Chronicle: “Oh, and we had a Forest Service map of the Gallatin National Forest.”

            TTOTC: “And we got a map of the Gallatin National Forest that would really come in handy later on.”

            Forrest’s website (now): “And we got a map of the Gallatin National Forest that would really come in handy later on.” (Identical to the book.)

            I have not researched what Forrest’s website said previously, but it is enough that the sentence was altered between 2008 and 2010.

      • Forrest’s review came out in Feb 9-13 Pasatiempo (in Dear Paso), not the Santa Fe New Mexican.

        • Thanks very much for the correction, John! No wonder I couldn’t find it on Google since I was assuming by “local paper” Forrest meant the New Mexican.

      • Zap – I think you can add another “elle” to your list; a bit more subtle but it’s there. Cheers!

  3. You know when you’ve been hiking or walking a long distance and you are so thirsty that the 7-11 you see up ahead looks like an oasis? You stumble in, grab a very cold bottle of water or soda, pay, and then step outside and gulp it down? Your scrapbooks are like that Forrest. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us.

  4. You had a knack for meeting interesting people. So did my father. When we lived in Santa Barbara during the same time which you write about, we had much the same experience. There were the world famous artists, the musicians, the writers, actors, philosophers, gurus, etc.
    There was even a drunk writer that mused about the culture much like Eli did. I don’t know how my father knew him, but he set me up to buy my first car from him, Charles Bukowski. How a man can make a living out pf being a drunk is beyond me. but that was the culture. A whole lot of interesting drunks, and Bukowski was their prophet.
    Glory days? no… We live in interesting times, as the Chinese curse says.

    • Charles was a mailman for many years … after his bumming days. He wrote fantastic poetry … raw and uncensored.

      • THEE Bukowski, lol.
        It was a ’62 Chevy Nova wagon that looked like it was kept in back of a barn, covered in dirt. It had a hole in the floor under the drivers seat that I could put my feet on the ground and flintstone it to stop. I painted it, reupholstered the shredded seats, got a new clutch for the three on a tree transmission, some curtains and sleeping bags. I was then ready to bum around in it. The only issue that I had was that I had to start it by sticking a long screwdriver between the starter and solenoid. I sold it to a guy that switched the battery cables and drove away.
        At the time I had one of his books but didn’t know who he was. He was sober that day.

        • This brings back memories, lol. The first car I had sometimes had to be started with a screwdriver. A mechanic showed me that trick. It was a Chevy chevette.

      • Merle Haggard from Santa Barbara? The very thought cracks me up. He was from Bakersfield although he was born in a place that has “oil” in the name, Oildale or something like that.

  5. Wow! Talk about a racy book cover…talk about brave and in the wood? …looks more like sporting wood, lol. Oh to know the secrets that Santa Fe holds. Thanks for another scrapbook Forrest! I’ll take every breadcrumb I can find and do my best to hear you all and listen good.
    Ciao for now, tomtom

    • Did Forrest Fenn say he did not bury the treasure chest . I am getting prove it that he said that. I don’t like conflict. I know he said he didn’t bury it!! To keep people from digging everything up. I made a joke about the picture in one of you scrape books had bulldozers. I said where ? Why ff said he didn’t bury it. Bam prove he said that. I’m getting old and hurt too much. I took care of my husband of stage4 liver cancer in 2014. Can’t gix my house or take care of my yard. I did find interest in ff hunt can’t afford books . Heather dawn sent me ttotc book and I love it. Would love to read the others especially once upon awhile jennifer norred

  6. Thank you Forrest, the chase is always more fun when you join us at your game.
    With that risqué cover art, I see you snuck in a disclaimer. Well, sort of…
    “We didn’t socialize over the years because we never happened to be in the same place at the same time.”
    Levin’s written candor & art have a raw, almost rude, no…nude sense of comedy. I hope those old gals with brown teeth have dentures by now.

  7. Well Blex;

    I sure did not find 147 hints – I guess I am just getting old. Nice SB Forrest – Thanks for sharing a glimpse into one of your old Art Buddies – even if your paths didn’t often cross. – JDA

  8. He gave away one huge hint. But I got bored reading such a long overrated review and jump over a few words. Lol.

  9. Seems like life in Sante Fe, back then, was a marvelous time to be alive. He sounds like a pretty nice guy to look out for other artists and root for the under dog like that. I would probably find his low key comradery quite gratifying as well. Thank you for sharing these inspiring stories. ♡

  10. Nice book review, Forrest. From the looks of the cover, I should have been visiting Santa Fe in the 70’s. You sure knew a bunch of interesting people, to say the least. I’m living vicariously through you, ya know? Too bad you never finished Closet Stories of Taos. I bet it would have kicked old Eli’s ass, I mean book. Thanks for sharing the fun.

  11. Thanks Forrest, I learned a new idiom. “I’m not talking out of school . . .”

    [To talk out of school means to say something that you have no right to say. “You’re just talking out of school by making insensitive remarks about my country!”. It can also mean to give out a secret.]

    I didn’t catch any of the 147 clues though 🙂

  12. 42, I agree — the disclaimer nailed him! ff backs up a clever distance from those racey-artist-types so he can evade any accusations of being in one of those hippidy-dippity 1970’s Santa Fe love triangles! As if we didn’t already know the scene! 🙂 !!! #SummerOfLove #ForrestFurrowsBrow lololol!

  13. There’s a right time and place and a wrong time and place for everything.
    It appears Eli wants to rekindle and share the good times in the past with everyone.
    “The shameful thought came to me that perhaps he should be showing next door where Jesus might buy one.”
    Maybe not shameful when you said it but does have some truth to it.

  14. Well, there are all the words again.

    What’s the name of that golf park southwest of Guernsey WY? It’s near a place where people etched their names and dates into rock.

  15. “When my time came, I said, “Eli, I hear you gave me hell in the book.” So we both laughed as he wrote, “I gave you hell,” and signed his name. Anything less would have disappointed me.”f

    Forrest, Eli should have asked you to write the foreword to this book, that way he might brag and say to everyone, “this book has a proem from a poet who is a hell of a writer and a ghastly critic too.”

    The Santa Fe Bohemian Colony are socially unconventional, yet artistic people, like gypsies of an almost shadowy cult, but many are gifted with talent and where else but Santa Fe could we see a place evolve like “Meow Wolf” their skill shows and it evokes a wild imagination?



  16. Gasping for something to make me wanna go search again This scrapbook didn’t do nothing for me Donna im gonna be hittin u up on Facebook Diggin needs her flame lit lol Good write up tho ole ole coot your about to be super ole coot lol

      • I’ve only been in this blog for three months and feel as if my chances of finding this took a huge hit!

        Don’t know you, but I’ve read a lot about you in here. I’m only 36, but my soul is older…so in the words from one of the best 70s shows…

        Welcome back! Your dreams were your ticket out. Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back!

        – Jay from South Carolina

    • Diggin Gypsy –

      “Life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of eighty and gradually approach eighteen.”
      – Mark Twain

      Forrest is almost half way there!

      Glad to see you back on the blog. Big Smile.

  17. It’s funny how certain words can key memories. When Eli signed the book I remembered Forrest in 1950 breaking a catsup bottle and the seargent asking “What the h—- are you doing?” lol

  18. I flew so quickly down the Eli Levin rabbit hole, I came out the other end naked, holding an egg tempera breakfast burrito.

  19. Oh wow, I just realized where this gallery is. it’s right next to a restaurant called The tea House, my girlfriend’s favorite with its gluten-free dishes and interesting desserts.

  20. Somehow I always see hints and sub hints given by Forrest Fenn to the treasure hunters, it makes me think of some questions that we should think about.
    1-The name of the Galery is ARGOS-one station of the Rose line in Paris. The line to SANG-REAL, to the holy grail of Jesus Christ. The Lili symbol ( Ff talked about Mariposa Lili). Sang real leads me to think about SANGRE DE CHRISTO IN N.M ( Maybe to Shangrila ?)
    2- Eli is a Hebrew name, it means “my God”. If Eli is a short name to Eliyahu ( He is my God) , it refers to the Biblical prophet Eliyahu. Eli is Jewish, his family name Levin belongs to Levi tribe, the servants of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. so he believes only in one God, Does Ff too? Is Ff a member of some kind of a Templar? Masone?
    3-Eli belongs to a Bohemian colony, he lives somewhere in North NM, Is this colony similar to the Rainbow community?
    4-Brown teeth – as to geographic location in SF
    5-There were 7 bullet hols
    And more

    • Zvia ben ami and Aaron – The Argo, and Jason and the Argonauts, searching for the Golden Fleece, with Athena’s help? If you’ve been ‘wiSe’ and found the blaze? Searching In a ‘brave and in the wood’ canoe, maybe?

      I have a gold tooth in the grin of my Smil•e face in topo satellite view, marking access to my search area. I have wondered if that feature, at the former Brown’s Camp at Baker’S Hole, is a fish weir? That location on a thin river inlet would act as a natural sieve to catch a Big Brown. Like ‘Brown teeth’ would, in Eli’s art colony subject’s mouth. And “Tea with Olga” stains the dentures brown. Is that Redd•Black•Green in Radar Colors language, Forrest?

      Bad memory of a detail I read long ago about the Holocaust and gold teeth just came to mind… horrible.

      All IMO.

    • Thank you for the link, Amber. It was interesting article about Eli Levin. Also, Mr. Fenn a power maniac, strange character? Certainly would have been fun watching the gentleman in action in his gallery during the days. I was a little surprised when reading his request from Eli, only by my own recent weeks of considering writing a poem and posting it on Dal’s with the same content but with a hint of suggestion. Pretty crazy.

    • Warlock, You said “…crag…” Well that would be a major new clue or hint and you would have to believe some Scrapbook or other posting would provide proof.

      Was that a DG quote? Who is, “He…”? Do Warlocks get extra points for lying or am I misunderstanding? I know they would have no ethical dilemma to be concerned about (IMHO).

      Got anything verifiable about this important clue/hint that could keep people away from steep and dangerous “crags” or out of dangerous waters?

      • EthicalDilemma: Before you call people liars try typing less and thinking more. You seem like the type who wants information fed to them like a baby bird. “He” is Fenn, not DG like you surmised. She is a woman. Penasco means crag or boulder. Penasco is the only noun that stands out in Fenn’s addendum to his pre-hiding-the-treasure 2007 book review.

        • So, “or am I misunderstanding,” is applicable and I do apologize to you that my jestful question came across as hurtful to you.

        • Warlock62 – Thank you!

          Coincidentally, or not, I was sitting below a painting by local artist, Susanne Perin, last evening. It was entitled, “Bighorn Crag”. She and her 80 year old husband have been there often. But, I realize the treasure is not in Idaho:

          At least, Forrest’s treasure isn’t.

      • @EthicalDilemma @Warlock62 – Thanks for the Penasco/crag connection. Forrest has mentioned and illustrated “crags” indirectly when he talks about rock walls (at his gallery and San Lazaro), rock cliffs (jumping off a 200-foot cliff to retrieve the chest in TFTW), and rocky karsts (landing at the base of a karst in MWFM). Forrest says he likes to live out on the edge, and that’s where I’m searching.

        In my opiñon.

        -Allen K.

  21. Sometimes the best people in our lives are the ones that cause the most headache. If I could go back 50 years I’d spend a weekend at Claude’s with a pack of smokes and an attitude.
    Thank you for sharing Dal. Happy to have something new to research.

  22. Am I reading part of the scrapbook wrong? I looked on Google Earth which shows Argos is on Luisa St., whereas, Ed Larson Gallery is located on Fort Union Drive. They’re not next to each other. My understanding for next to each other would be side-by-side or thereabouts. Would distance still be considered next to each other?

    • It looks like there are 3 different locations. The one depicted in this SB is located on Canyon Rd., but like you, I questioned whether it was located next door to the Argos depicted above.

      • Thank you, nmc. When I began looking, I originally found one on Johnson St.. As I continued searching online, I noticed it stated Fort Union Dr. and thought I must have done something wrong and simply located two galleries with the same name. As you’ve stated, it appears there’s three and one is next door to Argos which I hadn’t come across at the time. I appreciate the information you’ve given.

    • pdenver-
      Where things used to be in the 1980’s and 90’s may not be where they are today. Also…they may not look the same today as they did during Forrest’s story…

      • Thank you, Dal. My mind hung on to the thought that if the galleries were successful at the time, they wouldn’t move, and those that didn’t make it went out of business. You made a very good point.

  23. What a wonderful story and reflection on life as it passes by.
    I, and probably most of us, are often jealous of other folk’s careless, bohemian lifestyle. At the end though, everything seems to gravitate to ‘normalcy’. It sounds like even Eli at his old age became an average Joe, bought a second home high up in the bluffs of Penasco, and even the Argos gallery has been moved from Canyon Road to a different spot.
    Thank you Forrest.

  24. Thanks Eli, dal, Mr. Fenn and many many more,
    My first knee-jerk reaction went against all my doctors orders. It was only after calming down and diving in did I begin to realize how deep these waters ran. The city “el diferente” where an endless variety of colorful paths have and probably always will cross. Who knows the many secrets she may hold. This is a perfect can of worms for any child to take on a long, extended fishing frenzy, fully loaded and ready for barbs. The only question is where to begin? For he who teaches a child works in harmony with many souls.

  25. The Santa Fe art history and culture was and will always be written by artists, not galleries.

  26. Perhaps the self proclaimed underdog took his turn, by spinning the prop, with “Atlas eating his own children”.

    • There wasn’t a “self proclaimed underdog.” It was Forrest who proclaimed Eli the underdog.

  27. This is a hint to WWWH: Eli Levin= Levis=Blue Jeans and Hush Puppies. Key word here is Levi. Its a name of a geographic place. Also relates to his flying over the funeral and stout-hearted men.

  28. This is a hint to WWWH: Eli Levin= Levis=Blue Jeans and Hush Puppies. Key word here is Levi. Its a name of a geographic place. Also relates to his flying over the funeral and stout-hearted men. You see his hints are subtle and won’t help unless your in right area. There is a running man image that is VERY obvious and large, next to a canon. Very near is ‘to cease’. Also line 1 is on other side of ‘to cease’ from running man(line 7).

    • Deeep can you elaborate on
      “Running man”
      Line 1
      Line 7
      I’m curious where you came up with these thoughts and ideas.

  29. Thank you Forrest.

    Books are the gateway to the past, present and sometimes the future.
    Depending on one’s point of view and the ability of the writer we can be whisked away to faraway places and times. I love the way you presented this introduction to another writer.
    Best wishes to Eli.

  30. F has a ” magnifying eye” ? Another clue to use a magnifying glass? It certainly looks like there are many clues in this scrapbook…IMO of course..

    • Doug Preston: “Did you say just a minute ago that it’s not on the top of a mountain?”
      FF: “I hope I didn’t say that. (Laughter) I’ll, I’ll, I’ll tell you that, uh, that it’s not on the top of any mountain. That’s a big clue because there’s lots of mountains out there. It may be ~close~ to the top.”

      • Zap,

        Very nice! I had forgotten about that comment.

        Although, my top is of a different kind (i.e., not a mountaintop).

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