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El Rey Inn
1862 Cerrillos Road
Santa Fe, New Mexico, NM 87505, United States
+1 505 9821931
  • The Chief

A letter we received from Dianne Matthews Lane is reprinted here. El Rey Inn is so pleased to hang this beautiful generous gift in our lobby next to the kiva fireplace.

"Chief", as we called him, was painted in the 1950's by Gerta Christofferson as payment for living at the El Rey. She had come to Santa Fe from Chicago with her two small children and needed a place to live until she could get on her feet.

She was fascinated with the Native Americans and their culture and painted many of them over the years. But she became involved with a Black man, also. I do not know if they married, but her later paintings of Native Americans showed the mixed features of both races.

Gerta had painted portraits of the Wriggley Family in Chicago and insisted on doing our family also. They were done in pastels and are still very beautiful today. She was certainly talented in many mediums. People are always taken aback when they cross a room, only to find the eyes are still following you.

Many of the young native children pictures she did we called "Ooties". I have seen several on cards in the past. I know our family has four or five of them that we still treasure.

The government was always trying to deport her back to Sweden. Perhaps that was why she ended up in New Mexico. I was not privey to much of that conversation as a child. But I do know she eventually moved to Canyon Road and had a studio there.

I am so glad to have "Chief" back where he belongs. Hope you enjoy him as much as our family has for the last 60 years.

–Dianne Matthews Lane