Pop Chalee! Yippee Ki Yay!
Known for her glimmering paintings of forest scenes that inspired Walt Disney’s animation, Chalee traveled from New Mexico to more than 20 American states in the promotion of the motion picture, Annie Get Your Gun (1950), during its publicity tour. According to Hopkins, “On horseback, Grandmother was the best rider. She could outride most men.”
As a 2021 Cowgirl Honoree, Chalee will be inducted into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas alongside country pop star, Miranda Lambert of Texas, and western wear hat designer and former rodeo performer, Lavonna “Shorty” Koger of Oklahoma.
Pop Chalee: Yippee Ki Yay focuses on the artist’s leadership as a pioneering woman of the southwest. The exhibition tells the story of her career through a selection of paintings from both the museum and personal collections, archival photographs and news articles, and even some of her finest clothing on loan from Hopkins.
In bringing these elements together, visitors to the exhibition will learn much more about Chalee’s significant contributions to fine arts, popular culture, and community exchange at local, regional, national, and international levels.
Chalee, whose name means “blue flower” and who is also known as Merina Lujan, was born in Utah and lived much of her life in New Mexico. She began her artistic career in her late twenties through training in design and flat-style painting at The Studio at the Santa Fe Indian School in the 1930s.
Her murals have a lasting legacy—they can be seen in Albuquerque inside the Sunport Airport and at the storefront of 510 Central Avenue SW, the former location of Maisel’s Trading Post. Chalee’s archive is held in Santa Fe at the Institute of American Indian Arts, as a gift from Hopkins to the school.
At the Millicent Rogers Museum, festivities during the Pop Chalee: Yippee Ki Yay exhibition include a talk by Hopkins and a performance by a Taos Pueblo hoop dancer with a singer. Exhibition tours can be arranged by calling the museum at 575.758.2462.