Tesla Motors: California’s Gain is New Mexico’s Loss

As readers of this blog know, I’ve been learning about the work of inventor Nikola Tesla and I’m fascinated by his namesake company, Tesla Motors, a California automaker that is working on a 100% electric roadster for 2009 delivery. (See “The Return of Nikola Tesla”).

I’m here in New Mexico visiting my family and the big news here this morning is Tesla Motors’ decision to cancel a production facility in Albuquerque that would have produced a sedan for the 2010 model year. Score one for California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and zero for N.M. Governor Bill Richardson (D).

The reason for the shift to the Golden State? Tax incentives that will give the new startup at least $1 million in state funds to train employees. In addition, under a new program adopted by California last week, zero emission vehicle companies will be exempt from paying sales and use taxes on the purchase of manufacturing equipment.

Isn’t it funny how Republicans end up running California and doling out Democrat-style tax incentives? There must be something in the Golden State’s water that turns everyone into a liberal, not that there’s anything wrong with that, as Jerry Seinfeld would say.

Tesla also attributed the decision to scrap the N.M. plant to the greater efficiencies it can gain by having all its production in one place. Both its battery pack and the Tesla Roadster are currently manufactured in California.

What’s the astrological angle on this? Off the top of my head, I will attribute California’s early embrace of revolutionary technologies to the tight Uranus/Pluto conjunction in pioneering Aries in the statehood chart. You can look at it here, courtesy of Astrodienst.

Interestingly, the press release from Tesla was issued June 30, as Mars in Leo was trining Pluto in Sagittarius, forming a grand trine with the natal California Uranus/Pluto conjunction at 29 degrees of Aries.

I’m hitting the road today so I don’t have time to run a statehood chart for cash-poor New Mexico, but you don’t have to be an astrologer to realize that its government resources are a fraction of California’s. In fact, the Land of Enchantment often loses out to neighbor Arizona in bids to lure jobs to the state.

I spent the winter in California so I guess I’m an honorary Golden State resident, but I was sad to see New Mexico get muscled out yet again in the competition for a high-profile manufacturing facility.

Georgia On My Mind

New Mexico is a place that I — and millions of other art lovers around the world — will forever associate with Georgia O’Keeffe. Although she was born on a dairy farm in Sun Prairie, Wis. in 1887, O’Keeffe adopted New Mexico as her home. She began spending summers there in 1929 and bought her first New Mexico home in 1940 on the Ghost Ranch. Five years later, she moved to the hamlet of Abiquiu.

Along with D.H. Lawrence, O’Keeffe helped put New Mexico on the map as a mystical oasis where artists could be left alone to work in peace. Both Lawrence and O’Keeffe were friends with Mabel Dodge Luhan, an art-loving socialite who had a ranch in New Mexico, and both faced criticism for the eroticism of their work.

Lawrence only spent two years in New Mexico (1924-26) and died in 1930 at age 45. O’Keeffe lived to the ripe old age of 98, due to — or in spite of — (depending on who you talk to) the efforts of Juan Hamilton, a mysterious drifter who became her companion in 1973, while Pluto was hanging around her Venus.

Hamilton was also an artist in his own right and his sculpture shows in New York won kudos from critics in The New York Times and elsewhere. Over the years, there was much speculation about the nature of their relationship. Was it mother/son, guru/follower, master/slave?

I think one reason why there’s so much interest in the Hamilton/O’Keeffe collaboration is that it’s the opposite of the Pygmalion tale. Here, the female is the mentor and the male is the protégé. Whatever the relationship was — and it probably evolved over the years — there’s no question that Hamilton was a Plutonian influence in O’Keeffe’s life, controlling access to her and her art.

Although she was an outsider, O’Keeffe made her peace with the Abiquiu locals by gaining the imprimatur of the padre and building a community center for the village’s residents. Many dismissed her as a bruja or witch, but ultimately O’Keeffe gained respect by keeping to herself. New Mexicans like their privacy and as a Scorpio, O’Keeffe was no different from the locals in that respect. 

Only a Scorpio with an instinctive understanding of death could transform a cattle skull into such an icon of Southwestern art that it would become an acceptable piece of home decor, whether in a Taos ranch or a Soho loft. Many of the tchotchkes that are peddled to tourists visiting New Mexico can be traced back to O’Keeffe’s art, which is housed in its own museum in Santa Fe: http://www.okeeffemuseum.org/indexflash.php  

In addition to a Scorpio sun, O’Keeffe had Jupiter in Scorpio, which ultimately brought her substantial material wealth. The Sun/Jupiter conjunction could also symbolize teaching, which is one way that O’Keefe earned a living until photographer Alfred Stieglitz, who became her husband, helped her find buyers for her art. Here’s her chart: http://www.astro.com/cgi/chart.cgi?cid=41laaaa19347-s971800598&lang=e&gm=a1&nhor=190&nho2=1&btyp=2&mth=gw&sday=27&smon=3&syr=2008&hsy=-1&zod=&orbp=&rs=0&ast=

Early in her career, O’Keeffe’s bisexuality and alleged focus on female genitalia in her art generated scandal. Toward the end of her life, in the free-wheeling Seventies, her sexually charged art was celebrated, as were her idiosyncrasies. There are numerous biographies of O’Keeffe. I particularly enjoyed Jeffrey Hogrefe’s “O’Keeffe: The Life of an American Legend.” It’s a bit trashy, but Hogrefe succeeded where many other biographers failed, by getting interviews with the elusive Hamilton.

Throughout her life, O’Keeffe was reported to have gone into trance-like states. This shows up very clearly in her chart with Neptune in Taurus nearly exactly opposing Moon/Mercury in Scorpio. It’s interesting that the wide open landscapes (Taurus) of the West, which she first discovered as a schoolteacher in Texas, often triggered these trances.

There’s a reason why New Mexico’s official nickname is the “Land of Enchantment.” People become absolutely besotted with the place and its never-ending horizons, which I believe on a psychological level must symbolize endless opportunity. Still, the relationship between the newcomers, who are almost always Anglos, and the locals, some of whom can trace their ancestry back to 18th-century Spanish royalty, is not always a happy one.

Please don’t make the mistake of calling New Mexico’s longtime residents “Mexicans.” They didn’t come over the border yesterday; they got to their mesa or arroyo long before the U.S. Calvary. I’m not making any judgments about skin tone or nationality here. I’m merely stating a fact.

Of course, the REAL natives can escape from the gringos by retreating to the rez, and lately have been accumulating undreamed of wealth, thanks to the expansion of Indian gaming. In New Mexico, as elsewhere, Indian-owned casinos have become full-fledged entertainment centers, with concerts, golf courses, and great food, along with the slot machines. A modern-day El Dorado, some would argue.