We were invited to the first fair by a Board Member of the Spanish Colonial Society, Joel Goldfrank, who is a good friend. That was a very large show at the Hotel Albuquerque in the town of that name. It was the winter edition of the summer event which happens every year on the Santa Fe Plaza.
There was a champagne brunch which as might be expected consisted of some champagne and lots of green chili which, in deference to the Anglos among the guests, was fairly mild. There were tortillas, scrambled egg and potatoes on which to put the chili as well as a green chili stew. Sugar helps cut the spice so there were biscochitos, traditional New Mexican sugar cookies, as desert.
After that introduction we were in an excellent mood to visit the fair in the next room, a cavernous size ball room. There was entertainment planned all day and we particularly enjoyed “La Rondalla de Albuquerque”. It draws its tradition from the Canary Islands started over 100 years ago, probably much older, where the governor would send out scouts to gather the best musicians to play. This Rondalla was chosen from New Mexico amateur musicians. They played well together and here is a brief taste of the music.
CLICK ABOVE TO PLAY VIDEO
Then the director of the Spanish Colonial Society, David Setford, and the President of the Board, Brian S. Colón, welcomed all to the event, which built all afternoon until the room was totally full of artists and visitors. Amusingly enough, this is the second year that this market is taking place in Albuquerque. The first year they did it many artists objected to changing the venue which has always has been Santa Fe. So many people came and bought, however, (Albuquerque has a population of 1 million and Santa Fe about a tenth of that!) that it was a great success and now the artists are eager to participate.
The Spanish Market has some very antiquated rules that are difficult to understand. Mostly they revolve around the question of what is traditional New Mexican Spanish Colonial Art. The selection committee does not want to allow much variation from what they believe the norm should be. It is a sad loss for the public as well as the artists many of whom would like to expand their horizons..
The following day we went back to Albuquerque to a much smaller fair, which was the Winter edition of the Indigenous Fine Art Market (IFAM). This was the group who had separated from the regular Indian Market to form their own show. It was held in the beautiful old Hotel Andaluz. There were only 50 artists invited to show and I am not sure if that many came. What I liked most was that there was something worthwhile looking at in almost every booth. One Hopi carver explained to us that he had sold out at a show in California recently and had only learned late that he was invited to this show, so he had to carve morning, noon and night for two weeks in order to prepare enough Katsina dolls. He decided that making them Christmas ornament size would save time and be season appropriate.
The last and final show was SWAIA’s Winter Indian Market here at home in the convention center of Santa Fe. I believe that there were about 200 artists but unfortunately, many were showing just Christmas decorations or minor work what we might call back east, chachkas. That is not to say that if one knew what to look for one could not find some stellar works of art.
Among the best booths was one that belonged to Marla Allison, a painter and her husband Pat Pruitt, a metal smith who makes the most striking jewelry. Another was that of the Keri Ataumbi, she too is a jeweler. I have written about her sister, Teri Greeves, a major beader, in the past. Keri like many other native artists today did not just learn her art, in the traditional manner, from her family. Keri attended the Rhode Island School of Design and when she came to Santa Fe studied at the Institute of American Indian Arts and received a BFA from the College of Santa Fe in art as well as the history of art.
|By Keri Ataumbi (Front)|
|By Keri Ataumbi (Reverse)|
|"Amidst the Trees" by Marla Allison|
One interesting, though not totally surprising, thing that happens at these fairs is that artists never really stop doing the kind of work that they want to do. If they are not allowed to sell a certain genre of work in a fair because it doesn’t fit into to what the fair organizers believe is proper for their event, they do it anyway. They either sell at a different venue or they invite a potential client into the parking lot or up to their hotel room to show what they have created. We bought one of our most stunning Native American works in a parking lot years ago, and last weekend exactly the same kind of thing happened again and we were invited to go outside the fair to buy another great object. I will save that story for another Missive.