As I wrote last week the Ralph T. Coe Foundation opened an exhibition of mostly contemporary Northwest Coast Native art. I won’t list all the galleries that had their own Native American shows to take advantage of the 150,000 visitors who come for Indian Market, run by The Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA) which this year seemed to be far larger with far fewer standards than in the past. There were the fabulous artists but there was quite a bit of mediocre material, which depreciates the show.
Then there was the Indigenous Fine Art Market (IFAM) which split from SWAIA a couple of years ago and, at least last year, there were a number of Northwest Coast artists who are sorely lacking at Indian Market. This does not include 2 out of town shows within commuting distance, which we did not attend. Here is the view of our local cartoonist Ricardo Caté ...
The Zuni pueblo is located in Western New Mexico, 55 miles fro, Gallup, a town that is at the apex of three Southwest reservations, The Hopi, The Navajo and the Zuni. The Zuni tribe has the largest population of any of the pueblos with 12,000 members and it is believed that 80% of them make their living from their art.
Robin Dulap, one of the founders of the Zuni Coop in 1981, taught at Zuni, and her daughter Bronwyn Fox who spent formative years on the pueblo, runs the Santa Fe gallery Keshi: The Zuni Connection and they both were instrumental in establishing the Keshi Foundation. When the Zuni felt neglected by SWAIA which had dropped a number of them from Indian Market last year without explanation, Keshi , tried to take up some of the slack by doing 10 individual shows during the very brief Indian Market week in order to help the artists make some sales. This year they decided it was necessary to do their own show and they took over The Scottish Rites Temple, a most impressive building in Santa Fe.
I remember when we first went to Zuni many years ago there were white limousines on the street with Middle Eastern men sitting inside waiting for the store owners to bring them fetishes which they would take home for sale as the fetishes are popular all over the world.
Here is a typical table of fetishes with the work of three carvers Todd, Sheldon and Nancy Westika, and, at another table that of Herbert Him, Sr. He has shown in the front row of his carvings the process of carving a fetish at each stage.
In my opinion one of the most innovative artists, who I would actually designate more as a jeweler that a carver, is Gomeo Bobelu He does not live on the pueblo but keeps up with their traditions. On his table I was particularly taken by the bolo tie clasp which was missing its leather cord and could just as well been hung as a pendent. It is the piece in the center carved with the woman’s white face and dark hair. Here are images of the artist and his display.
The Zuni Show had more visitors than they imagined would come. Probably 8.000 potential clients came during their two-day show. The best part is that the artists were extremely happy with sales, which one hardly ever hears no matter what kind of an art show it is!
When you are in Santa Fe I would recommend visiting the Keshi, the Zuni Connection, as you will know you are buying form a shop that truly represents these artists.