Sunday, August 19, 2018

Coe Center for the Arts - IMPRINT

This collaborative effort is an exhibition called “Imprint”.  It opened at the Ralph T. Coe Center for the arts last week and was organized by guest curator Nina Sanders (Crow Tribe) and Bess Murphy, curator at the Coe Center.

Before I go further let me explain that the Coe was called The Ralph T. Coe Foundation so if you do a search among my missives don’t be confused they are the same organization. I have written about the Coe often and if you want to have a lot of background just put the word Coe in the box, upper left, and scroll down through the Missives.

Six selected artists were asked to work together to create this show. They came up with the title representing the obvious meaning of artists prints and its literal definition, “To Imprint is to forge a connection that leaves a lasting mark”. To quote one of the artists. Eliza Naranjo Morse, (Santa Clara Pueblo), “Once in a while we experience something so deep and profound we are left with  an imprint that transforms our way of seeing and understanding forever.  Experiences like these are essential to growth and the culmination of wisdom …”

The other participating artists are Jamison Chas Banks (Seneca-Cayuga-Cherokee) Jason Garcia (Santa Clara Pueblo), Terran Last Gun (Piikani (Blackfeet), Dakota Mace (Diné (Navajo)), and Jacob Meders (Mechoopda – Maidu). As you can see, it is  a very diverse group with only Terran Last Gun describing himself specifically as a pintmaker while the rest say multi-disciplinary. 

There is the exhibition that one can see at the Coe in Santa Fe but you might enjoy it elsewhere as well. Through August 26 an auxiliary show with Axle Contemporary, a van that travels around Santa Fe and environs has prints you can buy by these artists.  The show will also appear in Durango, Las Vegas, Nevada and other places in the form of newspaper boxes containing prints and ephemera created by one of these six  artists, such as a CD by Jason Garcia.  If you discover one you can take what you find, but do leave something for the next lucky person who stumbles on one of these newspaper boxes.


What was important to the artists was to engage with each other, the broader public and institutions across Santa Fe to create a dialog and show how one can communicate through art.  Aside from Axle they are also working with the Center for Contemporary Art (CCA) and the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) and the Form and Concept Gallery . The artists are working in silkscreen, letterpress and handmade paper, cardboard boxes, shopping bags and other media to tell stories via visual media.


We have always been amazed by all the thought that Native American Artists put into their work. The stories their images tell are far more intricate than you might at first imagine, involving heritage and family.  As a generalization I have found that Native Americans explain their art in a much clearer fashion than Anglo artists usually do.

The  Imprint project is not static.  Other prints might be added, new places for newspaper boxes might pop up.  You will have to watch Face Book and the Ralph T. Coe Center website to keep track of what will happen next.

Now for a few of my favorite works:
One of them is by Eliza Naranjo Morse, a member of an unbelievably talented artistic family, the Naranjos of Santa Clara Pueblo.  Her watercolor, pen and acrylic piece, called “With a Gun” follows a theme she has been following for some years but this is the most elaborate and the only one that could come out of an updated Grimm fairy tale.


I find the three shopping bags by Terran Last Gun very effective.  They are serigraphs done in a edition of 10, called “Above Beings & US”.  Last Gun  sees his geometric designs as telling a story of the artist’s path between here and home.  His bags he imagines either being mounted or carrying books or clothing etc. He writes that they “present a powerful conundrum for us to consider; if a throwaway material or commercial process is used in the making of ‘fine’ art what exactly is the end result”.


I have been following Jason  Garcia, also known by his Indian name Okuupin, for quite a while, particularly his ceramic tiles in his comic book series of “Tewa Tales of Suspense”.  Here is one of his tiles from that series called “Warrior Maiden Muse” being hand processed clay.


There is so much more to see but I will end with the mural outside the Coe.  The images are by Terran Last Gun, Eliza Naranjo Morse and Jason Garcia.  They are painted on paper and adhered to the wall by flour and water (wheat paste).  The printer was Matthew Chase Daniel of Axle Contemporary.  They are painted in vertical strips that have been pasted together.  Other images on other walls could appear anywhere at any time.


Sunday, August 12, 2018

Theatre in Santa Fe: “November”

When we first came to Santa Fe, theatre was spotty.  There was the Santa Fe Playhouse but what we had seen there was more of a high school quality than professional.  Under new direction, however, I understand it has improved greatly.  Somehow, while opera got better and better and there was more and more dance, from classical ballet to modern dance, and even classical orchestra and choral groups, we saw no continuous theater.  Various Shakespeare companies came and went as they also could not find their audience.

In recent times this has changed, however, an online publication called Theatre Santa Fe (http://www.theatresantafe.org) might post 6 different theatre pieces in a single week and recently Shakespeare has returned as well.  It is rarely on the “main drag”, however.   To put it in New York terms we only have one “Broadway” house and that is the Lensic Performing Arts Center, about which I have written often, but  there has been a burst of what could be called “off Broadway” houses.

An outlying area in Santa Fe has been developing as a center for the arts.  It is known as the Siler Rufino Nexus or Sirun for short.  The name comes from two  streets that cross, Siler and Rufina.  It calls itself a creative innovation district” and is anchored by the hugely popular arts project Meow Wolf, the Disneyland of Santa Fe.  In Sirun, you will find all manner of the arts, including a circus school and small “black box” theatres, perfect for intimate shows.

We attended one of these recently at Teatro Paraguas, translated as “umbrella theatre“ in that it hosts guest productions in addition to its own Spanish language and Latino plays.  On this occasion we saw a troupe called The New Mexico’s Actor’s Lab perform the play “November”, a comedy  by David Mamet.  If you saw it you would not be surprised if you were told that it was written last week but in fact it was written in 2007 and opened on Broadway in January of 2008, playing for 6 months to mixed reviews. 

One of the ads for the show starts, “So, a lesbian, a Native American and a turkey lobbyist walk into the White House...”  The characters are indeed the president, his chief of staff and speech writer (the lesbian), the man trying to convince the president to pardon a turkey (no, 2 turkeys) before Thanksgiving and a Native American (formerly known as an Indian).

The President, his speech writer and the turkey lobbyist

The action, as it were, takes place in the oval office, the incumbent president is determined to get a second term.  As the play starts out:

President: (Charles E. Smith): “Can these numbers be right?  These numbers can’t be right.
Chief of Staff: (Archer): “They’re right”
President:  “Why, Why we won the first time, Archie.  Four scant years.  Why have they turned against me now?”
Chief of Staff:  “Because you’ve fucked everything up you’ve touched.”

Later:

President: “What is it about me that people don’t like?”
Chief of Staff: “That you’re still here.”

Sound familiar?  How timely or in this case prescient can a theatre piece be?

The comedy continues:



David Mamet clearly keeps a tight rein on his material but one can find a few clips on line in English and other languages.  It becomes very clear that any director of the play can handle the same material in many different ways.  I was sorry that the actor playing the president didn’t play it a little more Trumpian but I found out that the director decided that the audience would figure that out for themselves.  I did know Campbell Martin, who played the  turkey lobbyist, personally since he trains me in Pilates. He had his own band in New York, was on Broadway in various plays, then went to work internationally for a bank and finally came to Santa Fe as a Pilates trainer. Happily for us he appears, every once in a while, in the theatre here.  At one point in the play he embellished the indications in the script with the permission of the director.  The instruction is that the Turkey lobbyist goes after the President.  Campbell is suddenly running across the stage and dives headlong, sliding across the president’s desk and grabbing him until he is pulled off by his chief of staff.

The play continues with the president making one gaffe after the other.  After agreeing to marry his lesbian speech writer to her significant other though he has been told repeatedly that (at that time) it was illegal, she writes him the following speech but he keeps going off script. You can be sure that all the bleeps in this clip are not bleeped on stage:


While some critics at the time said the language was used to cover a lack of writing ability, no one would ever think so today.  Less than a decade later and so much has changed, and yet it is just a matter of degree.  Personally, I hope this play is put on in every city, town and village until 2020.  At this point it will play in Santa Fe for just this week, Thursday through Sunday.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Where Are My Old Books?

Once upon a time there was no problem finding the books with the information you needed.   There was the Encyclopedia in your library or if necessary the public library or even one step further along a specialty library such as the New York Academy of Medicine where I once went to help a friend diagnose a psychological problem they did not want to go to a doctor for.


Today some of those steps have been eliminated by the internet.  When people say there is lots of misinformation on the net I totally agree but just because it is printed in a book doesn’t mean it is true or not outdated.

Still there are books that we miss.  Maybe they are out of print or have beautiful reproductions that cannot be matched on the net.   How can we find them?  They can no longer be bought in a conventional manner which today would be your local book shop or on line.  When I was leaving New York and wanted to sell some of our large library no one wanted to buy anything because books were being digitized.  As one dealer said to me he could not refund people’s money for books they had bought the year before because the market no longer existed.

There are, of course, exceptions for first editions or rare books, or books that were created with fabulous illustrations or extraordinary covers and bindings.  I am speaking of  just books that you missed or thought you had no need of them when they first came out.  Through life we make discoveries that we wished we had made ages before.

After last week’s blog on Tony Price, I decided that I wanted my own copy of the Price catalog having borrowed one in order to write my Missive.  I was told it was no longer in print and other people were looking for it as well.  Where to look?  Of course, I did what we all do and went to Google where I mainly found dead ends but sooner rather than later I was taken to Amazon where they had a few with prices from $61 to $764… maybe there was a gold coin in the latter.  I then went to Ebay where they had a single copy in good condition for $45.  Then I heard from another friend who was looking for the book that he got a fabulous deal by going to bookfinder.com where he found it for $14 including shipping.   As a curator once said, “Everything exists it is up to you to find it.” The secret is, of course, knowing where to look. 

When I had a gallery, I had a list of places to look for old art books but that is definitely out of date.  I was first introduced to the used book world over a half century ago at The Strand Bookstore in New York City.  Founded in 1927 it is now located on 12th Street and Broadway.  Today they claim 18 miles of new, used and rare books.  I picked up the old mysteries I used to love for $1 a piece.  I remember the practically new copies known as reviewers’ copies.  When a book is published it is sent to many reviewers in the hopes that it will be covered by a newspaper or a popular magazine such as The New Yorker.  Either they do or don’t but  recipients  do not want to keep them forever, so they sell them off (anything is going to be a profit) and they are quite the bargain for the searcher.


There are places like the Strand all over the world.  I even found them on line in Iran and China.  In the U. S. Powell’s Books, established in 1971 In Portland Oregon, boasts being “the world’s largest independent bookstore” with “a full city block of books”.  I have been there and highly recommend it for an enjoyable afternoon or evening.


An online store that acts as a clearing house for many small book shops around the world is Abe Books (abebooks.com).  They do a superb job of describing the condition of a book they are selling and I have never been disappointed.  They had the Tony Price catalog at a very reasonable price.  Also, unusual is that they have old periodicals as well as books which is especially helpful in the arts.  The  company was founded 1995, the start of the dot com era, and in 2008 it was bought by Amazon. 

Needless to say, you are more apt to find your specific art book in a used book shop in the region the art was created. In other words, if you want an a book on South West Native Americans you are better off looking at shops in “The Four Corners” (Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico) than in the North East.

I have but scratched the surface but all to say if someone tells you the book you suddenly want is no longer available don’t take their word for it. “Seek and ye shall find.”


Sunday, July 29, 2018

Tony Price: Atomic Art

As promised last week I wanted to continue about the artist Tony Price (1937-2000).  During what has become known as “The Atomic Summer” in Santa Fe, The Friends of Tony Price have put on an exhibition with about one third of the 150 works which were still in the artist’s studio after his death.  The Friends formed a Not for Profit with the goal of realizing Price’s dream of having a space in Santa Fe devoted to his work.  He was an activist against Nuclear Power and felt that was what his work was all about.

Tony Price, note the glasses

Not a great deal has been written about Tony Price and not all of it is consistent, so this Missive is put together from interviews, articles and a catalogue for the exhibition “Tony Price Atomic Art at the Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe in 2004. The artist is quoted in the catalog as saying, “The nuclear sculptures shaped into our American Indian Kachina masks – the spiritual energy images – plug into the vast amounts of native Indian energy lying stored up in the Americas for centuries.”  Here is the piece Price named "Nuclear Hathor".


After the show here it went on to the United Nations in 2005. From an article in a web based publication, ArtDaily.org, “NEW YORK.- An exhibition of 19 sculptures by Tony Price (1937-2000), created from nuclear weapons salvage, will be on display at the United Nations through June 9th in the South Gallery of the General Assembly Visitors’ Lobby…There is wit as well as prophecy in Price’s vision, and he uses irony as a way of slipping past our guard … (it) is being presented in conjunction with the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference and the 60th anniversary of the UN.”

 Price was born and grew up in Brooklyn and Pelham, New York.  In spite of his father being a stock broker he was drawn to the arts and started by selling painted kites on the streets of Greenwich Village.  He was for a time in the Marines and when he got discharged in 1960 started to travel.  According to the President of The Friends of Tony Price, James Hart, Price wanted to go to Europe so he hopped a freighter where he found welding tools and scrap metal. He started to create huge sculptures on the deck. When he finished one the deck hands would get together and have a party ending by hoisting the sculpture up on a crane and tossing it over board.

Returning to the States, Price first went back to Greenwich village and the Counter Culture scene there, and then on to the Haight Asbury district in San Francisco.  At some point, probably during what became known as “The Summer of Love” in 1967, Haight Asbury became a dangerous place with drugs such as Crystal Meth taking hold so he moved, as did other artists, to New Mexico.

By 1968 he found himself in Santa Fe, actually it was a small bedroom community 20 miles north of Santa Fe called El Rancho. It was also less than 15 miles from Los Alamos.  Here he found the Zia Salvage Yard where he could pick up metal that the Los Alamos National Laboratory was discarding from its nuclear programs.  It was not just from bombs but the machine parts that were used.  Another attractive element was that he could buy the materials at the going price for scrap metal. He must have stock piled quite a bit because he continued to make what he called his “atomic sculpture” into the 1990’s though the Lab had subcontracted the disposal of the scrap and were no longer disposing of the kind of metal Price was looking for.

We originally were attracted to Price’s work by a sculpture in the New Mexico Museum of Art here in Santa Fe.  It is titled, “Hopi Nuclear Maiden”.  We did not need to read the label to know that it related to the Hopi art we were collecting.


I was impressed by another very large mixed-media sculpture I saw in the permanent collection of the Albuquerque Museum called “Atomic Thunderbird”, 1994.  One does not forget these pieces but as we know much art remains regional. I have never seen works by Price elsewhere, though we know he sold pieces to his friends and neighbors.  Like many artists the creating of the art was all important to Price, and selling it was only to subsidize his habit of creating more art.


We are now lucky to have an exhibition at the Phil Space Art Gallery on Second Street in Santa Fe (Monday to Friday 12:00-5:00).  James Hart is also the proprietor.  He sees himself as the bridge between The Friends of Tony Price and the current generation, since the original group are all the age that Price would be today.  As said before Price always wanted to have a permanent space in Santa Fe where his work could be seen and that is the goal of the Friends.  Price’s three children were quite young when he died and, though they have now dispersed, they agreed to follow through with their father’s wish.  Here is a short video clip of the Atomic Sculpture exhibit at the gallery.



I have to thank James Hart President helping me to get a more complete picture of the artist. Hart would very much like to find out what other material is out there. If anyone reading this would know of works by Tony Price in private collections I would be pleased to forward the information.  The creation of a catalog raisonné would prove a great asset In gaining the recognition I believe this artist deserves.

NOTE BENE:  Last week I said that the government gave no funds to the Los Alamos National Laboratory for clean-up of nuclear waste and have been corrected.  I understand that about 10 % of the funds given to the lab are given to a separate entity for such clean-up.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Dr. Atomic

The opera Dr. Atomic, with music by John Adams libretto by Peter Sellars, was first produced at the San Francisco Opera in 2005.  There has been a whole lot of hype as it has come to New Mexico, home of the atom bomb,  in a new production staged by Sellars for the Santa Fe Opera. 

I was seduced by this, knowing full well that contemporary music has often been difficult for me, but my wife reminded me that I had enjoyed Nixon in China by the same team. So we got tickets.  Little was I prepared for the assault that was awaiting me.  The set is simple, a silver ball hanging mid stage.  As it reflected the lights shone on it  I  was reminded of a disco night club. ,Of course, it symbolized the core of the atom bomb that hung on the tower at the Trinity site in the desert of New Mexico where the first test took place.  Here is the image of the set and a link to part of the overture.  You can let me know what you think.




“The Manhattan Project”, was a military operation headed by General Leslie Groves with a team of scientists under the direction of the American theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer.  They displaced a small boys’ school to build in the utmost secrecy what became known, in the post war era, as the Los Alamos National Laboratory. To accentuate the previous statement about secrecy, wives of the scientists and all the support workers brought to the new makeshift community could not know what was going on, other than it was a top-secret government project.

In the 1930’s Oppenheimer professed his very leftwing views and was never totally trusted by the government.  In later years he said that he did not feel guilty about creating the bomb just the use of it!  In his defense, of course, was the fact that the Allies knew the Germans had already discovered how to split the atom in 1938 and were sure were also working on creating an atom bomb. The Manhattan Project continued, however, after the German surrender. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought an end the waning war with Japan. The timing was significant since because Truman was going to have a summit meeting with Stalin… effectively inaugurating the Cold War with “see what we can do”!

The Real J. Robert Oppenheimer

The hype here has been more about the story of Los Alamos, Oppenheimer and the atomic age than it has been about the opera.  We saw a showing of “Wonders are Many”, a documentary about  the making of Dr. Atomic and its first performance in San Francisco. The original production was set in the historic moment and it made a lot more sense. In San Francisco the bomb was realistic with all its actual surface paraphernalia: not abstract, representing the broader idea of nuclear weaponry. The setting was literal and did not depend on the mountains and lights of Los Alamos that you could see in the distance beyond the open stage, an effect which was admittedly awesome.

Also, the orchestration here seemed to depend a lot more on the percussion, which probably had much to do with poor miking since the greater number of strings in San Francisco seemed to lend themselves to a more peaceful effect. The horror of the atomic bomb was quite tense enough.  Trying to sing over the orchestra was a chore some of the singers were not up to, again poor miking, leading to what I heard as screeching.

One of the star singers in San Francisco said, “I had to be counting all the time.  You don’t need to count for Mozart.”  That summed up the music for me.

There were protests in town which I thought at first were about the opera which is plenty dark and does not at all romanticize the “Manhattan Project.  Rather the justifiable resentment was aimed at the official tourism campaign that promoted this summer as the “Atomic Summer” in Santa Fe.

Why are passions high?  They center around a group I was not acquainted with before, known as “the downwinders”. These are the people who are still affected by the radiation spread by the atomic tests.  Today the Lab continues to work on weapons of mass destruction since the government will only give funds for that purpose and none for environmental cleanup of atomic waste!  Maybe Santa Fe’s “Atomic Summer” is not all bad if attention is called to the fact that these issues still exist after almost 80 years.

Needless to say, with the eight pueblos in the neighborhood they are a very significant group of down winders.  To relate the opera more to the locale as an introduction to the opera members of the Santa Clara, San Ildefonso and Tesuque tribes danced together for the first time ever in an abbreviated version of the corn dance.  Indian dances are not known for their melodies, but this seemed far more melodious to me than the score of the opera!

In life there is often a plus side to every negative situation and one of the plusses of the “Atomic Summer” is an exhibition put on by the Friends of Tony Price, an artist who moved here from New York in 1968.  At the time the Los Alamos lab sold surplus and the artist could go in and buy copper and steel at the going price of scrap metal.  He made some wonderful sculptures out of this discarded material.  More about him next week.

Mercury Communication God by Tony Price)

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Return

As I am re-acclimatizing to Santa Fe life and the art world in general I want to mention some thoughts of returning home.  Many of us travel and it is the one case where you can go home again!  Some travel to the other side of the world, others cross a continent and some just drive an hour from the beach.  In all cases it requires some adjustment.

Our trip home from Hawaii was, in travel time, just about 10 hours but it was a red eye which is not pleasant for anyone.  There is, of course, the need for an early arrival at the airport which in Kauai was quite unpleasant.  There are separate inspections for security and two more for agriculture.  Since we were flying to the mainland we were told to be at the airport 2 hours ahead of the 10:00 p.m. flight.  The airport was stifling with no air-conditioning or fans, and, as this is a family vacation spot, there were overtired, screaming children. There was no notice of our flight as other flights appeared on the board. Suddenly a loud speaker announcement came that our flight was at the other end of the terminal and we rushed to arrive at a mob of people with no organization what so ever.  Of course, there is the layover time between the two flights needed for our journey.  Since we had been up for 14 hours before the flight by the time we were done we had been up for 29 hours.

Scene at Lihue Airport in Kauai

A short nap was required on arrival home.  Because you need to readjust to local time, you cannot sleep too long.  The following day, having slept all night and then some, there is a good chance that re-adjustment will remain elusive as it did for me.

As you begin to retrieve your “land legs” you start to focus and find, in direct correlation to how long you have been away, a small or large mountain of mail. It gets somewhat reduced by the number of catalogs and solicitations you discard.  Business mail isn’t overwhelming since that comes by email these days but there are always bills to pay and matters that need straightening out such as a lost credit card and incorrect charges to be rectified.  Then there are appointments to be made that you may have thought about for 10 days but were not going to make on your holiday, and emails that may or may not have been read but not acted upon … which reminds me …

As I am writing this I see an email from an old friend referring to my second Hawaii Missive.  He writes, “You say you went back to reality?  That was unwise.  How long before you can get out of there and back to Santa Fe?”   I received another email that said, “Santa Fe must seem dry and dull after Kauai!”.  

Let me try to reply to both at the same time We have been having quite a bit of rain since our return breaking Santa Fe’s awful drought.  As for being dull, we live in such an arts mecca, --it is never dull!  A few days after we returned from our trip we went to the fabulous outdoor Santa Fe Opera where we saw Leonard Bernstein’s, “Candide”.  I won’t try to give a revue but let me say I quite disagreed with the local critic who panned both the opera and Mr. Bernstein who had written some very melodious music.  We seem to want our opera to be heavy and serious, with music difficult to hum.  This, on the contrary,  was the definition of a comic opera with wonderful singers.

Alek Shrader and Brenda Rae in Candide at Santa Fe Opera.
Photo by Ken Howard

The following day our new mayor, Alan Webber, who has taken both praise and abuse in our local paper, invited us to a pot luck garden party he gave as a thank you for all those who had worked on his campaign.  Penelope had made phone calls, canvassed and carried a poster at the gates of a polling place on election day and I had arranged a meet and greet for the prospective mayor.  There must have been around a hundred people who had all contributed to the Mayor’s success.  The pot luck food was wonderful with people binging fried chicken, roast beef, turkey, meat balls, corn muffins and a myriad of salads.  Additional catering was done by Youth Works, a local not-for-profit that helps younger folk who are trying for their GED’s with academic coaching and vocational training. An award-winning chef known as Chef Carmen and his wife Penny Rodriguez, who had owned their own catering company, head the Youth Works catering program.   So, with the latter as guides the young people baked delicious deserts and acted as wait staff for the mayor’s event.  They also participated in the car shuttle to and from a nearby church to his home.

Mayor Alan Webber on the right

Everyone had opportunities for their one on one with “His Honor” and he gave a brief speech, jokingly taking credit for the recent rains.  Needless to say, after he was finished the heavens opened and there was a wonderful downpour!  As an added bonus we were all urged to take home left overs, so further samples from the buffet rounded out our dinner.

In reply again, to my first emailer, we have re-found Santa Fe!

Sunday, July 8, 2018

A Dream Realized (Part Two)

I cannot explain the foreignness of the island of Kauai. We are staying in a condo on a resort property but  those who do not come from the mainland and are native, who can trace their Hawaiian heritage back speak English fluently but with a heavy accent. Besides the official Hawaiian Polynesian language, there is the widely spoken Pidgin, a  patois mixing the Portuguese, Japanese and Chinese of laborers brought in to work the sugar plantations.  On tours we were always given the Hawaiian names but  I couldn’t spell them and you probably could not pronounce them!     The clouds and rain and jungle surroundings are certainly a far cry from the arid climate of New Mexico.  Kauai’s average yearly rainfall is 400 inches while in Santa Fe it is just over 14 inches!  Then there are sights that I would say were uncommon anywhere: where else would you see two men chasing a pig down a main road and then leaping after it into the jungle? That was what we saw on one of our car journeys around the island.

This is definitely an outdoor paradise. The beaches are the main attraction but they are still not crowded. The resorts, of course, have multiple pools. In the water there is no end to the sports you can do. Kayaking seems to be at the top of most peoples’ list after swimming. Of course, there is great hiking through the rain forest, though it can get rather muddy. The ground is so fertile that golf courses abound, and they do not appear to be crowded either.

Being more the passive sort and not participating in the hiking, the kayaking and zip lining that our son and his fiancée, and even Penelope did, I was looking forward to the helicopter tour around the island.  I have been in a private helicopter before going from Manhattan to the estate of a client on Long Island … this was slightly different!  We had opted for the helicopter with no doors since the four of us would not have to share our adventure with anyone else.  We were given life preservers because part of the flight was over water and earphones, so we could hear the pilot’s tour over the gale force winds that occur when you are flying with no doors or windows.  We were securely buckled into our seats, but I still felt I was slipping off the seat which had no give to it.  I thought it might just be me but we all felt the need to hold on sometimes with both hands!  Our pilot also enjoyed heading directly for the mountain and then going up at a precipitous angle to give us an extra thrill, which was totally unnecessary!  The big plus to this adventure was the incredible views we had.  I have never seen a rainbow beneath me.  Clouds yes, in the alps, but not a rainbow over the water and beach.  We saw the mountains literally inside and out as we flew into the the canyons and volcano crater and out again.  We were not surprised to learn that a James Bond movie was filmed in Hawaii but on another Island.  However, Pierce Brosnan, a former James Bond, has a home here.  Lots of major films have been done on the island such as Jurassic World, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and South Pacific.  In fact, if you want you can take a tour of the Kauai movie sites.




Another highlight for me was a short river cruise on the Wailua river with the goal of seeing the famous Fern Grotto It is a naturally-formed lava cave at the base of Mauna Kapu, (forbidden mountain), named for the ferns that grow down from the the grotto walls. It has become known as a wedding location and thousands of couples have decided to get married here.


Returning down river the captain gave us some history of where we were while outbound we had entertainment of song and dance by a talented native family.  Here are three snippets of song and dance.



No visit to Hawaii would be complete without a rum tasting since Mai Tai’s and Pina Coladas are l Hawaii’s signature drinks and are served everywhere.  I used to love rum but now my palate has become more atuned to  tequila! Before lunch at Gaylords, a former sugar cane plantation, we went to their rum tasting. The Koloa rum that that is actually made right there, we all agreed was the best on the Island. We learned about the sweet and drier rums and why the former should just float on top of the latter for a proper Mai Tai.  It  The tasting ended with a coffee rum which would be fabulous over ice cream as a desert for company!


All good things must come to an end and so it did for us with a red-eye flight back to reality.

Hunter Saying Goodbye to the Sea

The Sunset

Sunday, July 1, 2018

A Dream Realized (Part One)

My business always took me to Europe, so, vacations were usually in Switzerland which I loved, and I was not much of a beach person… too much sand!  Things changed when we had children and they had an institution called spring vacation.  Then we started to explore the Caribbean. After the kids grew up because of my wife’s work and mine we rarely took this kind of vacation.

I had always heard of people going to Hawaii for holiday but from New York it seemed terribly far away while the Caribbean was a relatively short trip.  Then when we started to live in the Southwest and it seemed everyone and their neighbor had been to Hawaii. Now, at the age of 73 my wife and son, Hunter, planned a “surprise“ trip for me and Hunter’s fiancée, Mallory, to the island of Kauai. 

Truth be known, I wasn’t even sure exactly where Hawaii was, other than somewhere in the South Pacific. So, a few days before we left I looked at the globe in my office and it sank in that actually it is in the Central Pacific. Geographically it has nothing to do with the United States but it was made a U.S. territory in 1898.  A referendum in 1959, where more that 93% of the voters opted for statehood, and it became the 50th state. The huge book by James Michener called “Hawaii” (that I am listening to on my I-phone) was published in that year.

There are 8 or 9 islands that make up Hawaii, depending who is counting since one of them seems to be extremely small.  Volcanic activity created the islands and the minerals in the lava and ash combine with a wet climate make a lush paradise.  We are not staying on the main island, where the volcano has been erupting recently, but on Kauai, where they actually had almost 50 inches of rain in a single 24-hour period this past April.  Yes, you read correctly, truly incredible and parts of the island are still closed for repairs.  There is so much jungle all around us we are aware that the habitable parts of the island have been carved out of the rain forest.


Though I know there are others, the only wild animals we have seen so far are fowl.  Roosters, hens and a Hawaiian goose, an endangered species known locally as the Nene Goose.


With so many beaches this is obviously a children’s paradise.  Never seen so many little ones running around the many condominiums rented out to house them!  Our accommodations have a picture postcard view of Hanalei Bay.


I am sure no trip to Hawaii would be complete without a Luau so we booked one.  We did not have a great deal of hope for one that billed itself as, “We Put the Wow in Luau” but miraculously it lived up to that.  When our bus arrived we were greeted by a Hawaiian drummer.





There was a huge edifice which was built like an open tent seating over a thousand people at a great many tables.  Before we sat down we visited a small craft fair outside where I bought a great souvenir, a fountain pen made of Koa wood, unique in the mountains of Hawaii.

Then there was a hula demonstration and lesson for the younger folk and others!  During the meal of pulled pork and all the fixings various dances were performed by the professionals. After pork and all the plates were cleared, we were treated to a one-hour production on the early history of Hawaii, told mainly through dance.  It was extremely well produced and performed by a company made up entirely of native Hawaiians.  Naturally the most impressive fire dancers were left for the grand finale!



We have only been here three days including our arrival day.  There is definitely another Missive left in this trip. ‘Till next week….

Sunday, June 24, 2018

A Not So New Gallery In Town

Gerald Peters is a very well-known gallery owner in the field of American art.  If you want to buy Western Art that is where you go.  He has galleries today in Santa Fe and New York.  Four years ago, he split his gallery in Santa Fe into two parts.  One is still called the Gerald Peters Gallery but the other is Peters’ Projects where he was looking to expand his audience by showing edgier work and also with an emphasis on contemporary Native American artists. The space is huge. According to the gallery director Mark del Vecchio, it is one of the largest in North America at 8,500 square feet and he wants to use every bit of it.  So, Mark recently opened five  exhibitions at once, a most unusual decision, spreading the love, so to speak!

The exhibition in the main gallery is called “Quadrivium” with four artists, all Native American.  The title comes from “a medieval university curriculum involving the “mathematical arts of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music”, all relating to what artists need to understand.  The best known artist in the show is the Navajo painter, Tony Abeyta; from Santa Fe’s Institute of American Indian Arts he went on to do his  MFA at New York University. He now has studios in Santa Fe and Berkley. His image of “Unexpected Rains” 2018 caught my attention because we have had so little rain this year, with a reservoir only 25% full, that I hoped the Indian magic to bring rain would work once more.


In the same show is a Cochiti artist I have written about before, Mateo Romero, whose work we have collected in some depth.   http://www.geraldstiebel.com/2015/03/mateo-romero_22.html. The largest of his paintings is a departure from his previous work, or, as he put it to me “ a bird of a different color”. It is a painterly rendering of a close-up of a large teepee, unusual in the Southwest as  teepees are used by the plains Indians and not seen here. Mateo based his composition on a photograph he took when he visited Standing Rock during the Sioux  protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline. He wrote there were “a long series of pitched teepees where the Lakota /Dakota/Nakota brought together their sacred pipe bundles (seven I think) for ceremony.  The last time this happened was at the Battle of the Greasy Grass/Little Big Horn.”


In another gallery is what I believe is the most space Peters Projects has devoted to a single artist, Cara Romero.  She happens to be the wife of the well-known ceramicist Diego Romero and sister-in-law of Mateo.  Her medium is photography and, in my opinion, she  has an incredible eye.  We already own two of the images in the show, albeit in far smaller size.  I have learned from my old world of Old Master paintings, often the test is whether an artist’s work will stand up is if she/he can work in large format as well as small.  Cara certainly manages that.  Here are “Last Indian Market,” 2015 and “TV Indians,” 2017.



I was wandering further through the galleries when, in the back of one room, I saw with a start a woman alone, crouching, working on a piece of figural sculpture.  I almost spoke to her before I realized she too was a sculpture!  Duane Hanson (1925-1996) was probably the artist who brought hyper realism to sculpture but in this case, Carole Feuerman did a mighty good job at fooling my eye!  The figure seems super intense on her work possibly because it is a 3-dimensional self-portrait. “Is it real or is it Memorex?”


Clearly Peters Projects is a gallery that we need to pay more attention to in the future.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Seeing the Collection in a New Light

I learned that I really wasn’t a New Yorker any more when I arrived at the Morgan Library and Museum on a Monday afternoon.  It was closed, of course, as has been the traditional closing day for most museums.  The Metropolitan Museum also used to be closed on Mondays but no longer. 

They say, “Necessity is the Mother of Invention” and so it is at the Met. The European paintings galleries have a rare combination of louvered natural light supplemented by artificial light. But skylights become dull over time and, worse, they leak and louvers fail.  Also innovations such as protection from ultraviolet light can be added.  In any case, the skylights at the museum that were installed in 1939 needed to be replaced and, therefore, the  art had to be removed from the galleries. Many paintings have to go into storage, but to keep the presence of the Old Master collection, the European Paintings Department has selected  some of their favorite things and installed them in a new way.

Keith Christiansen, John Pope-Hennessy Chairman of the Department, noted that after the 4-year project is complete, “we will be able to see the works of art in a new light!”  Reinstallation of a collection can offer the same possibilites.  I learned that at my gallery when a client never noticed an object he had seen several times but, when we reinstalled it as a focal point, he bought it.  In a museum or art gallery installation is one of the most important jobs of the curator.

When I walked into these newly reinstalled galleries I was bowled over by the intensity of each room.  Obviously, the curators wanted to show as many master pieces as possible, so they filled each gallery to capacity.  It was, however, clearly not haphazard but extremely carefully thought out with smaller paintings often on pedestals facing each other or totally isolated from other images which might interfere with the viewer experience.

As I walked through these new galleries I wondered what to focus on because writing everything that went through my head would have taken a book.  I finally decided to mention a few of of the more recent acquisitions, in the order of their purchase or gift over the last decade.

One of my very favorites, purchased in 2010, is by a Roman  artist I was not well acquainted with, Orazio Borgiani (1578-1616).  He painted this head of an old woman about 1610.  I found this painting so moving in the way the light plays over the woman’s face.  You see both her pain and the wisdom acquired in  her long life.


I am particularly fond of Jacopo Bassano (1510-1592); possibly because I wrote about him for my master’s thesis on the use of light in European painting. He was born Jacopo da Ponte but derived the name Bassano from the town where he worked. The Met’s Bassano is a fully developed late work of 1590. It shows the Baptism of Christ not in the usual sun lit scene but in darkness, using the light to make the event even more dramatic.  This is a 2012 partial and promised gift of Mr. and Mrs. Mark Fisch, meaning they have given a percentage of the painting to the museum and plan to (and must) donate the remainder in the future.


The Bassano is a large altar piece, but the Charles Lebrun (1619-1690) is truly humongous, over 9 feet  by almost 11 feet!  It represents Everhard Jabach and his family, and was commissioned for their new mansion in Paris around 1660.  A very wealthy merchant and banker of German origin Jabach was a collector of Dutch and  Netherlandish art and this was not lost on Lebrun who gave the painting a Dutch flavor.   Jabach chose politically wisely in commissioning Lebrun as he was painter to Louis XIV. The purchase funds were given in 2014 by Mrs. Charles Wrightsman in tribute to Keith Christiansen for his long and outstanding service to the museum.


In 2015 the Met used many gifts and donations to buy a wonderful Lamentation painted around 1560 by the Spanish artist, Luis de Morales (circa 1510-1586). His almost morbid devotional images made Morales a favorite of contemporary religious reformers.  One recent scholar wrote that "No Spanish painter was ever to surpass Morales in expressing the passionate, personal faith of  the mystical writers. "The  illustrious history of the painting includes the fact that it was owned by Pope Pius VII and remained in his family after his death in 1823 until 2014.


My final image is of Christ Carrying the Cross done between 1520 and 1525 by the Flemish artist Jan Gossaert, known as Jan Mabuse (ca. 1478-1532). Painted on a very small oak panel, it was obviously a personal devotional picture which could easily be picked up in the patron’s hands to contemplate at his leisure.  Again, it was both a part gift and part purchase with various funds added to the gift from the Honorable J. William Middendort II in 2016.


The Met was not always the great museum it is today.  In the field of Old Master painting our relatively young country had a lot of catching up to do with the great collections of Europe like the Louvre and the Uffizi.  Though I now live elsewhere, I feel a native-born New Yorker’s pride in seeing the Met continuing what its former director, Tom Hoving termed, “The Chase and the Capture.”

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Visitors to Versailles (1682–1789)

“Visitors to Versailles (1682-1789)” is an exhibition currently at the Metropolitan Museum where it will be until July 29.  I was not sure whether I would find it interesting since I have been lucky enough not only to visit with the public, but also have private tours behind the ropes.

This show, however, takes a novel tack: it attempts to recreate the experience of visiting the palace between the dates indicated in the title, using contemporary accounts.  From the time that Louis XIV (1638-1715) transformed this hunting lodge into the magnificent palace it is still today, it has been a remarkably public place, visited by the hoi polloi as well as aristocrats and diplomats.  When you walk into the exhibition they give you earphones with what they call “3-D audio” so that when you are in the pertinent sections of the show, in addition to readings from 18th century reports, there is background chatter, so you feel that it is as crowded as it was in the 18th century and is often today.  More evocative than some of the paintings is a folding screen which immerses you in the Chateau and all the people that were visiting on a specific day.  It is by Charles Cozette (French, 1713–1797) and from the collection of Monsieur and Madame Dominique Mégret, Paris. Photo by F. Doury.


I must admit that I cannot read labels, look at art and listen, all at the same time.   For me the audio was distracting.  My wife, however, who is a historian and seems to be able to do three things at once, liked it.  She particularly liked the fact that while the speakers were obviously actors they were quoting what was actually said at the time.  Since the show was seen by our son as well, he suggested that they tell you to read the label introducing each section before you listen to the commentary; that would have solved part of my problem!

I might also recommend going through the show without the audio first and then going back with the audio.  My wife, however, recommends going through with the earphones first and then going back and looking at the works of art that particularly interest you.  Whatever your choice, if you are at all interested in the subject, the exhibition is worth seeing.

The installation is divided thematically by room, so that you get the costumes required of visitors, the development of the palace, the grounds, visits by foreign ambassadors, etc.  Decorative arts such as furniture, royal carpets, porcelain are featured and explained as to their significance with paintings or prints and drawings serving as context.  Here is one of the most impressive room installations.


In the category of American visitors is, of course, Thomas Jefferson who took Benjamin Franklin’s place as Minister to France.  Today he would be called Ambassador.  A few days before the French Revolution began in 1789 he received a passport from Louis XVI so that he could leave the country and come back to the States.  His passport is in the exhibition lent by the Library of Congress.


For the most part this is a cultural history exhibition rather than one of great art treasures. There are, however, some wonderful pieces, for instance, this gilded armchair that has long been part of the Metropolitan’s own collection, given  by J. P. Morgan in 1917. It has been recently identified in an inventory as one used by Louis XIV at Versailles for formal occasions.  The photo is by Anna-Marie Kellen.


My last illustration is an object that will not hit you over the head, but if you are on the lookout for it and you will find it worthwhile.  It is a pietra dura mosaic top for a table from Versailles, here placed on the floor at a tilt for better viewing.  It brings together the arts and sciences with variously colored stones mapping the regions of France. It was presented to Louis XIV in 1684 probably created at the royal art 
factory of the Gobelins in Paris.


Curators for the show are Daniëlle Kisluk-Grosheide, the Henry R. Kravis Curator in the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts at The Met, and Bertrand Rondot, Senior Curator at the Palace of Versailles.  Though there were over 50 lenders, mostly institutional, one thing that struck me is how much was from Versailles itself.  There is a large and sumptuous catalog that comes along with the exhibition.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

An Extraordinary Development Officer

At my age and having been involved in the arts all my life I have come across a great many fund raisers who, in the not for profit world, are known as Development Officers.  Unfortunately, I have met very few who are very good.  Often, when you check out an organization you will find the position of Director of Development is a revolving door.  No sooner are those wonderful interviewees in office than it is found that the only thing they cannot do is raise funds. On the other hand if they are good at their job, they are such a rare commodity that they are offered similar positions in other institutions which they may find more attractive, so they leave.

I don’t believe there are degrees or courses you can take to master the art of getting people to want to give up their funds.  Some development officers, however, use their life experience to achieve that goal.  We are extremely lucky in Santa Fe to have had such a person join the Lensic Performing Art Centre.  Her name is Laura Acquaviva.  I sat down to lunch with her a short while ago to learn her secret.  Though I have known her for a few years now, I instantly realized that on a one to one basis she is a real “people person”.    I had to remind myself more than once that there was a reason for this lunch other than a friendly chat.  It’s an attribute that every salesperson needs to have.  What you want is for the prospect to forget what the bottom line is!


When I asked about her training.  She said that she had gone to Fordham University.   I thought maybe she wanted to be a lawyer or a police officer which are common reasons for going there but her real reason was that she wanted to come to the Big Apple.  She had lived in Scranton, Pennsylvania about 2 ¼ hours away from New York and never been!  She was interested in Marketing and Music since she had studied dance and played the cello.  She received her B.A. in Communication and Media Studies and then went back to Scranton where she would get a Master’s of Education degree from Marywood University.  She taught  in grade school for a brief period of time.

I was curious how did Laura get to Santa Fe?  She told me one of many similar stories you hear often out here.  She followed a guy to Santa Fe and fell in love with the town instead!  Because of her interest and experience in dance she became Managing Director of Cathy Roe Productions and part of the job was running their dance competition.  A task that would require a lot of arrangements such as organizing participants, judges, prizes and an award ceremony.  As we know education may begin at school and university but you only learn once you start working because experience is the best educator.   Laura acquired a position at the Lensic Performing Arts Centre as the Programming and Events Manager.  The Lensic, as a not for profit, has to do a lot for its audience besides performances such as fundraising for a gala every year and smaller events such as meet and greets with performers and at donor events.

Laura Speaking with Lensic Visitors

To my way of thinking if you are good with people you are half way, to being good at asking for something and after almost 5 years as Programming and Events Manager she was tapped in 2018 as the Director of Development. 

I understand that some fund raisers believe that if someone has just made a donation then they are ready to give again so with the form thank you, there is another solicitation.  My reaction to that is often to immediately delete them from my donation list. As I have mentioned before when we first made a meaningful donation to the Lensic we received a handwritten letter from the founder, Nancy Zeckendorf, as well as another member of the board and then got an invitation to lunch from a board member.  When we could not make it we were not forgotten but received a second invitation some time later.

 Laura calls it “donor centered fund raising”.  She does not tell donors what the Lensic needs until she finds out what interests them.  In other words, if they like the idea of education of young people she tells them all that the Lensic does for 15,000 kids annually by bringing them to the Lensic for live performances and bringing, whenever possible, performers to the schools for a one on one experience.  If certain parts of the entertainment industry might be of interest, there is always a need for funds to bring in a dance company or jazz group.  There are special lighting effects or additions to the sound system that need funding or just the care and feeding of the artists themselves.  Maybe the prospect of having the supporter’s name attached to a specific show or group of shows would be attractive.  Laura goes out of her way to say that fund raising is a team effort and to say how much she has gained from working with founder Nancy Zeckendorf, from the Executive Director, Joel Aalberts and her entire support team.

Joel Aalberts & Nancy Zeckendorf

In sum, according to Laura Acquaviva, the most important aspect of successful fund raising is the opposite of selling. It is finding out what your prospective patron might be interested in buying. You just allow them to discover what they would enjoy doing with their spare cash!

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Notorious R.B.G.

When I was a little boy of about 6 or 7 I loved the cowboy programs on the radio and on television, Roy Rogers, The Cisco Kid and The Lone Ranger.  I would stand twirling my toy guns over my bed, so I would not drop them on the floor, never being able to do it like the “real” cowboys. Then in 5th or 6th grade my French teacher who was returning to France left me his entire Perry Mason series. Being a cowboy was not going to happen for this city kid and I decided I was going to give up the guns and be a lawyer instead.  Luckily, I realized early on that I did not have the mind nor memory that a good lawyer needs so I went into the family art dealership.  My fascination with the law, however, never diminished, and in recent decades I have a new hero, RBG.

RBG at work

For those unfamiliar with the initials R.B.G they stand for Ruth Bader Ginsberg (1933-) a most distinguished Associate Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court RBG  who was appointed to the highest court in the land by William Jefferson Clinton in 1993 and where she has served  for a quarter century.  She says that when she joined the court she was the fourth most liberal judge on that illustrious bench but, as the court and politics change, she now considers herself the second most liberal.  You can imagine, therefore, that she has become quite the hero to Democrats and liberals of all ages.

RBG wearing one of her many Court Collars

The film that just came out called “RBG” is one of the best and most interesting in the genre of documentaries. It starts out with RBG quoting 19th-century feminist and abolitionist Sarah Grimké.  "I ask no favor for my sex, all I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.”   RBG is also known as “The Notorious RBG”, a sobriquet that was derived from the rapper known as “The Notorious B.I.G.”  Unfortunately, the rapper,  ranked by Billboard as among the ten greatest rappers of all time, died at age 24 but The Notorious RBG is 85 and still going strong.  She is fond of pointing out that she and B.I.G. both hail from Brooklyn, New York.

The directors of the film, Julie Cohen and Betsy West were very patient for it took two  years for  RBG to agree to interviews and the film.  Meanwhile, the directors were in touch with her family, friends and colleagues.  Her son and daughter and her granddaughter, the latter two both becoming lawyers and receiving their degrees from Harvard Law are part of the tableau painted iby the film, as well as President Clinton and one of the early pioneers of the women’s movement Gloria Steinem, who declares RBG a “Superhero”.


RBG was married soon after she graduated from high school to the love of her life Martin Ginsberg, a noted tax lawyer, who contrary to his colleagues found no problem with women in the law.  He was always her advocate and they remained happily married until his death in 2010.

At Harvard Law School she was one of 9 women in a class of 500.  The Dean invited her and the other in-coming female students for a tea where he asked them how they justified taking the places of 9 men.  She showed him by making The Harvard Law Review that year.  At the time no large law firm would hire a Jewish woman so she taught law instead.  She joined the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) in their fight for equal rights for women.  She argued several landmark cases before the Supreme Court and proving her belief in  equal rights for all in “Frontiero vs. Richardson”.
 
This landmark case was about a female officer in the military who wanted to get benefits for her husband but found that under military statutes that men in the military could get living benefits for their wives, but not vice versa.  Her oral argument, delivered without notes, was greatly admired and helped to bring her to national attention as a champion of the women’s movement.

In the film we see any number of well-known people, conservatives as well as liberals who admire RBG.  As I have mentioned in a past blog, probably her best friend, after her husband, was the most conservative Associate Justice on the Court, Antonin Scalia with whom she shared a passion for opera.  She shows her self awareness and sense of humor in that she confesses to enjoying Kate McKinnon’s humorous take offs on her in the long-lived comedy program “Saturday Night Live”.

RBG and her comedic imitator, Kate McKinnon

Thanks to RBG things have changed since her early days but she continues to make a difference writing incisive dissenting opinions to today’s conservative majority decisions so frequently that she has become known as  “The Great Dissenter”.