Sunday, August 26, 2018

Too Many Indians

One little, two little, too many Indians!

You know you love your young children, but admit it, once school vacations are over you heave a sigh of relief when they go back to school and you are back to work.  Well, that is the way we feel after the last 10 days here in Santa Fe.

First there were three  major fairs occurring over one week. One sold all kinds of art, Asian, Spanish Colonial, Native American and miscellaneous material called “Objects of Art Show”. Then there is “The Antique Indian and Ethnographic show” and finally, “Antique American Indian Art Show”.   In addition one finds small satellite fairs.  Dealers come from around the country, some doing more than one of these shows, holding their best pieces for the show they think is the most important or brings in the best collectors. 

At one of the shows we saw a piece that we seriously considered. It had just been sold to the dealer a couple of weeks before at a fair in Albuquerque where one sometimes finds bargains if you know what you are looking for, but we had skipped it this year.  It was a very rare piece of textile, a shirt made by a Hopi Indian probably between 1920 and 1930.  We decided to pass on it as we have a vest that is similar though not as elaborate as this one had more embroidery and sleeves.  Here is an image of the piece.


Let us not forget the many Santa Fe galleries that also put out their best Native American objects over these weeks.  The museums also often have Native American exhibitions on.

Last week I wrote about The Ralph T. Coe Center show which opened in this same week.  (It also happened to be our anniversary which deserved some celebration after 43 years.)  Then there was one of our favorite events of the year, Feast Day at Santa Clara Pueblo where we can observe Indian dances on four  plazas and a feast fit for kings at a good friend’s home.

We had a few meals to share with collectors, curators and a museum director.  I am exhausted just writing about this prelude to the culmination of the week which is the SWAIA (Southwest Association for India Arts) Indian Market, a 3-day extravaganza which we have been going to for the past 28 years!  There are over 100 Native American Nations represented and over 10 times as many artists in booths around the Plaza and 10 times that number of visitors come from all over the world.  When over a hundred thousand visitors descend on a town of 70,000 residents it tends to get crowded and excitement fills the air. You don’t need auction fever (though there are a number of auctions during this time) to  be swept up in a feeding frenzy of art acquisition.


No one is allowed to buy or sell before the official Indian Market opens Saturday at 7:00 AM sharp. There is a judging the days before and then a preview event where one can go to see the works entered for prizes and the winners.  A few collectors arrive on the Plaza as early as 4:00 am to be sure they are first in line for a prize winner and in some cases, they even pay someone to stand in their place until they arrive just before 7:00.

Only once, about 25 years ago, did we arrive with our excited young son, Hunter, around 6:30 to buy prize winners: a basket from Evangeline Talaheftewa and a silver concho belt from her son, Roy.  At the preview this year we spotted two  pieces that we were seriously interested in and to our amazement they were still available around 7:30 the next morning.  Maybe it was because they didn’t receive prizes! 

The first was a bolo tie. I own quite a number which are Hopi overlay silver but this bolo was quite different, made of zirconian and carbon  fiber  by Pat Pruitt. To quote from his biography, “Pat Pruitt is a contemporary artist of Laguna, Chiricahua Apache and Anglo descent who is known for his cutting-edge work that uses innovative materials …”. That was the perfect description of what I saw at preview in the large case of glittering jewelry by other artists.  When I sent him a photo our son responded, “Wow that's the sleekest bolo I've ever seen. It's like the "Night Rider" of bolos. “  I could not agree more.


The second piece that intrigued us was a Katsina carving by Ron Honyumtewa from Hopi.  He described it as follows, “This piece of Masauu is a reminder to us all, he is the guardian, the caretaker and watches us all (humans) letting us know we are only guest of his world and for this reason we see the destruction of what is occurring in the world today. This piece is called, “Katsi Yay Ngwa” a New Life Beginning ...”  Here is an image of the Katsina and a photo the artist gave us as he developed it showing that I was carved out of one piece of wood.



To be able to acquire these two objects and see so many friends who came to our neck of the woods for Indian Market made the hectic pace worth it. As our son said as a young teenager, “This collecting is exhausting”!

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