Sunday, August 28, 2011

Need to Shop Some More

Back in Santa Fe the Indian and Ethnographic craziness continues.

We came back from Hopi in time for two different Ethnographic fairs and what we call Old Indian Market.  The latter takes place a few days before the big Indian Market at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center.  Dealers from all over come to the Whitehawk Fair to show historical material from many tribes.  We, of course, go from booth to booth, as everyone does in a fair, chatting with friends and colleagues along the way.

Indian Market Shoppers

We, like you, are always looking for a great discovery, that wonderful object that we love and can afford.  As you know that can often turn out to be a pipe dream.  In any case, our quest is always a learning experience.  Seeing things we have not seen before, asking about them, learning the new price structure and most importantly teaching
ourselves about quality.  

Is this one better or less good than the similar object in the other booth or do we have one already that is more satisfactory?  Does this object advance our collection or just add another similar piece to it 

A Young Booth Attendant

Needless to say, Penelope and I often disagree so we then discuss the reasons we feel the way we do.  Inside secret:  watch a dealer’s face when you say I need to speak to my significant other about it.  No matter how hard the dealer tries to cover it up you will see a fleeting grimace on his face and can imagine his groaning inside!

As far as Penelope and I are concerned, we have pretty much split our collection into what each of us collects with overlapping fields as well.  In the other’s area we rarely use our available veto, but, after all, the other has to live with the object as well.   Much more often we agree or one of us has our eyes opened by what the other has said or the information that we learned from the dealer.

Last week-end was the main event on our collecting calendar, Indian Market, with nearly one thousand Native American artists on the Plaza and the streets surrounding it.  The “Sneak Preview” takes place in the Convention Center the evening before Market begins.  The works submitted for prizes are shown with their ribbons, if they have won, along side them.

A Native Northwest Coast Visitor

The reason I have no illustration is that as we were standing in line to get in, a security person walked up and down the line saying, “if you even take out a cell phone or camera inside you will be escorted out of the show.”  Reason given, “copyright issues”.  The next morning, however, at 7am the booths on the streets open for business and everyone is out with their cameras… go figure.

As I have probably said before the Indians often keep their best pieces for the market because they want to submit them for the prize ribbons.  So often, but not always, there are stellar works that one sees at the preview that collectors covet.  If the artist is well known or the work is extraordinary (and they often go together) there will be many who desire the piece.  The rule is that the Indians cannot sell and the collectors cannot buy until exactly 7 am the morning after “Sneak Preview” and, to my knowledge, no one cheats.  What the collectors do, however, is come early.  In fact, in one case this year someone stayed on the plaza all night in the pouring rain to be the first in line at a specific booth.  He wanted to buy the basket that had won the top prize known as “Best In Show”.  It was by Jeremy Frey of the Passamaquoddy tribe in Maine.

And yes, we found a piece we couldn’t leave behind: a silver concho belt by Ed Kabotie, grand-son of Fred Kabotie, who was responsible for the post-WWII renaissance in Hopi art and son of Michael Kabotie, silversmith painter and sculptor.

Ed Kabotie Tewa Migration Concho Belt

If you have the bug, there is no stopping the passionate collector.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Up on the Rez

After our detour to the Mission Church at Laguna, we spent the night in Gallup, New Mexico, on the border of the Navajo Reservation.  The next morning we drove into Arizona through Navajo land and arrived at our destination at Second Mesa on the Hopi Reservation.  Our 13-year-old friend, Joshua, had asked, “what are we going to do here”.  Penelope’s response was, “Nothing” mine was, “Shop and Learn”!

Planned activity is useless where time is valued so differently. Even ceremonial dances are not scheduled to begin at a set hour.  They  simply start when the participants are ready.  Time just does not have the same significance to the Native Americans.  In fact I have a tee-shirt that I bought at the Santa Clara Pueblo that says…

After we had driven to the top of Second Mesa we arrived at Tsakurshovi, the trading post that belongs to our friends, Janice and Joseph Day, she is Hopi, he is Anglo.  They live next to their shop at the edge of the Mesa. Their business is both with the Indians and the Anglos.  The primary difference is that the Indians usually trade and the Anglos pay cash.  Both are necessary to keep the trading post going.

We began our time at Hopi in search of Native treasures, otherwise known as shopping!   We visited many of the artists and dealers who have places along the road between 2nd and 3rd Mesas and they were more than happy to discuss what they had and what they made.   By talking about the subject matter of the Katsinas, which can have a different significance in each village and discussing techniques used to create the pottery and silver we learned a great deal about native customs as well as crafts. The tribe’s biggest enterprise is the creation of artifacts that are not just sold at Hopi but all over the Southwest and even as far away as Japan.

We also saw a dance at the Tewa Village of Hano and “discovered” a rodeo near another of the villages.  In the end we found far more we wanted to do than we had time for.

The greatest treat, however, was when Joseph, who is quite the raconteur took us to a remote site which is not open to visitors.  It is an incredible spot where Joseph said we could find 12 to 14,000 petroglyphs, not that he had counted.  I have never seen so many and at many different levels from places we could reach on foot to parts so high up you would have to scale the rock face to get there.  They range in date from several thousand years ago to more recent work known today as graffiti!  World Monuments’ Fund out of New York was asked, not long ago, to come out to show the Hopi how to remove the graffiti and what might be done to prevent it in the future.

Joshua was the only one in our party, that Sunday evening, who could climb through a crevice and reach the top of a rock formation where he discovered a pair of short swords in opposite sides of a single sheath.  When he came down and described what he had seen, Joseph said he believed they were an offering made by a veteran of Afghanistan or Iraq.

We learned about “sun daggers” a phenomenon re-discovered only 35 years ago.  These are rock carvings positioned so as to interact with the rays of the sun at the March 20/21 and September 22/23 equinoxes. This was how the ancient Anasazi people kept the calendar essential to their agriculture.

We had been so engrossed in our tour of discovery that as nightfall overtook us Joseph took the wheel of our car in a race through the darkness along unmarked roads back to Tsakurshovi where Janice was waiting for us.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Church at Laguna

Our 13-year old houseguest, Joshua, from Portland, Oregon, wanted us to take him and his Dad to the Hopi Reservation, but even before we got there we had a very Native American experience.  On the way Penelope requested that we go off the highway at the Laguna Pueblo so that we could visit the mission church there that we had never seen before.

When we arrived at the church we were lucky in that there were no tour buses or visitors about.  The bad news was that the priest was not there, and the Custodian came out of her office at 11:15 AM announcing that she was off to lunch and if we wanted to wait around for an hour she would be happy to show us the church.

We thanked her and proceeded to walk around the beautiful undulating stone and white stucco church.  In the graveyard behind the church we came across the grave of a World War II veteran freshly decorated with flags and on the church wall a shrine in honor of the Laguna Indians who had lost their lives in that war.  It reminded us of the Indians’ patriotism even though they didn’t have the right to vote at that time.

From the terrace at the back of the church, we were staring out at the breath-taking landscape below when an Indian carrying a flute appeared and asked if we had seen the church.  We told him that it was locked and so we would not be able to see it on this visit.  He replied that he would take us in.

Clearly delighted at the opportunity to educate the tourists, he snuck into a back entrance and opened the main church doors for us.  He then proceeded, for the next hour, to tell us not only the history of the church but also his life story. 

In 1680 the Southwest Pueblos, in a rare gesture of solidarity, joined forces and threw out the Spanish.  Twelve years later, however, the Spanish returned and reclaimed the territory.  By the end of the century the Laguna pueblo had built a mission church and requested their own priest who clearly was there to convert all from their, supposedly, heathen ways. 

We were in this very church dedicated to San Jose or St. Joseph, patron saint of the Spanish New World.   Though original, it had gone through frequent renovation and re-decoration.

The Indian designs on the side walls were all of recent vintage but the altarpiece with St. Joseph was painted in 1808-1809 by the Laguna Master.
Our guide’s name was Alfred Pinot and his card said "Laguna Artist, ornaments, pottery, murals, eggs".   He had been introduced to the church as an altar boy over 30 plus years ago.  His mother had not been religious but he brought her to the church and over time she became devoted to Kateri Tekakwitha or Catherine Tekakwitha, a 17th Century Mohawk-Alogonquin Indian who converted early to Catholicism and has been beatified. Our guide’s mother believed her prayers before the figure of the Blessed Kateri, that stands beside the altar rail, made possible their move to a wonderful new home.

Like many Native Americans our guide had some problem thinking in a linear fashion and his story twisted and turned until he got to his goal of playing on his flute a song that he had written.  To our relief the Native American composition was melodious and it sounded wonderful in the church.

We came away feeling that we had experienced a rare blend of cultures, and young Joshua received an introduction to the Southwest that he could not have found in a book.

*Disclaimer:  We strictly adhered to the rules of the Pueblo and did not take photos.  The ones shown here were found on Google Images and Wikimedia.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Spanish Market

The last weekend of July we enjoyed the annual Spanish Market in Santa Fe. It is one of the few large fairs which occupy the entire center of town. The streets around the Plaza are all closed down for mostly exhibition booths but also a section of food kiosks.

Founded by the Spanish Colonial Art Society which was formed in 1925, the first fair was held in 1926. It has continued ever since, though between 1935 and 1965 it was mixed in with Indian Market which I will be writing about in a few weeks time. The weekend is kicked off by a special preview of works submitted for prizes with the winning entries tagged with ribbons. They are divided into various categories such as Straw Appliqué, Textiles, Furniture, Pottery and Bultos which are carvings and Retablos which are paintings on wood of religious subjects.

The Spanish Colonial Society has been very strict in insisting on an adherence to traditional values but for the first time this year a category for innovation within the traditions is being allowed for 30% of an artist’s booth, if, that is, he has been “juried in” (been approved) for that category. An artist has to have been in the Market for at least two years to qualify. Here is an example of an original interpretation of a St. Christopher by Gustavo Victor Goler which won this year’s blue ribbon for innovation.

Twenty-five years ago the artists who did non-traditional Hispanic art could not get into the traditional market so they rebelled and created their own show, called the Contemporary Hispanic Market in the court yard of the Palace of the Governors. These days, however, they occupy two long blocks perpendicular to the Plaza with booths as far as the eye can see. Frankly, we were rather disappointed in the Contemporary Market offerings this year, though in former years many excited us. What is nice about fairs are the surprises one can have, but there are never so many that you get bored with the treasure hunt.

There are several excellent furniture makers at Spanish Market but I believe the best this year is Andrew Garcia who won the blue ribbon for this trastero.

He also makes tables with uneven hand-gouged and smoothed tops sloping towards the edges. Not great for writing on but absolutely wonderful to both the eye and touch.

There is always a great deal of tin work on display and it is amazing how certain artists stand out in their work. Justin Gallegos Mayrant is one of those and here he is in his booth with a few of his pieces.

Using a raised or layered frame his work appears to be three-dimensional, distinguishing it from the work with more punched ornament on flat sheets which describes much of the other tin work in the show. Last Year Justin showed a Madonna in tin that bore eyelashes (now that was a first!).
The artists often have a book of illustrations in their booths so that the visitor can span the artist’s potential and possibly commission a work, be it a frame for a photo or a beautiful Madonna.

We met a contingent of visitors who came down from Denver for the Market. Among them were three curators, a conservator as well as docents and collectors who buy for their own collections and upon occasion for the Denver Art Museum. They come every year to look, study and keep up with what is happening in their field of interest. It is no coincidence that Denver has one of the foremost Spanish Colonial Collections in this country.

There is plenty for one and all at Spanish Market.