Sunday, August 26, 2012

Indian Market 2012

Indian Market was started in 1922 under the auspices of none other than Edgar L. Hewett, founding director of the School of American Research and the Museum of New Mexico and responsible for saving the Palace of the Governors, as well as building the Art Museum.   It started as an indoor fair but it has grown and grown until today when it takes up the entire plaza plus about 10 additional blocks.  This year there were over 1000 Native American exhibitors from160 tribes and Villages.

More than 100,000 visitors come to Santa Fe for Indian Market from all over the country and abroad.  During the last two weeks I have been counting state license plates.  I have found over 30 states represented and a couple of provinces from Canada.  They have come from as far as Alaska, Vermont and Florida.  This is clearly the main event of the year for Santa Fe.

Each year there is a preview the night before market begins for members of SWAIA (the South West Association for Indian Art) that organizes the market.  This year there was an additional preview event, a luncheon at which the winner of the prize for the best piece in their category and the object voted best overall of the entire show is announced and the artists celebrated.  There were about 200 who came out for the luncheon and another 8,200 for the evening preview.

They come in order to get a jump on the tens of thousands of others and see which prize winners they may wish to seek out.  Just like Spanish Market, no one is allowed to buy that day but has to wait until  the next morning.  One such individual who got up early to get a prize winning piece was the founder of a major East Coast financial firm.  He has a great private collection of Indian ceramics and wished to add a prize winning piece by Susan Folwell.  To be sure he would get it he arrived on the plaza at 2:30 AM to wait at the artist’s booth, knowing full well that he would not be able to buy it before 7 AM.  Now that is what I call a devoted collector!

When we first came out for Indian Market around 1990 we wanted to devour everything in sight.  There were works of art not just in our chosen area of collecting, the Hopi Tribe, but works from all over the country.  North West Coast and the Art of the Plains Indians seemed particularly attractive but, like most collectors, we have limits of space and disposable income.  That is where the discipline comes in and that is probably part of the fun of collecting, deciding what is really important to you.  While Penelope and I each make our own choices, we do try to influence each other, and, if there is a big negative, i.e. “I don’t want to live with this”, it is left behind.  Of course, after collecting for over 20 years your ‘eye’ has been refined and there are not many gaps to fill.  We now buy mainly what we feel we cannot live without, or something that lifts our spirits.

Let me tell you about one such piece.  As mentioned in the past, the Hopi on the Reservation do not live in the lap of luxury, many still have outhouses, but they always retain their sense of humor, and it is often bawdy. So there was one object that was not part of Indian Market but at the Blue Rain Gallery that we could not leave behind.

Neil David is a carver that uses a Hopi koshari clown as his main character and he has made it his own.  Many funny things happen to his clown in his carvings such as his dog grabbing his breach cloth from behind and taking it off.  We bought a variation on the theme.  Neil David’s clown is sitting in his outhouse with a pained straining expression on his face.  On the outside of the outhouse he has written comments such as “Keep Politics out of the Kivas”  and  “Be Neat – Rest your Butt on the Seat”!

We give a small dinner every year at this time and this year we had a curator from Edinburgh, the director from the Museum of Northern Arizona and his editor wife, as well as a prominent dealer in town and his wife who is a designer of unique clothing.  Needless to say, it makes for great conversation and learning.  Indian Market is a time for people who love Native Art to come to town and we get to mingle with friends made in the field over the last 20 years.

N.B.  Bruce Bernstein, Executive Director of SWAIA, has just written a book called, “Santa Fe Indian Market:  A History of Native Arts and the Market Place”, published by the Museum of New Mexico Press.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Ricardo Caté

My introduction to Native American humor came years ago when we visited Canyon de Chelly in Arizona.  It has been home to the ancestors of the Hopi and in more recent times to the Navajo Nation and is designated today as a National Monument.  When we arrived with our son who was 10 or 11 at the time we decided to take the prescribed tour of the canyon floor. Together with all the other tourists we piled into the old school bus and waited for the tour to get underway.  A group of Indians were sitting on a wall nearby and one fellow with his arms folded grinned at us and said, “Shake and Bake, shake and bake”.  I must admit I did not quite get the humor until we started under way and rattled over the canyon floor in the broiling heat!

Ricardo Caté is an Indian from Santa Domingo pueblo, today known as Kewa, 30 miles south of Santa Fe.  He is a cartoonist who creates a bridge between the Native American and Anglo cultures.  His sense of humor comes out of his pueblo culture.  It is partly cynical and partly satirical.  I must admit I don’t get every cartoon but that single frame which appears in the Santa Fe New Mexican every single morning sometimes has me clutching my sides laughing.  In fact every once in a while a cartoon will inspire a letter to the editor from a well-meaning Anglo complaining that  Caté is politically incorrect,. Some people just don’t get his view of the world.

From the New Mexican

Of course, it helps to know where he is coming from but by now every schoolchild knows about the hardship Native Americans have suffered, much of it caused by the Anglos.  And everyone is acquainted with how the Indian is portrayed in popular culture.  Much of the humor has the same significance in our culture as in theirs.  What child has not heard his elders complain about the remote control that came with the TV set or heard them talk about how there was no such thing in their day.  So the image of the old Indian in his armchair with a broomstick to reach the channels is not foreign.

Caté says he inherited his sense of humor from his Dad.  Even in grade school he was drawing comics.  Two of his favorite cartoonists were Don Martin of MAD Magazine and Charles Schultz of Peanuts fame. Caté’s work reminds me very much of Peanuts and the universal truths that come from that strip every single time.   Caté, however, produces his zingers in a single frame making them even more poignant..

Caté was in the Marines posted in Japan but he has spent most of his life taking care of family and for the last 15-20 years that has been his three children.   When they were just reaching teen age he asked their permission to go to college so that he could get better jobs.  He must be in his 40’s and got his degree less than a decade ago.  Now he can teach but he also deals cards in a Casino and he has had many other occupations over the years

In 2006 Caté walked into the New Mexican editorial offices and asked if he could submit a cartoon for the daily paper and was told he would have to submit it through a syndicate.   He much prefers the direct approach and kept insisting that they at least take a look.  Finally the publisher agreed to look at the dozen or so drawings that he had with him.  She started to laugh and called in her colleagues who also started to laugh and they finally agreed to reserve a place for his cartoon every single day.   The challenge for Caté has been keeping to that fixed schedule but he has managed to do so for the past half dozen years.

Sometime Caté does express his frustration with the encroachment of the U.S. government on Indian land, which seems to be a never ending battle.  One such cartoon is this one.

But more often it is done with a sense of humor that has struck a common chord in us all.

Although he self-published a previous book and a calendar, the first book of his cartoons with a commercial publisher has just come out (Without Reservations, the Cartoons Ricardo Caté - available at with general distribution that will make his work available to a much wider audience.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Spanish Market

During the summer in Santa Fe there is so much of national interest going on in the Art World that one week alone I found a review of the performance of the opera, King Roger by the Polish composer Karol Szymanowski in the New York Times and another review of a contemporary show, “Art in the Age of Truthiness” at Site Santa Fe (our Kunst Halle) in Time Magazine.

Here we find three different Art Worlds.  There is the contemporary art scene, the Native American field and traditional local Hispanic arts, whose annual “Spanish Market” takes over the center of town the last week-end in July. The traditional art forms that have been developed in the Hispanic communities of New Mexico are retablos (religious painting on panel) bultos (woodcarving of religious figures) tinwork, jewelry and textiles.

At Spanish Market opening night, which take place at the convention center, works entered to win awards and honors are exhibited and the prize winners are celebrated.  Members of the Spanish Colonial Art Museum are invited to preview the work, meet the artists, and decide who of the hundreds of artists they might most want to visit during the two days of the fair when the artists man their booths on the plaza and their work goes on sale. The Mayor, David Koss, and the Mayor Pro Tem, Rebecca Wurzburger, come especially to honor the artists.  Both, I believe, would be there even unofficially because they told me that they really enjoy it and I saw them go around to the individual booths.

We returned Sunday morning with an old friend from New York who collects in many fields.  One of his main interests is in Mannerist style painting around 1600, mostly Middle European and Flemish and a number of them are painted on panel.  I don’t think he was convinced that there would be material of interest to him here, but he soon found out this was not the case.  We learned together how knowledgeable many of the artists are about the history of art and the conservation of materials.  We did have the advantage that Penelope, the art historian and curator, led us mostly to the best artists in the market.

We visited the booth of Gustavo Victor Goler, one of the best Santeros (literally Saint Makers).  I love his interpretations of traditional subjects and he offers his own updating to the saints. One such is a bulto (a santo carved in the round) of Saint Lucia (283-304) who had her eyes gouged out before her martyrdom so she became the patron Saint of the blind.  Traditionally she is portrayed with her eyes on a platter, here she has a pair of glasses.

"St. Lucia" by Gustavo Victor Goler @ Blue Rain Gallery 

Because of Goler’s work in wood and having clients all over the country he has learned about how to take care of the material in this very arid climate. He is also a conservator who restored the historic collection of bultos in the New Mexico Museum of History. He was able to discuss with Joel methods for protecting his European panel paintings should he decide to bring them to Santa Fe.

Spanish Market exists in two sections, the main one is the traditional market which takes its lead from the original rules and is very slow to change.  The other is the Contemporary Spanish Market. Here we found a paper cutting artist, Catalina Delgado Trunk, whose  art form can be traced back to the 6th century, but it is a Mexican not a New Mexican tradition, so it does not fall within the traditional market’s categories.  She has taught, published and had curatorial experience and she ended up discussing Holbein with our friend!  Just because artists are in Contemporary Market does not mean they are unaware of art history.

"Tras Los Catrines" by Catalina Delgado Trunk 

As any regular readers of my Missives knows, we collect Native American art and we have bought little in the way of Hispanic art though we have a number of pieces of good WPA furniture by Hispanic artists.  We have, however, purchased small contemporary pieces such as tin switch plates, calling card holder and frames.  This time we ended up with a far more serious object, a mirror, not with a tinwork frame but a wood carved one by Andrew Garcia.  It has roots in the artistic history of New Mexico in that the birds are adapted from carved pieces by Nicolai Fechin, a Russian émigré painter who after the Bolshevik revolution settled in Taos, New Mexico.   Also, the chiseled surface of the wood goes back to a style used by Jesse Nussbaum who was responsible for much of the 1917 art museum and its furniture here.  Penelope has been working recently on furniture made in New Mexico at the beginning of the twentieth century so she saw her name written on this mirror.  It did not hurt that Garcia won first prize for furniture, or that the Spanish Colonial Museum here had selected Garcia as the poster artist for this year’s Market, illustrating a piece the Museum had purchased at Market last year.

"Wood carved mirror" by Andrew Garcia

Garcia mirror detail

Spanish Market proved, once again, that there are still masters to be found in traditions that remain alive.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Visit to Hopi

Lucy is the third grandchild we have brought up to Hopi.  We always start out at our friends on 2nd Mesa, Joseph and Janice Day.  Janice is Hopi and Joseph is Anglo though after so many years here he has certainly acquired a great deal from his adopted people.  The Days own a small trading post, Tsakurshovi, just at the top of Second Mesa, where they buy from the Indians who come in from all three Mesas with their art works.  The Days then bring their practiced eye to the objects and make their choices.  You can be sure that everything is authentic.

It was slightly chaotic when we arrived at the Days’ home that Saturday because it was the weekend of Home Dance.  This is the last katsina dance of the year before the katsinam leave to go to their home in the San Francisco Peaks. After all the Villages have celebrated the Home Dance there will be only social, non-religious, dances, until the katsinam return in the fall. 

The weekend we were there the Home Dance was at Janice Day’s village, Shungopavi.  It is traditional that when the dance is at your Village to entertain all who come and feed them all day.  That means family, friends, visitors and clients.  There was more food than one could eat, corn, chili stew, enchiladas, turkey, fruit salad and I mustn’t forget all the pies, which came in every imaginable flavor.

A Hopi garden

At the “Cultural Center,” as it is called, there is a motel with, unfortunately, poor management.  Having gone annually for the past 20+ years we know what to expect so we even had room numbers with our reservation, rooms next to each other on the top floor (ie the 2nd floor).  After over 30 minutes we got two rooms on the ground floor with a room in between (a family of 8 sleeping in shifts)!

Finally, we could go off for the main purpose of our visit, to show Lucy a katsina dance.  The dances go on from dawn til dusk (except when they don’t) and this weekend they were at two different villages.  The dances are never identical and are varied during the day.  No one, except a few of the villagers who live on the plaza, stays for a full day.  Our tolerance is usually for a single dance per village which varies, but usually lasts up to 45 minutes to an hour.

 At the first village we went to, Oraibi, they were doing a Long Hair Katsina dance.  There are many different katsinam and many varieties within each category.  The Longhair happens to be one of my personal favorites.

Long Hair Katsina bearing gifts

At the village we visited next, Shungopavi, they were doing a Hemis Katsina dance.  At least during the hour we were there, it was the more interesting.  Many dances have a gift giving part to them and they are always different.  In this case, most of the gifts were toy bows and arrows for the boys and Katsina dolls for the girls and small baskets of fruit for the adults.  Usually these are destined for members of the dancer’s family as well as certain select friends.  At some dances they actually throw individual pieces of fruit.  I once found myself on the plaza with Hopi friends and one melon was thrown directly at me.  Rather than catch it like an Indian should, I ducked! 

Many Anglos and Indians watch from the roofs of the houses around the plaza and on this particular day some younger Hopi had to scramble down from the roof to collect their gifts. There were so many gifts to give out at this dance that the ceremony took quite some time.

What I found especially marvelous at the Hemis Katsina dance were the katsinmanas (katsina maidens).  Since women are not allowed to dance in a katsina dance (just social dances) the mana’s are actually men.  During part of the dance they kneel on the ground in front of the Hemis katsinam and play rasps on resonators while the Katsinam rhythmically shake their rattles.  The sound in the small plaza was absolutely mesmerizing.

Hemis Katsinas with Katsinmanas

As I am sure I have said before the katsinam dance in order to bring the rain.  Happily it worked extremely well this year and we had such a lightning and thunderstorm that the electricity went out at Shungopavi for three hours and we were in the dark!