Sunday, June 29, 2014

Rodeo de Santa Fe

I am not a sports person.  The only team sports that ever interested me were the Brooklyn Dodgers of the 1950’s and more recently, the World Cup of Football (soccer) but I have always had some interest in the sports where one is actually competing against oneself.

No sport is probably more like that than Rodeo.  There the cowboy risks life and limb in order to do better not only than his competitors but better than he did the last time he rode.

Rodeo, logically enough, started among cowboys  (Vaqueros) in Spain and Mexico who would get together to test their working skills against each other.  In the first quarter of the 19th century it came to the United Sates, out west and Northern Mexico.  Rodeo became more formalized after the civil war and Prescott Arizona claims to have the earliest professional rodeo where admission was charged in 1888.

Growing up with the TV shows of the 1950’s such as Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rodgers, Gene Autry, The Lone Ranger etc.  I loved the west and always imagined being a cowboy!  So a great thrill for me was the rodeo at Madison Square Garden, inaugurated there in 1922.  According to a real cowboy I met sometime ago it is the goal of every rodeo rider to do their thing at the Garden and they work their way up through the regional circuits.  So again, I was spoiled I had, unknowingly, already seen the best.

Some things are different, of course, at the annual Rodeo De Santa Fe, which we attended recently.  For instance our Mayor, Javier Gonzales, participated in the team steer roping the first day; and further this notice is not necessary in New York City: “HORSES may only participate in the parade but cannot be ridden through town or at the Plaza afterwards per Santa Fe Police Department.”

Mayor Javier Gonzalez

A relatively new event, approximately 30 years old, is Mutton Busting, which occurs twice during the program, once before the official rodeo begins.  Children 4 and under weighing less than 60 lbs. are supplied with a vest and helmet and placed on a sheep in a shoot.  When the shoot opens the sheep runs out trying to get rid of the child who rarely lasts the full 6 seconds required.  The cutest one I saw was the sheep who ran out without the child who was left standing at the entry to the shoot with a “what happened” expression on her face.  Most contestants just dropped off as they were coming out of the shoot.  One little boy who was sitting next to us and went off with his parents when his time came in the second round had a similar experience, but he was not at all disappointed, and told me he would be happy to do it again.  Unfortunately he will be too old next year.

There are seven other events in all and one can see why they are all necessary activities on a ranch, such as bareback riding, steer roping wrestling and tying the legs of the steer so it can be branded.

Barrel racing is probably the event that shows the greatest control in leading a horse and is usually performed by cowgirls.  It’s certainly more genteel but it is also the most lyric.  Speed alone is not enough that horse has to be guided seamlessly in clover-leaf patterns around three barrels.  Even if the rider is good enough not to knock over a barrel the horse must also be very skilled and always has to be on the correct foot not to slow down the ride.

The most popular and most exciting contest is the bull riding.  Bull taming has been traced back to Minoan times, 27th to 15th centuries B.C.E.  They have one section near the beginning and another at the end which everyone stays for.

We felt we had gotten our money’s worth in good riding and much excitement and are looking forward to next year.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Coup de Foudre or Smoldering Flame

There are various translations for the French expression “coup de foudre” such as bolt of lightning or a sudden event from out of nowhere but all agree on “love at first sight”. 
This can happen with a pet, an individual and even a work of art.  You just know this is a person or object of your dreams.

But there is also another kind of love that can come through being with someone through thick and thin which usually occurs through proximity and working together.    Someone you saw in the office together and one day realized the person is more interesting than you first thought.

This can happen on a movie set where everyone is thrown together with a single project that they work on intensely together. Something like that happened between me and my wife.  We spent a couple of years working on an exhibition, ”The Grand Gallery” at the Metropolitan Museum from 1972 to 1975 and something clicked and we were married in 1975.  For me this happened a second time with another woman but this one was made out of bronze.

My father often asked the question, “Why do kids get along so well with their grandparents?”  The answer, “because they have a common enemy!”  This is true of art too.  Often we like what our grandparents liked not out parents.  Then as we get older as in all things we begin to appreciate what our parents appreciated and understand better why.

In the specific case that I am thinking of it was a bronze sculpture that I found boring when my parents acquired it in my youth.   When my parents died, however, and I inherited it from their estate I had decisions to make.   It did not really go with my inventory being German 20th century so where could I put her?  I decided that I would live with her kneeling on the staircase on the way to our bedroom of the townhouse in New York City that served as gallery and home.  Every night I would pass her glittering body on the stairs and I found myself patting her head on the way up. 

Not to keep you in suspense any longer the bronze is by Georg Kolbe (1877 Waldheim/Sachsen - 1947 Berlin) and is called “Kniende” (Kneeling Woman).  She kneels 21 ¼ inches tall and the model dates from 1926.   We are lucky in that the piece is signed with the artist’s initials and bears the Foundry Mark which dates it after 1936, The artist died in 1947 and the foundry went on for some years after that, so people want to know if it was cast while the artist was still alive.  So far, we have found no way to figure that out but the quality is first rate and not many models of the piece are known.  There is one in the Princeton University Art Museum and another in the Kolbe Museum in Berlin and probably a few others.

Though collectors might care if the artist was still alive when the lady was cast, when you are in love such things don’t matter.   So what to do when we gave up the gallery and moved permanently to the Southwest?  I no longer wanted to sell her.  I did not want to put her in the warehouse with other works of art from my inventory and she certainly would not go with our Native American collection in Santa Fe - no staircase here either.   Then I found someone else as passionate as I was.  It was a surprise and a bit embarrassing, having my older son and I after the same woman!  I figured that at my age I was the one who would have to step back so she has moved to Michigan and the object of my affection is now living with my son Danny and his family.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Southwestern Allure

 “Southwestern Allure:  The Art of the Santa Fe Art Colony”, currently at the New Mexico Museum of Art, would be an obvious exhibition to have  originated somewhere in the Southwest, but it did not.  Instead it comes out of the Southeast, --Boca Raton, Florida.  The Director of the Boca Museum of Art, Steven Maklansky explains in the introduction to the catalog for the show, “Here in Boca Raton we understand how a warm climate, attractive natural resources and a bit of optimistic city planning can make all the difference.”  I guess it is a choice do you prefer the mountains or the sea?

The show is guest curated by an art historian and independent curator, Valerie Ann Leeds, out of New York.  Her field of expertise is American art and she-has written several books on the artist Robert Henri (1865-1929), who, it turns out, had a strong Santa Fe connection.

New Mexico only became a State in the 20th century, 1912 to be exact.  Edgar Lee Hewett (1865-1946) who was an anthropologist and archeologist by training turned into the guru of all things art at that time.  He felt that the historic Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe, where he established the Museum of New Mexico in 1909 was not enough to exhibit the work of all the artists who were coming to Santa Fe, so he campaigned for the construction of a separate art gallery, now the New Mexico Museum of Art, that opened in 1917.  It’s architecture was the model for what is now known as “the  Santa Fe Style”.

Robert Henri was a great influence on Hewett who convinced him to come to Santa Fe where a group of artists was already in residence in 1916.  Henri had trained in the academic tradition at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and in Paris. but became one of the leaders of the Ashcan School, and the organizer of "The Eight", a group of artists who objected to the restrictive exhibition practices of the conservative National Academy of Design in New York.  In Santa Fe, Henri could do something about it, He convinced Hewett to adopt a policy of open non-juried exhibitions. Although Henri continued to work in a number of locations including Philadelphia and Paris and Ireland, but he also enjoyed working in Santa Fe and became fascinated with Indian culture. “Macedonia”, 1917, from the Ray and Kay Harvey Collection, is one of his many portraits of Native American subjects.

The first exhibition specifically of the Santa Fe Artists’ Colony was in 1915 in the Palace of the Governors, and a few more artists joined in 1916, but it all came together in 1917 at the Art Museum’s inaugural show that Hewett asked Henri to organize.  He amplified the representation of regional artists with names well known to Easterners such as Leon Kroll and George Bellows.  By 1918 Marsden Hartley came to New Mexico and John Sloan soon thereafter.  Even Georgia O’Keeffe visited New Mexico in 1917 though she did come not here regularly until the 1930’s and it became her permanent home only in 1949 when she was already in her 60’s.

I had always thought of John French Sloan as a New York artist for his city genre scenes are so well known.  He came to visit Henri, however, in Santa Fe in 1918 and from then on came out for four months a year for the next thirty years .  In “The New Homestead” 1930, courtesy of the Kaushaar Gallery in New York and the Gerald Peters Gallery in Santa Fe, he depicted himself, (with pipe) in a gathering in the home of the local artist Will Shuster.

Not all the artists who followed Henri’s lead stayed for a long time but he did bring out some of the best.  Edward Hopper, for instance, came for just one summer in 1925, but recorded his impressions in a series of watercolors.  George Bellows came a few times in order to get together with his teacher Henri and friend Leon Kroll who also paid periodic visits.  In 1917 Bellows painted one of the landmarks of the area, the “Santuario de Chimayo”, collection of Judy and Lee Dirks.

The German-born Gustave Baumann (1881-1971), planning to move to Taos, New Mexico, did not find it to his liking, but he had heard of the new art museum which was welcoming to local artists in 1918 so he came down to Santa Fe. This  master of the color woodcut made Santa Fe his home until his death.  Frank Applegate (1881-1931), who is one of my personal favorites, was another East Coast artist who decided to move to California in 1920 but on his way stopped in Santa Fe and stayed.  His untitled "Indian Village" from the collection of Gerald and Kathleen Peters, shows a pueblo feast day.

The story of the artists’ colony would not be complete, however, without mentioning the “Lungers”.  Between 1880 and 1940 there was a great influx of individuals seeking a cure from tuberculosis, which then killed more people in the U.S. than any other disease.   One of the better known "Lungers” was Will Shuster and one of his best paintings, “Corn Dance” done in 1920, from the collection of Gerald & Kathleen Peters is in the exhibition.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Case of the Pritzlaff Ranch

Who would expect to find wonderful art in the middle of nowhere?  There I was on a ranch in Northern New Mexico.  We had passed through the town of Los Vegas, New Mexico and gone along roads that seemed like they hadn’t been repaved in way too long and then arrived at the 3,300 acre spread known as the Pritzlaff Ranch.

Richard Pritzlaff died in 1997 and left the ranch to the Nature Conservancy.  When they decided to sell it Pritzlaff’s grand nephew, also named Richard bought it and  passed it on to the  Biophilia Foundation, which is devoted to the protection of natural resources and especially wildlife habitat.   This organization now wants to donate the ranch to the US Fish and Wildlife Service as a second unit of the new Rio Mora National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area. Herein  lies the rub: Fish and Wildlife does not have the mandate for art preservation and the situation is complicated by the culturally sensitive nature of murals on the property.

The ranch, like many had been stitched together between the 1930’s and the 1950’s.  As an Easterner I can remember just waiting until our neighbors moved so we could put two apartments together!  For reasons that we do not know in 1942 a Native American artist born at the Zia Pueblo, Velino Shije Herrera  (1902-1973) whose Indian name was Ma Pe Wi showed up at the ranch. Quite possibly he went from ranch to ranch looking for work or since Richard Pritzlaff (1902-1997) was known as a collector of Chinese and Native American art he may have been invited.   He painted murals there, not in the large main house but in one of the outlying buildings where the ranch hands lived consisting of two large rooms suitable for 3 or 4 beds on each side and the bathroom in between.

Herrera was born at Zia Pueblo and studied at the Indian School in Santa Fe with the legendary teacher Elizabeth De Huff. Herrera was then taken under the wing of Edgar Lee Hewitt, an archeologist and founder of the Museum of New Mexico, who had him paint the walls of the kiva reconstructed in 1938 at the Coronado Historic Site. Herrera went on to depict Native imagery in murals in the U.S. Department of the Interior in D.C. and the Koshare Indian Museum in La Junta, Colorado.  He won numerous awards including the Caldecott Award for his illustrations of children’s books and the French Ordre de Palmes d’Academiques, but  his work was not always appreciated by his Native brethren because he sometimes depicted sacred ceremonies.  As the factionalism got worse Herrera decided  to leave the Pueblo in the 1930’s.

The meeting to which I was invited as an observer was called to address the question of how the ranch could pass to Fish and Wildlife and preserve the Herrera murals.  It began with typical Western hospitality with a lunch including a home grown Elk stew made by the ranch manager, Manuel Jauregui.   Included were Sharon Franklet, the program director of the Ranch, who acted as liaison in this case between the owner and Fish and Wildlife; Rob Larranaga,  a representative from Fish and Wildlife;  Jeff Pappas, State Historical Preservation Officer; Deborah Jojola, curator of the Exhibitions at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, Bruce Bernstein, Cultural Preservation Officer at Pojoaque and curator at the Ralph T. Coe Foundation, who brought me and two representatives from the Native communities.  It was quickly agreed that the room Herrera painted with a buffalo hunt was not a problem, nor was the bathroom which appeared to be by another, lesser, hand.  That left the room painted with representations of Katsinim of the Navajo, Zuni and other Rio Grande pueblos. (The Katsina is best defined as a deified ancestral spirit in Native religions).

The issue was quite different from those I had dealt with when I served on the President’s Cultural Property Advisory Committee in Washington D.C.  It’s objective was to protect cultural property from being looted from foreign countries and brought into the United States (a laudable objective seriously flawed by its politicized execution). Here we are dealing with two different cultures living within the same borders.  For lack of a better name we will call one of the constituencies the Anglos (alternatively the new comers) and the other the Native Americans, aka Indians.  The Indians who are of many different tribes (think Nationalities in other parts of the world) have their own rituals and religions which they feel are proprietary and not for public dissemination.  Therefore, when you go onto an Indian Reservation there is usually a sign “No Photography”. In some cases dances that are not of a social but rather a religious nature are closed to outsiders.

The possibly culturally sensitive material had bumped the Pritlzaff Ranch case to Washington and federal regulations require consultation with all those who might have an interest in a transaction. The Native Americans at the meeting explained how to notify the tribes so that they might designate representatives.  Everyone in the room wanted to find a solution and the State Historical Preservation Officer even expressed an interest in consulting with the representative from Fish and Wildlife and go to Washington if necessary.  No one wanted to see the expedient solution of painting over the murals for it would be a loss to the art and heritage of this part of the world.

Out of respect for the sensitive issues involved here I have not illustrated the Katsinim but the images shown are all from the buffalo hunt.