Sunday, August 31, 2014

There’s a New Fair in Town: IFAM

SWAIA, the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts, is responsible for the Annual Indian Market in Santa Fe.  They boast around 1,000 artists and get credit for bringing about 170,000 tourists to the Market every year, with the vast majority being tourists.   As so often happens in organizations there was a conflict between the director of SWAIA, John Torres-Nez and his board of directors so he quit. 

Then several other key members of the staff quit after him so I am guessing that there actually may have been a legitimate grievance.  They began to organize immediately to start their own Fair “by the Indians for the Indians” as they like to say.  They called it IFAM, The Indigenous Fine Arts Market. Obtaining space in the Rail Yard near contemporary art galleries and the Farmers Market, they scheduled it for Thursday through Saturday of the same week-end when Indian Market occupies the center of town Saturday and Sunday.

Judging by what they have accomplished it looks like it may be a success.  The first year of any fair is rocky.  On opening morning a number of booths were still being set up and a few artists were left without booths.  Cara Romero, a photographer, made the best of not yet having her booth by taking her fine art photos out of a case one by one to show those interested which was far more intriguing that just having them up on a make-shift wall.  Her husband a well-known ceramicist, Diego Rivera, who even has a piece in the Metropolitan Museum, was AWOL because several of his pieces cracked in the firing and he was busily working so that he would have work ready for Indian Market on the weekend.

It is more than your life’s worth to try to speak with an artist right before these markets because they are frantically working until the very last minute.  If they are “hot” artists such as Diego they are virtually assured of selling out and leaving early.  Not only are booths sometimes devoid of work by an artist who has not shown up or is not ready yet, but by the end of the fair a booth might be empty because the artist sold out.

Sign of a Successful Market

There was another issue at IFAM because it was a renegade show from some points of view and it was certainly the new show in town.  Many artists wanted to cover their bets and participate in both IFAM and Indian Market.  This happens in dealer fairs as well.  The problem was that the shows overlapped and it is difficult, as my father always said, “to sit with one bottom at two weddings!”   Wisely the organizers put all the artists who planned to exhibit at both shows in one section so that on the overlapping day the main group would be together with no gaps.  They also invited younger artists giving them the opportunity to exhibit to a new and appreciative audience and they were more liberal in the kind of work that would be acceptable.

As would be the case with any new show, IFAM had many less visitors than Indian Market but it also had only a third of the exhibitors.   It had additional bad luck in the weather: on their second day it rained most of the time.  Still it seemed successful enough that it could very well continue as long as the organizers have the will and finances.

In spite of its long history Indian Market had its organizing issues as well.  We met two  artists who were not assigned booths even though they had paid for them.  One was even left out of the program all together and he has participated for over 20 years that we know of!   The organization also seemed to have run out of funds so no 2nd and 3rd place prizes were awarded which is a double whammy for the artists.  First they have no chance to win the prize money but without a prize ribbon they do not have as much of a chance to sell their works of art.

The greatest testament that I can make to the overall success of the fairs is that we bought at both.   We acquired an unusual Katsina, a Female Crossed Legged Katsina, at IFAM by the artist, John Fredericks, who made the first one our son acquired 24 years ago.

At Indian Market we acquired a superbly beaded bracelet by Teri Greeves and a basket tiled “Seductive Poison” by Shan Goshorn, (link to blog about her) woven with the speech by the Carlisle Indian School founder coining the motto “Kill the Indian and save the Man”.   I would have to write a second Missive to tell you all the pieces we would have liked to buy!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Woven Relations: Baskets from the Ralph T. Coe Foundation Collection

On August 19th another exciting event took place at the Ralph T. Coe Foundation.  It was the opening of an exhibition of Native American Baskets.  A few weeks ago I wrote about a Cherokee basket maker, Shan Gashorn.  Unfortunately, Shan came on the scene with an innovative style only after Ted Coe died in 2010 but she attended this event.

The exhibition consisted of baskets from an older tradition.  Last year at the Fennimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, New York there was an exhibition called, “Plain & Fancy: Native American Splint Baskets”.   The majority of them were borrowed from the Coe Foundation.  The Coe curator, Bruce Bernstein, used these East Coast and Midwest baskets that the Coe had lent and expanded it adding other baskets from the Coe Collection from the Southwest.  The exhibition turned out to be dense in number and quality of the pieces on view.

Bruce Bernstein showing a visitor through the Exhibition

On opening day there was a panel with 3 basket weavers speaking about their work moderated by Bruce and joined by Fenimore curator of the Thaw collection, Eva Fognell.  The basket weavers were Kelly Church, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Ojibwe from Central Michigan; Theresa Secord, Penobscot from Maine and Ronnie-Leigh Goeman, Onondaga/Eel Clan from Upstate New York.

Eva Fognell, Theresa Secord, Ronnie-Leigh Goeman, Kelly Church, Bruce Bernstein

Their main theme was to keep the art of basket making alive and keep to the traditional methods that have come down from generation to generation.  It was pointed out that things that are now called innovative were actually already done by the generation of their grandparents.

We can look at baskets as beautiful objects of whimsy but originally most of them were made for use.  Hopi sifter baskets were used for sifting corn and large baskets were used for carrying and storage, while in the Northeast baskets were also used for gathering berries.  During my camp days in Maine I bought a green basket which I was told was made by a local tribe and made from grass.  It was clearly made for the market and probably sold for a very few dollars.   It was a gift for my parents and I was pleased that they used it for many years on the breakfast table as a bread basket.

What the casual observer does not realize is that the actual making of a basket takes up only about 25% of the weavers time.  The other 75% is finding the right grasses or wood materials and preparing them for weaving.  The artist cannot make that many baskets in any one year and cannot make a living as a basket weaver if they must survive on what a youngster can pay for a gift for his parents.  Here is a video of what happens after the artist finds the one in ten trees that might serve their purpose:


Theresa Secord was trained as a geologist who through an apprenticeship with one of the elder basket makers of her tribe, Madeline Tomer Shay, found basket making to be her calling.  She was distressed that the tradition of basket making was fading away and established the Maine Indian Basket Alliance which started out with just 55 weavers at an average age of 63 and now numbers over 200 with an average age in their 40’s.

Kelly Church comes from a large family of basket weavers working with black ash.  They have a different challenge, the Emerald Ash Borer is a type of beetle which destroys Ash trees.  Of an estimated 800 million trees, 600 million have submitted to this blight.  She has a quest to warn other basket making tribes of the dangers of the Ash Borer and to find ways to preserve the tradition.  Every year she taught a course on basket making at the University of Michigan. Then one year she wasn’t asked to teach it and went right to the course catalog to see that the course was indeed still being taught but by her former students.  She considers that a great success in preserving the tradition.

Ronnie-Leigh Goeman is also a Black Ash basket maker and the blight has not hit New York as fiercely yet but they are preparing for it.  She works with her husband, Stonehorse Goeman, a sculptor to do collaborative work.  I always find it intriguing when artists do collaborations because often the results are greater than the sum of its parts.

Bruce Bernstein summed up by recalling that Kelly Church had called herself an activist as well as an artist and suggested that we should all become activists to preserve the art of basketry as it has been done through the ages.  More realistically we can become advocates by acquiring the work either for our homes or institutions.

The founder of the Foundation, Ted Coe, believed the foundation should be about, Connoisseurship, Education and Collecting.  Among the over 100 visitors attending the Coe event were well-known basket makers, scholars, museum personnel and collectors, an amazing mix making for some interesting discussion which is what the Foundation is all about:  a place to see great Indian art but also to discuss it and look at it in different ways.  I believe this was a big step in fulfilling Ted’s wishes.

The exhibition is open to everyone who is interested but an appointment is necessary.  Please get in touch with Rachel Wixom, Executive Director of the foundation, at 505-983-6372.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Native American Bolo Ties: Vintage and Contemporary Artistry

I first heard about this exhibition when the collector, Norman L. Sandfield and the curator from the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Diana F. Pardu came to Santa Fe to do a slide lecture and book signing at the Wheelwright Museum here in Santa Fe.  They also told us that this exhibition which opened at the Heard would be coming to the Albuquerque Art Museum. That was 2 or 3 years ago.

The exhibition has finally come to New Mexico and an engaging show it is.  It consists of bola’s both from the Sandfield Collection and the Heard.  As you may have already noticed I am using both bolo and bola interchangeably as they are both in popular usage.  Possibly bola more on the East Coast and bolo more in the West.

I want to call your attention to a statement in the catalog that I have never seen before, Sanfield writes, “This book could not have been done without the aid of the Internet – a research tool many of us take for granted today“.  This is a thought I have every week as I write my missives.  Actually, they would be possible but considering the needed trips to the library I would be able to write one a month rather than one a week and it would be a full time job!

Enough digression.  The Native American bolo only arrived on the scene in the mid- 1940’s but the string tie dates back to the Victorian Era.  In the 1950’s I remember wearing a yellow kerchief tie held with a slide in the cub scouts and those could be found in the West as well. On the cover of Life Magazine in 1950 there was an image of Hopalong Cassidy, the popular TV character wearing a kerchief with a slide.

Photo compliments of the Heard by the Albuquerque Art Museum

Photo from the catalog

The bolo became a statement of defiance to East Coast neckwear which I can totally sympathize with since from the age of 6 I had to wear a fabric tie to school everyday and it was de riguer to wear one in our gallery.  Shortly after we fell in love with the Southwest I started to wear bolos and spent the next 20 years giving most of the cloth ties away.  I still have a few like the one that was knitted for me, a cork tie which we bought in a household fair in Munich, and a few with western motifs.  I can hardly remember wearing any of these.  I used to wear fabric ties in Europe until I sat in the office of a German curator who just had an open collar. After that I gave up the Eastern tie there as well.

When I don’t wear a bola in Europe my friends often let me know that they are not happy with me.  Only once have I had a criticism from a society lady who did not think it proper decorum to wear the bola to a black tie event.  As a matter of fact in 1971 the bolo tie became the official neckwear of the state of Arizona…. Maybe that is where I should wear my last fabric ties!

The first Native American bola tie that can be documented dates from the 1940’s and was made by the Hopi silversmith Willie Coin (1904-1992).  It was commissioned about 1947 by the co-founder and director of the Museum of Northern Arizona, Harold Colton.  His wife, the other co-founder,  Mary-Russell Ferrell Colton had developed an overlay silver technique so that Hopi silver work could be distinguished from that of the Navajo.  The bola depicts the logo of the Museum and the tips are in the shape of archeology tools.  The tie was worn by successive directors until 1983 when the director donated it to the museum collection.

MNA Collections #E8754 Willie Coin

I encourage you to see the exhibition whose run has just been extended to October 12 or acquire the catalog with its excellent reproductions.  The following images, however, are from my personal collection of bolos created by the Hopi.

The first one I acquired was at the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff which like the Heard sells bolos in their gift shop acquired directly from the Indian artists. It is an unusual but not rare format with shaped and worked tips.  The maker was Victor Coochwytewa  (1922-2011).  He is one of the artists we actually got to meet on Second Mesa.  He questioned me about a bracelet he had made that I was wearing and asked if it had a copyright mark.  When I replied in the negative he took it from me went into his shop and added the mark.  When he brought it back he said, “it is however, difficult to sue your friends and relatives”.  He meant that they would be the ones to copy a bracelet like his.  Unfortunately, that is not the case because I learned shortly thereafter that the Japanese had a prime industry in faking Hopi silver!

The second bola is one that I commissioned.  There was a spider buckle in the collection of the Museum of Northern Arizona that I had always admired and wanted something like it, but I did not want a copy. So I asked the artist Weaver Selina who had made the buckle in the museum if he would make me a bola with that design.  When it did not arrive, we went the following year to visit his studio/home on the Hopi reservation and bought an embroidered Kleenex box from his grand daughter in the shop, and still no bola.  The next year, visiting again, I brought photographs of the grandkids and I guess that got Mrs. Selina on my side: and that fall a brown envelope arrived with my bola and a bill for $125.

The Hopi, however, do not produce bolas only in overlay silver but they also do wonderful lapidary work.  Charles Loloma (1921-1991), an internationally known Hopi jeweler, did some of the earliest lapidary work.  The one piece that I would covet from the show is a Loloma bola illustrated here.

Photo compliments of the Heard by the Albuquerque Art Museum

The piece that we own is an early pendant that he made for his aunt.

In the 21st century Raymond Sequaptewa has added his own touch to the tradition.  He is not from 2nd Mesa as are the other bolas here but from 3rd Mesa.  He is not only a jeweler but a Medicine Man and Healer as well.

My final bola is by the grandson of one of the great artists of the Hopi tradition Fred Kabotie (1900-1986).  Ed Kabotie’s first love is music, he plays at various functions in New Mexico and we own a couple of disks by him.  He is, however an accomplished silversmith and painter as well.   This bolo we bought from him at Indian Market a few years ago has a small piece of turquoise that he found in his grandfather’s tool box that he had inherited.  I get more positive comments when I wear this one than any of my others.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Old Masters from Another Part of the World: “Painting the Divine”

It is always refreshing for someone like me who teethed on old master paintings and lived with them in the U.S. and the Capitals of Europe to see such in the American Southwest.  Finally, one in the European Tradition right here in Santa Fe, “Painting the Divine:  Images of Mary in the New World”.

The image of Mary, those of us in European Old Masters would have said the Madonna, sustained the religious immigrant Spanish and their descendants in the New World still today.  Maria is depicted in the ways you would expect such as the Immaculate Conception, the Nativity and the Flight into Egypt but also one finds apparitions of Maria in the New World as well as symbols of these new surroundings. 

When I walked into the New Mexico History Museum to see the exhibition there was beautiful music coming from within.  It was the Schola Cantorum singing Sacred a Cappella Music except there were a few instruments not always used.  Here is a brief sample:


I was there, however, to see the exhibition, which to my surprise was composed of almost entirely works from the History Museum’s own collection.  The works of art had been donated by the International Institute of Iberian Colonial Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico.  The latter was founded by Charles Wood Collier ( 1909-1987) and Nina Perera Collier (1907- 1973) in the mid 1960’s.  Both were from the East Coast and although both were familiar with Native American culture (Nina surveyed Navajo and Pueblo architecture for the Bureau of Indian Affairs headed by her father-in-law, the famed champion of Indian rights, John Collier)  neither initially had connections to the Hispanic world, Charles had travelled to Mexico City with his parents in 1930 and later with his wife travelled in Mexico and various countries in South America.   At the behest of Nelson Rockefeller, then the Department of State’s Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs, they went to Bolivia in 1942 where they lived for a couple of years. They finally moved to New Mexico in 1959 with their growing collection of Spanish Colonial art.

The works in the exhibition were created in the two administrative centers (vice royalties) of the Spanish Empire in the New World, Mexico and Peru, as well as Bolivia, originally part of Peru and New Mexico.

Although the theme was images of the Virgin, it was a pleasant surprise find some sculpture included with the paintings. One of my favorite pieces was a polychrome wood sculpture, representing the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception by an anonymous Mexican artist of the early 18th century.  Somehow the dynamic flow of the robes enhanced by the color and the angelic face spoke to me.

A beautiful painting of the Virgin and Child from the 18th century is again by an unknown artist but this one has been identified as working in Cuzco, Peru, which has its own notable style.  One giveaway are the flowers along the border of the painting drawn from Flemish still lives which would have been known to the artist.  Also, the gold stenciling in the halos is typical of the Cuzco school.  This picture is installed within a baldachin (canopy) as if part of an altar in a private chapel.  This must have been a personal favorite of the curators to get such special treatment.

Few artists at the time signed their names.  The author of the 18th century Mexican painting “Our Lady of the Rosary with Souls in Purgatory” is not known but the picture is almost incidental to its incredible frame.  Most of these intricately carved frames have not survived, therefore, making this one all the more unexpected and dazzling.

One of Mexico’s outstanding 17th century artists is Juan Correa (1646-1716).   This picture is one of the closest to what one would expect to see in Spain.  It is part of a series of seven, all originally from a single altarpiece .  The image is based on a venerated Byzantine icon in the church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, known as “Salus Populi Romani” (Protectress of the Roman People).  It reminds us that Charles V ruler of the Holy Roman Empire was also Charles I of Spain.

José Aragón (ca. 1781-1850) is one of the best known New Mexico artists who continued in the tradition of Spanish painting.  Here he has depicted one of the most famous images of the Madonna in the American southwest, “Our Lady of Guadalupe”.  The story goes that one day in 1531, Juan Diego saw an apparition of a young girl at the Hill of Tepeyac, near Mexico City.   The girl asked that a church be built at that site in her honor; from her words, Juan Diego recognized the girl as the Virgin Mary. The picture is not painted on panel or canvas but rather on hide with gesso on top as a base.

Photo credit: New Mexico History Museum

And the tradition continues with a large contemporary image which represents “Nuesta Señora de la Selva” (Our Lady of the Jungle) by Alfredo Arreguín from 1989.  The painting was lent by the artist who lives in Seattle.

The organizers of the show were Joseph Diaz, curator at the New Mexico History Museum and Suzanne Stratton-Pruitt, an independent scholar.  The exhibition she co-curated with Joseph Rishel at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “The Arts in Latin America 1492-1820” was a major contribution to the field.  As you see from this Missive many artists still remain unidentified. There is so much more to study about the Spanish Colonial Art from the New World and I hope there are some PhD candidates out there who will be working in this field.  Even if they can’t make it to Santa Fe for this exhibition, they should acquire the catalog.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

63rd Spanish Market

The 63rd Traditional Spanish Market took place over much of the City Different’s Plaza and downtown. It is organized by the Spanish Colonial Arts Society to encourage the local traditions of religious imagery (painted and carved) tinwork, straw, and textiles. It seemed this year that it was spread a little thin only using some parts of streets and making the wanderer walk further to see less.  It might have been better to push the booths closer together so that one felt the excitement of former years.  Installation is as important as what is being shown when it comes to marketing.

We have acquired a few Spanish Colonial pieces in the years we have lived here, but it takes a lot more in this area to excite me than it might in Native American.  I know how fussy I am, however, and therefore I do not need to see a great deal that I like to consider the fair a success.  This year there were a few things that caught my attention already at the Friday evening preview.

To step back for a moment our Community Gallery has a Chair Show where they are exhibiting chairs made by local artists.  The artists were juried but not the chairs that they made.  For an exhibition, artists usually do put their best foot forward.  One was Andrew Garcia who we knew because we had bought a wood carved mirror from him a couple of years ago at Spanish Market.  He had a armchair in the exhibition that my wife had spotted and I agreed that it would be a wonderful, as well as useful, acquisition.

It turns out that Andrew Garcia also managed to win the Blue Ribbon for Best of Show this year at Spanish Market for a cabinet he made.  That helped make us feel brilliant in our purchase before the market.  By the time we got to his booth on the second day of Market his Best of Show cabinet had already been sold to another artist who could appreciate this marvelous object.  Garcia also received 2nd prize in the furniture category for a somewhat larger cabinet that had drawers which made it more useful.  He told us that he had thought that if anything would win a prize it would be that one but the gracefully scrolling gallery and apron put the smaller piece over the top.   Here they both are:

As we walked around the market we saw lots of artists explaining their craft and in one case a metal smith brought his tools and was working on one of his tin work pieces.

We also wandered through the Contemporary Hispanic Market.  It seems that the powers that be feel that Spanish Market should only comprise artists with Hispanic Heritage who work in the traditional manner and create traditional imagery.  These rules encourage artists to include their mother’s maiden names if they are Hispanic and the art presented includes a great many saints and crosses.

 In rebellion 28 years ago Contemporary Market was started, which is far more lenient.  Maybe a little too much so since I saw a lot of art that reminded me of Montmartre around Sacre Coeur in Paris where artists sold their wares to the visiting tourists.  There were, however, a few artists who stood out.  One that I particularly liked was a young man who paints religious imagery on metal signs.  His name is Thomas V. and his website is!

Walking back through Traditional Spanish Market I discovered one piece that totally blew my mind.  It is a large manuscript which at first I thought was a hand made bible.  It has a buffalo hide cover with silver ornaments and the pages are made of goat skin on which the artist has painted images and written the Spanish text.  It turned out not to be a bible but a very important piece of Southwest and Santa Fe History.   The Native Americans got tired of their Spanish oppressors in the 17th century.   In an uprising coordinated across all the pueblos on August 10, 1680 they drove the Spanish out, killing 400 and driving the remaining 2,000 settlers away.  Within 12 years, however, the Spanish returned and again took over without great opposition.   The book that illustrates the event in the style of a manuscript of the period is by Ramón José López, an artist so outstanding that that he regularly wins prizes at Spanish Market.