Sunday, August 30, 2015

Indians, Indians Everywhere

Yes, the politically correct nomenclature is Native Americans and that is certainly appropriate, they, themselves, however, mostly refer to themselves as Indians.  During the month of August in and around Santa Fe Native Art is celebrated in high gear.

The first event focuses on older material. It occurs at the fair grounds in Albuquerque and while there are many collectors there it serves as a first sifting for dealers to buy from each other.  They are gearing up for four fairs in Santa Fe.  Two of them are produced by Whitehawk which was originally organized by Kim Martindale who now has his own two shows.  Only one from each is designated specifically as Native Art but the others include some as well.  

As we near Indian Market week the frenzy reaches higher and higher proportions with events for the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, The Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) and the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture to name a few.  Also, there are events for out of town museums such as Washington D.C.’s National Museum of the American Indian and the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff.

The Ralph T. Coe Foundation, of course, had their event as well with a renowned family of bead workers whose matriarch is Joyce Growing Thunder.  She and her daughter Juanita and her daughter Jessa gave a fabulous talk about the history of beading and how it is in their blood.  It is not an avocation but rather a vocation for the whole family, or at least many members, who work together morning, noon at night.  They as well as many Native artists we have spoken to tell us that there is a great impetus before the large Indian Markets to get work done both for commercial sales reasons but also to try to create prize-winning material.

The two major efforts to bring contemporary Native Art to the public are SWAIA, Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (aka Indian Market) and the new kid on the block IFAM, the Indigenous Fine Art Market.  We went to a breakfast at Sorrel Sky Gallery for the National Museum of the American Indian and Dallin Maybee, the SWAIA, president, spoke.  He made a statement I must repeat here because it made a dealer, namely me, very happy.  He said, "We could not fulfill our mission without he Galleries.  I don't know why we don't celebrate them more."  Artists at the breakfast and later on the plaza said that while the aim at Indian Market was to promote and sell Indian art it was also a wonderful opportunity to meet friends and extended family.  (In Native America very close friends are considered family.)  Many artists depend for their livelihood on these fairs. 

IFAM, the Indigenous Fine Art Market, which in its second year expanded with 1/3 more artists and getting city permission to occupy more of the Railyard Park.  There was also a cause this year.  It was to “Free Leonard Peltier”, a leader of the AIM (American Indian Movement) who has been serving time since 1977 sentenced to two consecutive life sentences for first-degree murder in the killing of two FBI agents during the conflict on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1975.  Amnesty International has placed it in their “Unfair Trials” category in their 2010 annual report.  John Torres-Nez, President of IFAM, has written articles regarding art as therapy for incarcerated Natives and after reading them Peltier applied to exhibit at the Market as a painter.  His application was accepted by the committee and he was admitted by proxy through his son, Chauncey, who manned the booth selling shirts and stickers as well as the paintings.

Penelope and I have certainly made our contribution to the effort to sell Native art this summer by buying a number of objects.  A couple of the acquisitions have their roots in our old world.  One is a Katsina carving by Hopi artist Ros George.  It represents a couple embracing.  Its subject and delicate carving reminded both of us of 17th century German boxwood carving.  Note especially the delicate work of the hands and feet.

Another work we bought which comes out of art history is Cara Romero’s photograph, “The Last Indian Market”.  A group of well-known Native American artists got together in a local cantina and posed in the manner of Leonardo’s, “Last Supper”. Here is a list of all of them with their affiliations: from left to right:
Chris Eyre, Cheyenne/Arapaho: Director/ Filmmaker; Smoke Signals, Skins, Edge of America
Amber Dawn-Bear Robe, Siksika: Curator/ Art Historian
Kenneth Johnson, Muscogee(Creek)/Seminole: Designer And Metal Smith
Diego Romero, Cochiti: Potter/Artist
Darren Vigil Grey, Jicarilla Apache: Painter
Kathleen Wall, Jemez: Potter, makes Koshari Clowns
Marcus Amerman (Buffalo Man), Choctaw: Beadwork
Marian Denipah, San Juan: Jeweler, wife of LaRance
Pilar AStar (Agoyo), San Juan: Fashion Designer
Steve LaRance, Hopi: Jeweler
Cannupa Hanska Luger, Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, Lokata: Ceramic Artist
Linda Lomahaftewa, Hopi/Choctaw: Print Maker, Painter, Educator
America Meredith, Cherokee: Painter, Printmaker, Educator and editor of First American Art Magazine

What a nice document as well as fine photo to own.

Cara’s husband Diego Romero is a famous potter who has worked in print media as well.  We acquired his print, “ Hector at the Ships”. In Greek mythology during the Trojan War, Hector set out to burn the ships of the Greeks.  This print depicts the 1680 Pueblo Revolt when the Native Americans drove the Spanish out of Arizona and New Mexico and burned their mission churches.

Our oldest acquisition was a Squash Blossom Necklace minus the blossoms that has crosses in their stead.  We had been looking for the right necklace for about 20 years and finally felt we had found one.  It dates from the 1940’s and is purported to have belonged at one time to Julie Andrews.

With the slightest interest in Native America and its art one must be in Santa Fe during the month of August.  We have been coming for these events for 25 years now and we still learn more every single year.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Me & Social Media

This Cartoon in Time magazine, by John Atkinson, caught my attention and after I smiled I started to think about how I related to it.  First of all, I tried to figure out the symbols.  Going clockwise we had Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, YouTube, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Vine, Pinterest and Instagram.  Which do I actually use on a regular basis? Facebook, but I was recently told that only old people use that.  Things are certainly moving fast these days and Facebook is the oldest of the bunch. Interesting since Facebook only came into existence just over a decade ago.

I thought that I was somewhat up to date, technologically speaking, but I had not even heard of Vine the site that gives you a chance to post 6 second looping videos.  So it is not surprising that shortly after it was founded, Twitter, the 140 character site, acquired it.

How many sites can one be on without devoting yourself totally to social-media?   One of the main reasons that old people use Facebook is because their children told them that if they want to see images of their grandchildren they would have to go onto the site.  In spite of the fact that Facebook has over a billion and a half monthly visitors, I know many people who say they don’t want to be controlled by any website.  That is anyone’s privilege but personally I think that they are missing out on a valuable 21st century tool.  For me, it works as a national and even international phone book, as does LinkedIn.  When I am looking for a museum person that is not on my Rolodex or more likely has changed their institution I can usually find them in one of those two places.

Often when someone asks me to link with them on LinkedIn I ask what purpose it serves other than the one mentioned above and the answer is invariably, “I don’t know but I believe one should do it”.  There is no question, however, that it is the professional site where you can tell people the business you are in and where, if you get enough accolades from others, someone might reach out to do business with you.  It can also help if you want to learn about someone that you are supposed to meet at a dinner party.  It is the same as you once might have used the various editions of “Who’s Who”.  Another question it brings up, is who to accept and who to reject on LinkedIn.  I used to not accept contemporary artists because I could not help them being a dealer in Old Masters but I have given up and figure if an artist wants to be connected to me, why not?!

I have posted my missives on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter and they have reached people in diverse parts of the world that I would certainly not have met from my website or emails.  In that way people who I have lost touch with for years find me again.

While I post links to my missives on Twitter I don’t feel I am either interesting enough or have enough to say to post regularly.  In my mind I have not closed the door entirely on the possibility of getting more involved there as well.

I read that Pinterest is the hottest website out there and that it is being used as the ultimate sales tool.  There are some major people on it.  I have seen beautiful images of the work a major decorator, Robert Couturier, has done and I can certainly see how these are marvelous seductions for new clients.  I have posted there and need to develop it more. However, from all the images I have posted only one  has been repeatedly reposted.

Maybe someone would like to help me with Instagram.  I post photos fairly regularly on Facebook and I gather Instagram is devoted to images so I may eventually go there as well since I downloaded the app quite a while ago.

I believe that after 40 years of marriage my dating days are over so I had not heard of Tinder until my son told me that he found his girlfriend there and that they live within walking distance of each other --and so far so good!

Google +  seems to have given up the ghost and is backing down.  Which leaves Vine, which I will really have to look into!

Somehow, I never thought of YouTube as social-media but now I realize that I have often posted links from my Missives to YouTube and Vimeo (not mentioned in the ME cartoon) as well.

I seem to be more involved with social-media than I thought I was when I started this Missive but it has not taken over my life.  It has been a very useful tool both for fun and business.  There are those who say it takes the place of personal interaction but I would argue that it actually contributes to the possibilities of meeting and connecting with people.

For those who remain unconvinced I am sure you will enjoy the following article that was recently sent to me by a friend abroad.

Sunday, August 16, 2015


Not only my father’s work but the fact that his family lived abroad meant that some summers when I was not at a camp in Vermont or Maine I was taken with them to Europe.   At about the age of 14, I was sent to a “camp” in Switzerland.  It was not exactly like the camps I was used to.  It was international, a good thing, an Egyptian boy, was the closest person I could call a friend.  The swimming was in a rough cement pool like a basement where they had taken the house away.  We went on forced marches with a British former soldier who carried a crop.  I can’t remember if he ever actually hit one of the boys with it but that was clearly the threat.  It was generally a miserable experience for a spoiled kid from the states.

When my parents came to visit and stayed at a hotel nearby I ran away from camp and refused to return.  Maybe for my future life they should have insisted that I go back but they didn’t and in many ways that was the best decision I ever made.  They did a lot of great things but a few of the best days were at the Salzburg Festival which still today is a summer highlight in Europe.   It is a few days filled with culture in the Austrian Alps.  I remember quite clearly the opera.  We saw Zauberflote (The Magic Flute) the fantasy opera by Mozart conducted by George Szell and the Vienna Philharmonic.  Including the singers Léopold Simoneau, Lisa Della Casa, Kurt Böhme Erika Köth and Walter Berry.  A vinyl recording was made of it a few days earlier so I will always have that as a souvenir.  There was a concert with the then renowned violinist, Erica Morini.  The final event was “Jedermann” (Everyman) staged in the open in front of the Cathedral.  What a spectacle that was with the 17th century sculptures by various Austrian artists outside and skeletons on stage.

This German version of Jederman was written by Hugo von Hofmannsthal (1874-1929) in 1911.  Its first performance in Salzburg, Austria was in 1920 and became very popular and it has been performed annually ever since.  The play is thought to have originally been Dutch and written near the end of the 15th century. It was also so popular in England that it was printed 4 times during the 16th century.

The story is a familiar one: god looks down and sees that “Everyman” has only been interested in self-gratification  and wealth and forgotten The Almighty.  He sends death for “Everyman” so that he can give an accounting of himself.  “Everyman”, however, is clearly not prepared to die and uses every excuse in the book to get out of this predicament.   Death is not interested in his excuses but allows that he can try to find someone to accompany him on his journey. He finds no takers!  Sound familiar?  A little bit of the bible story of Noah’s Arc and god drowning the sinners and a lot from the other English Classic, Charles Dickens’, “A Christmas Carol”, (1843). 

Recently, I had another opportunity to see the play, in English this time.  It was the simulcast performed by the National Theatre in London. This eternal message brought to us since medieval-times must always be updated for contemporary audiences.  Carol Ann Duffy, Britain’s poet laureate and the author of  the National Theatre’s very free adaptation has decided that the best way to do this is to show the debauchery as, to steal a title from a television series, “Sex & Drugs & Rock and Roll.“ Ms. Duffy has a novel way of portraying god, not as an extra terrestrial being but as the cleaning lady.  She is always ignored but sees all! She, of course, notes “Everyman’s” 40th birthday party of drugs and booze and acts accordingly. The role is played by Kate Duchene.

“Everyman” is played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, who has been praised by all critics for this play and before that for his starring role in “12 Years a Slave.”   He is certainly a dynamic actor but it is more than just his craft that we see.  He throws himself into the role in such a way that he becomes the character.  As he goes through his trials and tribulations trying to find his redeeming features one actually sees more and more sweat pouring out from the actor.  You almost fear that Ejiofor, himself, might not survive the evening.

The excitement is accentuated by the frenzy on stage and the frenetic soundtrack.  I found it exceedingly loud but, then, this is the way every older generation feels about the music from their children and grandchildren!  Below is a short sample.

The play is directed by the new Artistic Director of the National Theatre, Rufus Norris with Choreographer and Movement Director, Javier de Frutos.  The latter being as vital to this treatment of the play as is the director and they made an excellent collaboration.

The play continues through August 30 at the National. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Cold Mountain, The Civil War & History

This year, in case you did not realize it, is the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War as well as President Abraham Lincoln’s death and several events here in Santa Fe have celebrated the year in various ways.  First of all there is a new opera, which is having its world premier at the Santa Fe Opera.  Its called, “Cold Mountain” and takes place during the Civil War.  It is an intimate view of how the war affected families.  The opera is based on a book written by Charles R. Frazier.

The New Mexico History Museum has done a small exhibition on Lincoln and the Civil War.  The images in the exhibition show letters and photos of participants and family members as well as bloody battles which are put together as a tableau of four of the bloodiest years in American history with 620,000 casualties.

To bring it all together the Santa Fe Opera in conjunction with the History Museum created an amazing symposium called, “Echoes from Cold Mountain”.  The symposia that I am used to are dry academic affairs and if you are are lucky one lecture out of the day might be of interest but in this symposium there wasn’t a dull moment.

In the interest of full disclosure I did miss the first lecture, which was by Gary Gallagher, a Civil War Historian at the University of Virginia.  From what I gathered from those who did attend it was first rate.  He made the case for how media including photographs, films and books form our view of history even more than academic historians do.  He used film clips, which must have made it a lively hour.

The second part of the symposium was a fabulous panel including Hampton Sides, author of  “Blood & Thunder”, an epic history of the American West using Kit Carson (1809-1868) who lived in Taos, New Mexico, as its central figure.  Next to him was Kirk Ellis a writer for television and film and best known as writer and producer of the John Adams mini series on HBO.  The series received 23 Emmy nominations and won 13 but what made Kirk Ellis proudest was that it was being used in thousands of high school history classes.  With them was a professor of history at the University of New Mexico, Paul Hutton.  Oh, how I wish he had been my history teacher, what insight and sense of humor. One of his bon mots, “History is written by Generals and Knaves and believed by Idiots”!  Hampton Sides (3rd from right in photo) quipped “If all else fails, Paul, you can always do stand up”!

They all explained the compromises you have to make when writing history.  Sides spoke of Kit Carson being a historian’s nightmare because he was illiterate.  Upon hearing that Carson’s papers were in the State Archives he rushed there to find exactly 2 sheets of paper and one was his death certificate!  He, therefore, turned to the many interviews that Carson gave and the even more plentiful potboilers that were written about him in later years.  Hutton pointed out that every individual writes from his own point of view and if there was only one way to look at a historic figure it would be necessary to have only one book by one author, but there are many truths. 

The moderator for this panel was Estevan Rael-Galvez who is a born and bred New Mexican, a scholar and writer who has been the State Historian and served in Washington D.C. as Senior Vice President for Historic Sites at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  He told us that his grandmother taught him to tell stories, that they were gifts and one story should always lead to another.  Topics like the tyranny of chronology were discussed.  As a matter of fact I have that problem writing almost every week.  My editor is always moving my paragraphs around to put them into a new order… but I wanted to say it that way! 

Other continuous themes: we look at history as if it were in the past but taking place in the present.  We cannot lay today's morals and mores on those of the past, when people were living under totally different circumstances.  Most important was to keep it interesting and relevant, and even that a good storyteller also has to be a good liar!  Paul Hutton said he has classes with 2-300 students and he has to keep them awake … and himself as well!

The third session got us back to the opera.  Charles Frazier told us it took 8 years to write “Cold Mountain” and has been translated into 40 languages and was on the New York Times Best Seller list for 61 weeks.  A few years after it was published in 1997 a well-known and prolific composer whose music has been played by over 150 conductors, Jennifer Higdon, decided with much encouragement to write her first opera, and that she would base it on this 449 page book.  She picked Gene Sheer to write the libretto.  They got in touch with the director Leonard Foglia whose specialty is directing first time operas and he in turn hired long time collaborators Robert Brill as scenic designer, video designer Elaine J. McCarthy and fight director Rick Sordelet.

The symposium organizers managed to corral all of them on to the stage of the history museum.  They had the advantage of a fabulous moderator, Glyndebourne dramaturge Cori Ellison who got the most you could out of such a large group in about one hour!   What a fascinating process: we learned how the composer and librettist met at a Starbucks in Philadelphia to plot out which episodes from the book that they would use; conflation and even an added scene might prove necessary.  There needed to be solos, duets and quartets.  All had to be fitted into a two act play which had the self made restriction of not lasting more than 2 hours and 30 minutes.  They brought it in a bit less than that.  We heard how the director has to describe his vision of the set to the designer who has to figure out how it will fit together and make it navigable for the singers.  The video designer seemed quite happy because she could project on a dark background… or maybe that was a problem!  The fight director was in his element directing Civil War combat.

The penultimate symposium session was a lecture by Harold Holzer who was known as the Public Affairs Czar for the Metropolitan Museum and had just retired after 23 years, but is far better known as a pre-eminent Lincoln scholar and historian.  He has written prolifically and spoken often on the subject.  I have known Harold, if not well, in various circumstances, but he again surprised me.  He spoke of the Lincoln family, a story told through photography and other print media.  He first stated the obvious that Twitter and Instagram did not exist in the 19th century but in light of that much more startling was that before 1859 photographs could not be widely disseminated.  We know that etchings and woodcuts had been disseminated for hundreds of years but photography was a new and developing medium.  More personal was the fact that Mary Todd Lincoln would not allow photos of herself with Abe, probably because she was around 5 foot 2 inches and Abe was 6 foot 4 inches without his shoes and signature Stovepipe hat.  In order to put the two of them together they had to use Photoshop .  Not!  but there were methods for  achieving the same effect of making two images appear as one.  Harold also spoke of Lincoln’s family relationships.  Regarding his wife Mary Todd after 2 of her children had died she went through an emotional crises.  We saw photos of the busy statesman when he could spare the time to be with his children and one could see that he was a very loving father.

Photo by Jackie Neale Chadwick, courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art

The final event of the symposium was a Concert of Civil War Songs and Stories by Mark Lee Gardner & Rex Rideout, who was dressed as a Union Soldier, shaggy dark beard and all.  They travel all over keeping an era alive.

Quite a weekend which included the premier of the opera, which we look forward to seeing later in the season.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Connoisseurship & Good Pie

Now that I have gotten your attention with the title of this exhibition let me elaborate. The complete title of this show is “Connoisseurship & Good Pie: Ted Coe and Collecting Native Art”.  As I am getting ready to write this I see that I have already written the prequel to this Missive in December of last year so I will let you read the background for yourselves.

For those who don’t want to bother suffice it to say that when the director of the Wheelwright Museum  of the American Indian in Santa Fe, Jonathan Batkin, came over to the Ralph T. Coe Foundation for the Arts in order to pick out a few objects to show in a small gallery near the museum’s sales shop he was blown away.  He decided that it was exciting enough to show Ted’s Collection in the entire original exhibition space of the museum.  Meanwhile they have added the new wing with the Center for the Study of Southwestern Jewelry

You are probably already asking yourself what does Ted Coe’s collecting have to do with Good Pie.   It turns out that Ted had two overriding passions: one was art and collecting and the other was food.  In fact he once wrote that he had traveled 5 hours out of his way in Alaska to get a piece of good pie. About 25 years ago when we started coming out here Ted took us to dinner at a Santa Fe institution called Dave’s Not Here, unfortunately that is now true for Dave’s restaurant as well.  That night Ted announced that his doctors had forbidden him to eat spicy foods and then he proceeded to order an enchilada with red and green chili, topped off by a huge piece of incredibly good chocolate cake, which I had as well!

As was illustrated in the Missive mentioned above the Coe Executive Director and Curator, Bruce Bernstein, with the assistance of the Coe’s Advisory Board had chosen about 400 objects for the exhibition but that proved far too many to make a beautiful exhibition.  The most important aspect of an exhibition is in the editing in order to focus on the point of the show.  Equally important to showing the right selection of works of art is how they are installed.  I have seen exhibitions in different venues and one that you may have loved when you saw it in one museum may seem really dead in another.   Between Bruce Bernstein and Jonathan Batkin and his curator Cheri Doyle Falkenstein the show was greatly reduced in future discussions and then the designer, Louis Gauci, had the final say.  The resultant show is something over 200 works of art, which compares favorably with many great international exhibitions.

The museum-going public sees a “gallery closed” sign one day and an exhibition the next or as is sometimes said, “Out of the nowhere into the here”.  Maybe that is why when a bunch of junior high and high school students at the Coe went to a museum to understand all that goes into an exhibition one of the things that interested them the most was the empty gallery that would become an exhibition a few weeks later.  Many museums and particularly those showing decorative arts often have to build false walls and exhibit cases from scratch as the Wheelwright does.  In these photos you can see the process. The plans are put on the wall and the crew begins to build the structure.  It is a miracle, particularly with a marvelous designer, how great it can look when the work is done.

A few weeks before the show opens each object gets packed and marked and put in a carry tray, driven the two miles to the museum and here Bruce Bernstein reviews the final list with Jack Townes, the marvelous preparator who directed the actual installation.

When the doors opened on the first evening of the exhibition visitors eagerly came piling in. The first case that confronted them holds some of the non Native American objects that Ted collected as well as some of his earliest acquisitions.   The case that really appeals to me is the following one that I will dub Ted’s case.  It shows a large photo of Ted wearing many of the objects that are shown in the case including the faceless watch, which his good friend Joyce Growing Thunder beaded for him to teach him about Indian time, as she did the pendant and his comfy moccasins that he wore as slippers.  Note where the objects are placed.  As Jack Townes explained to me, the wristwatch is about the level of Ted’s wrist in the picture, the pendant at the height it would be on his body, his belt at his middle.  Only the hat is not in the right place because that would have looked strange.

In the last year’s of Ted’s life we came to visit him and he was extremely excited.  He had just acquired a moose hide coat with quills and wool dating from about 1740, a rare find indeed!  Cree or Ojibwa it is from the eastern part of Canada.  Very few coats such as this are still extant.  They date from the highpoint of the Hudson Bay Company’s fur trade. One theory is that they were made by the Indian women for their European trading partners, but none of the surviving examples seem to have been used for reasons that are not yet known.  In this photo a couple are clearly discussing this important work.

In case you were wondering whether there was good pie at the opening there certainly was!   Volunteers at the Wheelwright baked up a storm and one French gentleman made a Tarte Tartin that I have not seen duplicated outside of France.  I only wish that the pies would always be available when I go to see the exhibition, which will be often.

Photo Credit: Neebinnaukzhik Southall, Public Relations, Wheelwright Museum

To acquire the 68 page illustrated catalog email the President of the Ralph T. Coe foundation, Rachel Wixom at or by phone (505) 983-6372.  The cost is $11 plus $3 shipping.