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.

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