Sunday, February 28, 2016

Lloyd Kiva New

Lloyd Kiva New (1916-2002) is not a name I was familiar with on the East Coast.  Yet, when he died in 2002 the New York Times devoted substantial space to his obituary.

In honor of the 100th anniversary of New’s birth there are currently 2 exhibitions in Santa Fe about his work with a third coming later this year.  They are at the Museum of Contemporary Native Art (MOCNA), ““Lloyd Kiva New: Art, Design, and Influence” and at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture (MIAC), “A New Century: The Life and Legacy of Cherokee Artist and Educator Lloyd “Kiva” New”.

Lloyd New was a Cherokee born in Oklahoma.  He was an artist, a designer and a teacher and graduated from the prestigious Chicago Art Institute in 1938, taught at the Phoenix Indian school for a while, then in 1941 enlisted in the Navy.  In 1946 he opened his own design studio and named it Kiva Studio.  He also included it in his name.  He built up a wealthy clientele and became known for his handbags, clothing and printed textiles throughout the 1950’s.  Here is an image of New with an IAIA student ca. 1965 from the IAIA archives.

Lloyd Kiva New in the textile printing studio with IAIA student
c. 1965, IAIA archives

It was as a teacher, however, that he had the greatest influence having started with Dr. George Boyce the Institute of American Indian Arts  (IAIA) in Santa Fe.  IAIA was founded in 1962 under the Kennedy administration first as a high school under the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  It became a Congressionally chartered two-year college in 1986 offering associate degrees in Studio Arts, Creative Writing and Museum Studies.  Today, it is full fledged college where you can get a BA & MA.  Some of the most important Native American artists and writers have gone there.  To name just a few, Dan Namingha, Fritz Scholder, David Bradley, Doug Hyde, Allan Houser, Charles Loloma,  and T.C. Cannon.

New was first Director of the Institute then President from 1965 to 1978 when he retired, only to go back in 1988 to guide the school through its separation from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  In 1989 when he was honored as a Santa Fe Living Treasure, he said about the school, “It should add to its vision--its goals, its objectives—an obligation to help every student who goes there to make a good living.”

The exhibition at MOCNA was curated by 3 different people for various aspects of the show they are Rose Marie Cutropia, Tatiana Lomahaftewa-Singer and Ryan S. Flahive. The MOCNA installation is dense with materials and immerses one in the artists work.  The extremely impressive main gallery has over 30 textiles designed by New’s students in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  There is also a computer device where one can design one’s own textile on a large screen.

Another section of the show is a mock-up of the Kiva Studio with small chests of drawers, which one can open and see images, clipping and some of the hardware that went on the shirts or handbags which surround you in the room.

The third part of the show is devoted to the watercolors.  His images of World War II are poignant indeed.  Unfortunately, I do not have any to illustrate but if you are in Santa Fe before July 31st you can go see them for yourselves.

The MIAC exhibition which is curated by Tony Chavarria, Curator of Ethnology, is sparser and simpler allowing one to focus more closely on the artist’s work.  Rather than bunching a group of handbags together they just show one or two in a case.  It is less razzle-dazzle and more contemplative.  This is a case of handbags photo taken by Jason Ordaz from the MOCNA exhibition while MIAC might show a single handbag with a scarf. Here is one photographed by Blair Clark.

My favorite piece in either show is at MIAC it is a shirt with horses that has buttons designed by Charles Loloma who is among the most widely known of Native American artists.  When my wife was curator of 20th century decorative arts at the Metropolitan museum in the early 1980’s we were invited to view a trunk show that Loloma was holding in a New York Fifth Avenue apartment.

Photo credit: Blair Clark

Photo credit: Blair Clark

These exhibitions are eye openers to Native Fashion a hot subject at the moment with a much acclaimed show at the Peabody Essex Museum called, “Native Fashion Now”.  The artists  themselves, however, do not want to be known as Native, but as designers, as well they should be.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Portraiture of Anthony van Dyck

The Frick Collection in New York has been doing more and more elaborate paintings exhibitions and this may be the most ambitious yet.  About 100 works by Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) in a show called, “Van Dyck: The Anatomy of Portraiture,” is opening on March 2.  It will be the first major show in this country devoted to his work in two decades and the Frick will be its only venue.  To achieve this they will use their small drawings & sculpture galleries downstairs, the Rotunda and adjacent gallery on the main floor.

It is not that surprising that the Frick undertook this project since van Dyck was a favorite of Henry Clay Frick and the museum boasts 3 engravings and 8 paintings by one of the world’s greatest portraitists.  Van Dyck often recorded the well-known artists of his time and here is one from the Frick Collection of around 1620 of Frans Snyders (1579-1657) best known for his hunting and market scenes and as a master of still life.

Photo by Michael Bodycomb

The curators for the exhibition are Stijn Alsteens, Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Adam Eaker, Assistant Curator of Northern Baroque Paintings in the Department of European Paintings, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and formerly Guest Curator at The Frick Collection.

In Stijn Alsteens’ article titled “Portraitist’s Progress” he quotes the art critic Roger de Piles in 1708, “The greatest perfection of a portrait is extreme likeness.”  Compare that to what the American painter Gilbert Stuart had to say of portraiture, “What a business this of a portrait painter - you bring him a potato, and expect he will paint you a peach."  Clearly the portraitist must achieve both so that the sitter and viewer are satisfied.

Anthony van Dyck showed his talent from his youngest days.  At about the age of fourteen was probably a student of the already famous Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640).  At the age of nineteen he became the master’s chief assistant in the artist’s large workshop.   Van Dyck went on to great success in Italy and then was called on to become painter to the court of Charles I (1600-1649) in Great Britain.  He arrived there in 1632 and was there till his death in 1641.  In that time he managed to paint 260 portraits many of which were full length.  He too must have had a very well organized studio. 

I would think that one of the most difficult achievements for an artist is to paint a self-portrait.  It brings to mind Shakespeare’s line, “to thine own self be true.” and here is his uncharacteristically small self-portrait done at the age of fourteen or fifteen from the Gemaeldegalerie in Vienna and an almost full length self-portrait done five or six years later from the Metropolitan Museum of a young man but there is no mistaking that it is the same but more mature person.

The lack of surviving detailed studies on paper for his painted portraits suggests that van Dyck mastered the technique of being able to begin by sketching his sitters’ features directly on the canvas of the finished work.  Where there are related chalk sketches the focus is pose and drapery , with the faces barely defined.  There is, however, one drawing in the show that I found particularly appealing from the Frits Lugt Collection which Lugt left to his Fondation Custodia, Paris.  It is an informal depiction of François Langlois playing a Musette  believed to have been done in 1641, the last year of van Dyck’s life.  Langlois was an engraver, publisher and art dealer as well as an accomplished amateur musician.  Van Dyck and Langlois probably met in Italy when they both lived there some twenty years earlier.

There is a lovely little picture, an oil sketch from the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh of “The Princesses Elizabeth and Ann. Daughters of Charles I” from 1637.  Anne died of Tuberculosis in 1640 and Elizabeth died in 1650.  Their mother was convinced that the latter died of a broken heart after the execution of her father.

If I may end on a personal note and thank the author Adam Eaker for his statement from the catalog in the chapter “A Taste for van Dyck”.   He acknowledges the role of the market in art collecting and art history.  In the last paragraph he writes about a self-portrait by van Dyck bought by a Los Angeles collector that was not given an export license from England and was finally bought by the National Portrait Gallery in London thanks to a public appeal.  Eaker writes, “The attempt to preserve national patrimony necessarily clashes with a global art market in which paintings by van Dyck continue to command high prices, yet both demonstrate the artist’s enduring appeal”.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Out of Africa

We went recently to a film, titled simply “SEMBENE”, that I would not have bothered seeing if we were not friends with Jason Silverman, the co-writer, co-director, and co-producer.  He was also credited as being one of the cameramen on the film.  He is well known in Santa Fe as director of Cinematheque, a division of the Center for Contemporary Arts which also includes a Kunsthalle and a public arts program.  His made-in Santa Fe documentary has been on numerous “best of 2015” lists, among them New York Magazine ,, and it is a top contender for the Cannes Camera d’Or best first feature .

The film is about Ousmane Sembène  (1923-2007), author, filmmaker and activist from Senegal.   Jason met Samba Gadjigo, Sembène’s biographer, when, as editor of a film magazine, he commissioned an article on Sembène.  In Jason’s words, “Sambène used his camera as a weapon better than anyone I can think of ... I then invited him (Gadijigo) to co-curate a festival of African cinema I was producing and curating in Santa Fe. He brought a series of Sembène films to Santa Fe and we had the opportunity to talk about Sembène’s life and work. I found Sembène’s life to be incredibly dramatic and worthy of documenting.”  Here we have a picture of Samba and Jason together.

Sembène was the son of a fisherman who never made it past 5th grade.  Senegal was a French colony and he served in the French free forces led by Charles de Gaulle during World War II. Later he went to Marseilles where he was a dockworker for a decade.  In 1960 when Senegal became independent he went home.  While he was in Marseilles he wrote several books but when he went back he wanted to make films.  He wanted to reach the mostly illiterate population of his country.  He received a scholarship to the Gorky Film Institute in Moscow.  When he left there he had only two problems, no equipment and no funds, but it doesn’t seem to have stopped him.  He became Africa’s first filmmaker and director.

He finally did acquire a 16 mm camera and made 3 short films one of which was “Niaye” (1964) denouncing the hypocrisy of traditional African Chiefs.   Sembène used his artistic talents to attack injustice wherever he saw it and his first full-length feature was “La Noire de …” translated “Black Girl”, 1966.  It was about a Nigerian woman hired by a white French family as a domestic, all alone in a strange world she was taken advantage of by being continually hounded to do more and more house work and given little in return.  Here is an excerpt from Black Girl:

Each of his films exposed one kind of injustice or another.  One went up against the African bureaucracy, another the French military, and another the corrupt African business community.  In the words of Jason Silverman, “when he attacks the Islamic leadership and by extension, the President of Senegal which is beholden to them…he has bitten every hand that fed him.”  Therefore there was a long hiatus in his movie making.  During his lifetime Sembène made only nine films.

The documentary “SEMBENE” does not depict a man you want to sit down and have a beer with but someone driven by his sense of right and what should be.  He never seems to have lost the idealism we all have when we are young, before cynicism sets in!

Samba Gadjigo is a professor of French at Mount Holyoke College and according to Mount Holyoke’s website his research focuses on French-speaking Africa, African Cinema and particularly the work of filmmaker Ousmane Sembène.  Gadjigo sought out his hero and they became good friends.  Gadjigo even accompanied him on a world tour to meet many celebrities and other famous people in the movie industry.  After Sembène’s death  Gadjigo launched a project to  restore and re-master his films and keep alive his memory.

This all brought back memories of the early 60’s when I was a young idealist and wanted to learn about Africa.  I looked in my library and found a couple of college text books from that time and my history of Africa course.  Remember this was just in the middle of the civil rights marches and sit-ins.    By 1965 most of the countries had been liberated and changed their names.  A bit like, the New Mexico pueblos that have gone back to their original native names.

I asked Jason how and why he got involved with this project and he replied, “I have always been interested in how our stories - our culture - impacts the way we lead our lives, and in this age of commodity-driven storyteller, am concerned about how we are being taught to be consumers rather than citizens or community members.  Any storyteller who uses their art as a means of resistance is to me a hero.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Souper Bowl

A while ago I was asked by a friend whether I was going to the Souper Bowl and replied that I was not because I had no particular interest in football.  She then explained that it was not the Super Bowl but the Souper Bowl.  Sounds the same but is spelled differently.

There is a charity in town called the Food Depot which is a Food Bank.  In other words they accept food donations, financial donations and manpower in order to bring people in need surplus food from all possible sources:  food that is near it’s expiration date, food that is not selling as expected. Think of the restaurant that thought they would sell 200 chicken dinners in a week and only sells 150.  Today there are 250 Food Banks across the country that have literally given billions of pounds of food to those who might otherwise go hungry.  The Food Depot in Santa Fe collects the surplus food and distributes it to 145 partner agencies that feed people in need.

Like every not for profit they look for all possible ways to raise funds and out of that in Santa Fe came the Souper Bowl.  Chefs  from all the restaurants in town are invited to apply and the first 30 who do are asked to prepare their favorite soup.  Then from 12 to 2:30 pm on a Saturday afternoon the week before the Super Bowl (no conflict) they all turn up in the convention center and serve samples so the public can vote on their favorites.  People pay admission of $30 for adults, $10 for children  (children under 5 are free) so it amounts to an expensive lunch but you do get fed, have helped the hungry and have fun.  It has become a true community event.  I have never seen so many people in the convention center at once with about 1400 participants and a 100 volunteers.  Compare that with a food benefit in New York, at least the ones that reach the social pages where people pay from $500 to $2,500 dress to the nines and sit down for a gourmet meal.  Which seems more appropriate in reaching out to those who are hungry? 

Inside the convention hall it was a mob scene but you could quickly see which were the more popular restaurants because of the lines in front of their tables.  We knew a number of them but by no means all and we could think of some that did not participate.  When you walk in you are given a bag with a pen from a local bank, a napkin a very small spoon and a card from which you tear off tickets to put in the box of the chef who had your favorite soup over all and one in 4 categories, Seafood, Cream, Savory and Vegetarian.

Going from table to table I slowly came to the conclusion that there can be too much of a good thing and began to pace myself and not go to every single restaurant.  Some people, however, take it all very seriously and sit down at the many tables and chairs supplied and rate every single soup and then vote on what they considered the best soups.  For me, if I could remember it after an hour of sipping and slurping it must have been very bad or very good.  I find in so many things people disagree with me even though I know I am right .  So it was with soups.  I spoke to another friend afterwards who said she hated the soups that I thought were the best.

There was one interesting phenomenon in my mind.  There is a new Indian Restaurant in town called Paper Dosa.  It is one of the few Asian cuisines that I am not a big fan of and so I did not stop at that stand.  They were also at the end and I was quite full and the tortilla soup I had tried last was the worst I had ever had.  My wife, however, was raving about it so I said, this will be my last soup and gave it a try.  To my amazement, I really liked the Curry Leaf Corn Soup they had prepared and everyone I spoke to afterwards had voted for it as I did.  That was the only soup that I voted for that won in its category.

 Next year I think I will come up with a more methodical plan for tackling the Souper Bowl.

The chefs are asked to supply their recipes for the soups they present and my friend had the job of gathering them for a cookbook that is a loose leaf containing the recipes for the soups made over the last few years.  When I asked my wife if we should buy it she said, “I don’t make soups” which, upon reflection, is true.  We open a can!  Seriously, however, what a fabulous resource if you do consider yourself a cook, if not a chef.