Sunday, August 27, 2017

“Catch 22” The Exhibition

The Coe, formally known as The Ralph T. Coe Foundation, recently opened a new show, “Catch 22”.  According to the guest curator, Nina Sanders, (Apsáalooke, also known as the Crow Tribe), “we do ourselves a disservice by manufacturing boundaries that serve to exclude, define and restrict certain types of art.  ‘Catch 22’ addresses the paradox that sanctions Native American art as well as the paradoxes that exist within each artist’s life…These individuals are faced with navigating the ‘catch- that comes from standing in two worlds, as modern Americans and indigenous people”.

It is the job of every curator to edit an exhibition so that it speaks to its audience.  In my opinion this show of 22 works on paper does.  It helps to know, however, that the owner of the collection, Edward J. Guarino known as Edd, was getting bored with collecting traditional Native American art and wanted to find edgier material, which the younger Indian artists have been doing.  As someone who has spent most of his life dealing with Old Master European paintings, I find it difficult to agree but cannot disagree with Edd’s statement, “that you can’t talk to dead artists.”  Clearly both curator and collector came together on the importance of this point and each work has an artist’s statement in the small catalog that accompanies the show.

How did the Coe find this private collector from Brooklyn, New York?  Actually, Edd found the Coe about a year ago, through a Coe volunteer and someone who had set up a tour of the Coe.  Edd met its President, Rachel Wixom, and they came up with the idea for this show together.  The fact is that Edd was not unknown in Santa Fe.  The artist, Shan Goshorn, had introduced Edd to me online a short while before and an exhibition of Edd’s collection of Northwest Coast works on paper was up at the Museum of Contemporary Indian Art.

Shan Goshorn, an Eastern Band Cherokee from Oklahoma, is a basket maker who weaves stories into her works.  In the catalog entry for her piece in Catch 22 she states; “Art cajoles, encourages, forces us to stretch out of our comfort zone and to consider things that we might not have considered before.  I want people who see my work to walk away with the curiosity to learn more…”

An etching by Charles Loloma (1921-1991), a Hopi Jeweler who worked in many other media is called “Vertical Rectangles” and is based on a drawing from one of his sketchbooks.  What is particularly interesting is that it relates directly to some of the jewelry he was doing circa 1980. The catalog entry includes a quote from his writings: “I feel a strong kinship to stones…I feel the stone and think, not to conquer it, but to help it express itself”.

We saw Rose Simpson from Santa Clara Pueblo work in clay when she was still young enough to be called Rosy and was making small clay dolls.  Now 20 years later she is an established artist whose clay sculptures can be found in many exhibitions and museum collections.  She is from a renowned family of artists specializing in work in clay.  But as you must know by now artists never wish to pigeon hole themselves in one medium any more than an actor wants to be typecast.  Here we have a mixed media piece called “V-8 Engine”.  Possibly influenced by her mother, Roxanne, having rebuilt and decorated a car, which she loved to show off in the town of Espanola near Santa Clara.  Curator Nina Sanders says of Rose, “She is a force to be reckoned with.  She carefully and thoughtfully explores new areas of art as she navigates her own existence."

Since it is necessary to expand our horizons my final illustration will be by an artist I was totally unacquainted with, Sarah Sense (Chitimacha/Coctaw). She belongs to the tradition of basket weavers but this piece, like most of her work, is  flat. Titled “Elizabeth as Cleopatra”, 2015, it is woven from an inkjet print on Bamboo paper.  I love it when a picture emerges for me slowly and the first time I viewed this work I did not really see it other than colorful patterns. Then, as a volunteer at a Coe function, I found myself sitting opposite it and slowly the face of Elizabeth Taylor came out at me and the image clicked. The artist’s statement said, “The ultimate connection between me and this weaving would be the personal romantic journey that I had experienced at the same time I created Elizabeth as Cleopatra.”  That mysterious comment has all wondering.  What is important to me, however, is that the statement only amplifies the experience, but is not necessary to appreciate, the art.

If I have piqued your curiosity the exhibition can be seen at The Coe at 1590B Pacheco in Santa Fe. Just call, even at the last moment, (505) 983-6372 or come to an open house on the first Friday of every month from 1-4pm.  If you can’t make it, the fully illustrated 16-page catalogue with artists’ and curatorial commentary can be acquired by writing to or emailing the Coe,

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