Sunday, August 26, 2018

Too Many Indians

One little, two little, too many Indians!

You know you love your young children, but admit it, once school vacations are over you heave a sigh of relief when they go back to school and you are back to work.  Well, that is the way we feel after the last 10 days here in Santa Fe.

First there were three  major fairs occurring over one week. One sold all kinds of art, Asian, Spanish Colonial, Native American and miscellaneous material called “Objects of Art Show”. Then there is “The Antique Indian and Ethnographic show” and finally, “Antique American Indian Art Show”.   In addition one finds small satellite fairs.  Dealers come from around the country, some doing more than one of these shows, holding their best pieces for the show they think is the most important or brings in the best collectors. 

At one of the shows we saw a piece that we seriously considered. It had just been sold to the dealer a couple of weeks before at a fair in Albuquerque where one sometimes finds bargains if you know what you are looking for, but we had skipped it this year.  It was a very rare piece of textile, a shirt made by a Hopi Indian probably between 1920 and 1930.  We decided to pass on it as we have a vest that is similar though not as elaborate as this one had more embroidery and sleeves.  Here is an image of the piece.

Let us not forget the many Santa Fe galleries that also put out their best Native American objects over these weeks.  The museums also often have Native American exhibitions on.

Last week I wrote about The Ralph T. Coe Center show which opened in this same week.  (It also happened to be our anniversary which deserved some celebration after 43 years.)  Then there was one of our favorite events of the year, Feast Day at Santa Clara Pueblo where we can observe Indian dances on four  plazas and a feast fit for kings at a good friend’s home.

We had a few meals to share with collectors, curators and a museum director.  I am exhausted just writing about this prelude to the culmination of the week which is the SWAIA (Southwest Association for India Arts) Indian Market, a 3-day extravaganza which we have been going to for the past 28 years!  There are over 100 Native American Nations represented and over 10 times as many artists in booths around the Plaza and 10 times that number of visitors come from all over the world.  When over a hundred thousand visitors descend on a town of 70,000 residents it tends to get crowded and excitement fills the air. You don’t need auction fever (though there are a number of auctions during this time) to  be swept up in a feeding frenzy of art acquisition.

No one is allowed to buy or sell before the official Indian Market opens Saturday at 7:00 AM sharp. There is a judging the days before and then a preview event where one can go to see the works entered for prizes and the winners.  A few collectors arrive on the Plaza as early as 4:00 am to be sure they are first in line for a prize winner and in some cases, they even pay someone to stand in their place until they arrive just before 7:00.

Only once, about 25 years ago, did we arrive with our excited young son, Hunter, around 6:30 to buy prize winners: a basket from Evangeline Talaheftewa and a silver concho belt from her son, Roy.  At the preview this year we spotted two  pieces that we were seriously interested in and to our amazement they were still available around 7:30 the next morning.  Maybe it was because they didn’t receive prizes! 

The first was a bolo tie. I own quite a number which are Hopi overlay silver but this bolo was quite different, made of zirconian and carbon  fiber  by Pat Pruitt. To quote from his biography, “Pat Pruitt is a contemporary artist of Laguna, Chiricahua Apache and Anglo descent who is known for his cutting-edge work that uses innovative materials …”. That was the perfect description of what I saw at preview in the large case of glittering jewelry by other artists.  When I sent him a photo our son responded, “Wow that's the sleekest bolo I've ever seen. It's like the "Night Rider" of bolos. “  I could not agree more.

The second piece that intrigued us was a Katsina carving by Ron Honyumtewa from Hopi.  He described it as follows, “This piece of Masauu is a reminder to us all, he is the guardian, the caretaker and watches us all (humans) letting us know we are only guest of his world and for this reason we see the destruction of what is occurring in the world today. This piece is called, “Katsi Yay Ngwa” a New Life Beginning ...”  Here is an image of the Katsina and a photo the artist gave us as he developed it showing that I was carved out of one piece of wood.

To be able to acquire these two objects and see so many friends who came to our neck of the woods for Indian Market made the hectic pace worth it. As our son said as a young teenager, “This collecting is exhausting”!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Coe Center for the Arts - IMPRINT

This collaborative effort is an exhibition called “Imprint”.  It opened at the Ralph T. Coe Center for the arts last week and was organized by guest curator Nina Sanders (Crow Tribe) and Bess Murphy, curator at the Coe Center.

Before I go further let me explain that the Coe was called The Ralph T. Coe Foundation so if you do a search among my missives don’t be confused they are the same organization. I have written about the Coe often and if you want to have a lot of background just put the word Coe in the box, upper left, and scroll down through the Missives.

Six selected artists were asked to work together to create this show. They came up with the title representing the obvious meaning of artists prints and its literal definition, “To Imprint is to forge a connection that leaves a lasting mark”. To quote one of the artists. Eliza Naranjo Morse, (Santa Clara Pueblo), “Once in a while we experience something so deep and profound we are left with  an imprint that transforms our way of seeing and understanding forever.  Experiences like these are essential to growth and the culmination of wisdom …”

The other participating artists are Jamison Chas Banks (Seneca-Cayuga-Cherokee) Jason Garcia (Santa Clara Pueblo), Terran Last Gun (Piikani (Blackfeet), Dakota Mace (DinĂ© (Navajo)), and Jacob Meders (Mechoopda – Maidu). As you can see, it is  a very diverse group with only Terran Last Gun describing himself specifically as a pintmaker while the rest say multi-disciplinary. 

There is the exhibition that one can see at the Coe in Santa Fe but you might enjoy it elsewhere as well. Through August 26 an auxiliary show with Axle Contemporary, a van that travels around Santa Fe and environs has prints you can buy by these artists.  The show will also appear in Durango, Las Vegas, Nevada and other places in the form of newspaper boxes containing prints and ephemera created by one of these six  artists, such as a CD by Jason Garcia.  If you discover one you can take what you find, but do leave something for the next lucky person who stumbles on one of these newspaper boxes.

What was important to the artists was to engage with each other, the broader public and institutions across Santa Fe to create a dialog and show how one can communicate through art.  Aside from Axle they are also working with the Center for Contemporary Art (CCA) and the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) and the Form and Concept Gallery . The artists are working in silkscreen, letterpress and handmade paper, cardboard boxes, shopping bags and other media to tell stories via visual media.

We have always been amazed by all the thought that Native American Artists put into their work. The stories their images tell are far more intricate than you might at first imagine, involving heritage and family.  As a generalization I have found that Native Americans explain their art in a much clearer fashion than Anglo artists usually do.

The  Imprint project is not static.  Other prints might be added, new places for newspaper boxes might pop up.  You will have to watch Face Book and the Ralph T. Coe Center website to keep track of what will happen next.

Now for a few of my favorite works:
One of them is by Eliza Naranjo Morse, a member of an unbelievably talented artistic family, the Naranjos of Santa Clara Pueblo.  Her watercolor, pen and acrylic piece, called “With a Gun” follows a theme she has been following for some years but this is the most elaborate and the only one that could come out of an updated Grimm fairy tale.

I find the three shopping bags by Terran Last Gun very effective.  They are serigraphs done in a edition of 10, called “Above Beings & US”.  Last Gun  sees his geometric designs as telling a story of the artist’s path between here and home.  His bags he imagines either being mounted or carrying books or clothing etc. He writes that they “present a powerful conundrum for us to consider; if a throwaway material or commercial process is used in the making of ‘fine’ art what exactly is the end result”.

I have been following Jason  Garcia, also known by his Indian name Okuupin, for quite a while, particularly his ceramic tiles in his comic book series of “Tewa Tales of Suspense”.  Here is one of his tiles from that series called “Warrior Maiden Muse” being hand processed clay.

There is so much more to see but I will end with the mural outside the Coe.  The images are by Terran Last Gun, Eliza Naranjo Morse and Jason Garcia.  They are painted on paper and adhered to the wall by flour and water (wheat paste).  The printer was Matthew Chase Daniel of Axle Contemporary.  They are painted in vertical strips that have been pasted together.  Other images on other walls could appear anywhere at any time.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Theatre in Santa Fe: “November”

When we first came to Santa Fe, theatre was spotty.  There was the Santa Fe Playhouse but what we had seen there was more of a high school quality than professional.  Under new direction, however, I understand it has improved greatly.  Somehow, while opera got better and better and there was more and more dance, from classical ballet to modern dance, and even classical orchestra and choral groups, we saw no continuous theater.  Various Shakespeare companies came and went as they also could not find their audience.

In recent times this has changed, however, an online publication called Theatre Santa Fe ( might post 6 different theatre pieces in a single week and recently Shakespeare has returned as well.  It is rarely on the “main drag”, however.   To put it in New York terms we only have one “Broadway” house and that is the Lensic Performing Arts Center, about which I have written often, but  there has been a burst of what could be called “off Broadway” houses.

An outlying area in Santa Fe has been developing as a center for the arts.  It is known as the Siler Rufino Nexus or Sirun for short.  The name comes from two  streets that cross, Siler and Rufina.  It calls itself a creative innovation district” and is anchored by the hugely popular arts project Meow Wolf, the Disneyland of Santa Fe.  In Sirun, you will find all manner of the arts, including a circus school and small “black box” theatres, perfect for intimate shows.

We attended one of these recently at Teatro Paraguas, translated as “umbrella theatre“ in that it hosts guest productions in addition to its own Spanish language and Latino plays.  On this occasion we saw a troupe called The New Mexico’s Actor’s Lab perform the play “November”, a comedy  by David Mamet.  If you saw it you would not be surprised if you were told that it was written last week but in fact it was written in 2007 and opened on Broadway in January of 2008, playing for 6 months to mixed reviews. 

One of the ads for the show starts, “So, a lesbian, a Native American and a turkey lobbyist walk into the White House...”  The characters are indeed the president, his chief of staff and speech writer (the lesbian), the man trying to convince the president to pardon a turkey (no, 2 turkeys) before Thanksgiving and a Native American (formerly known as an Indian).

The President, his speech writer and the turkey lobbyist

The action, as it were, takes place in the oval office, the incumbent president is determined to get a second term.  As the play starts out:

President: (Charles E. Smith): “Can these numbers be right?  These numbers can’t be right.
Chief of Staff: (Archer): “They’re right”
President:  “Why, Why we won the first time, Archie.  Four scant years.  Why have they turned against me now?”
Chief of Staff:  “Because you’ve fucked everything up you’ve touched.”


President: “What is it about me that people don’t like?”
Chief of Staff: “That you’re still here.”

Sound familiar?  How timely or in this case prescient can a theatre piece be?

The comedy continues:

David Mamet clearly keeps a tight rein on his material but one can find a few clips on line in English and other languages.  It becomes very clear that any director of the play can handle the same material in many different ways.  I was sorry that the actor playing the president didn’t play it a little more Trumpian but I found out that the director decided that the audience would figure that out for themselves.  I did know Campbell Martin, who played the  turkey lobbyist, personally since he trains me in Pilates. He had his own band in New York, was on Broadway in various plays, then went to work internationally for a bank and finally came to Santa Fe as a Pilates trainer. Happily for us he appears, every once in a while, in the theatre here.  At one point in the play he embellished the indications in the script with the permission of the director.  The instruction is that the Turkey lobbyist goes after the President.  Campbell is suddenly running across the stage and dives headlong, sliding across the president’s desk and grabbing him until he is pulled off by his chief of staff.

The play continues with the president making one gaffe after the other.  After agreeing to marry his lesbian speech writer to her significant other though he has been told repeatedly that (at that time) it was illegal, she writes him the following speech but he keeps going off script. You can be sure that all the bleeps in this clip are not bleeped on stage:

While some critics at the time said the language was used to cover a lack of writing ability, no one would ever think so today.  Less than a decade later and so much has changed, and yet it is just a matter of degree.  Personally, I hope this play is put on in every city, town and village until 2020.  At this point it will play in Santa Fe for just this week, Thursday through Sunday.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Where Are My Old Books?

Once upon a time there was no problem finding the books with the information you needed.   There was the Encyclopedia in your library or if necessary the public library or even one step further along a specialty library such as the New York Academy of Medicine where I once went to help a friend diagnose a psychological problem they did not want to go to a doctor for.

Today some of those steps have been eliminated by the internet.  When people say there is lots of misinformation on the net I totally agree but just because it is printed in a book doesn’t mean it is true or not outdated.

Still there are books that we miss.  Maybe they are out of print or have beautiful reproductions that cannot be matched on the net.   How can we find them?  They can no longer be bought in a conventional manner which today would be your local book shop or on line.  When I was leaving New York and wanted to sell some of our large library no one wanted to buy anything because books were being digitized.  As one dealer said to me he could not refund people’s money for books they had bought the year before because the market no longer existed.

There are, of course, exceptions for first editions or rare books, or books that were created with fabulous illustrations or extraordinary covers and bindings.  I am speaking of  just books that you missed or thought you had no need of them when they first came out.  Through life we make discoveries that we wished we had made ages before.

After last week’s blog on Tony Price, I decided that I wanted my own copy of the Price catalog having borrowed one in order to write my Missive.  I was told it was no longer in print and other people were looking for it as well.  Where to look?  Of course, I did what we all do and went to Google where I mainly found dead ends but sooner rather than later I was taken to Amazon where they had a few with prices from $61 to $764… maybe there was a gold coin in the latter.  I then went to Ebay where they had a single copy in good condition for $45.  Then I heard from another friend who was looking for the book that he got a fabulous deal by going to where he found it for $14 including shipping.   As a curator once said, “Everything exists it is up to you to find it.” The secret is, of course, knowing where to look. 

When I had a gallery, I had a list of places to look for old art books but that is definitely out of date.  I was first introduced to the used book world over a half century ago at The Strand Bookstore in New York City.  Founded in 1927 it is now located on 12th Street and Broadway.  Today they claim 18 miles of new, used and rare books.  I picked up the old mysteries I used to love for $1 a piece.  I remember the practically new copies known as reviewers’ copies.  When a book is published it is sent to many reviewers in the hopes that it will be covered by a newspaper or a popular magazine such as The New Yorker.  Either they do or don’t but  recipients  do not want to keep them forever, so they sell them off (anything is going to be a profit) and they are quite the bargain for the searcher.

There are places like the Strand all over the world.  I even found them on line in Iran and China.  In the U. S. Powell’s Books, established in 1971 In Portland Oregon, boasts being “the world’s largest independent bookstore” with “a full city block of books”.  I have been there and highly recommend it for an enjoyable afternoon or evening.

An online store that acts as a clearing house for many small book shops around the world is Abe Books (  They do a superb job of describing the condition of a book they are selling and I have never been disappointed.  They had the Tony Price catalog at a very reasonable price.  Also, unusual is that they have old periodicals as well as books which is especially helpful in the arts.  The  company was founded 1995, the start of the dot com era, and in 2008 it was bought by Amazon. 

Needless to say, you are more apt to find your specific art book in a used book shop in the region the art was created. In other words, if you want an a book on South West Native Americans you are better off looking at shops in “The Four Corners” (Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico) than in the North East.

I have but scratched the surface but all to say if someone tells you the book you suddenly want is no longer available don’t take their word for it. “Seek and ye shall find.”