Sunday, November 8, 2020

Quirky Objects

I like this idea of making observations in our own collection and so I started looking around for what I would call quirky or unusual works of art, i.e. they don’t fit in to the normal art vocabulary of the artist or the type of object.

In our former life we collected Art Nouveau objects. When we left New York, we donated our Jugendstil metalwork collection to the Cooper Hewitt and sold 99% of furniture. Even though we knew that our umbrella stand would not “fit in”, in Santa Fe we wanted a souvenir of a previous life. It was probably made in Eastern Europe, possibly Austria.  It is certainly a little different from the norm and frankly I have never seen another one.

Adapting to our New Mexico home, this Jewish boy found himself acquiring several crosses, though he objected when his wife suggested putting one on the front door!  In 2008 we discovered the “found art” of Pablo Flores quite by accident when we visited the Silver Sun Gallery in Santa Fe in 2008 known for its  Native jewelry. Pablo Flores creates religious sculptures he calls "Revotos (rather than exvotos) from objects he finds on his restorative walks. Although each cross cost under $100 they have become meaningful to us.  This might make more sense if you know that the artist is a reformed alcoholic, who, before he became an ordained minister and father of 3, had a life of booze, drugs, gangs, guns and as a result, prison. For illustration purposes I am picking “Walk the Walk” where you see the sole of a shoe fixed in place by the rusted lid of a tin can.

Another cross was a natural for me to accept.  We acquired it from Charlie Sanchez, a specialist in straw work, at Traditional Spanish Market in the summer of 2018.  It is signed on the back and titled, "Cruz de los Sepharditos de Nuestra Tierra Sagrada".   The straw inlay of the cross represents a Star of David above a Menorah (the eight-candle holder used on the holiday of Chanukah) in the center making it a truly Judeo/Christian object. When we were buying this fascinating object, I could not resist asking the artist, Why?  His reply was that his DNA test proved him 66% Sephardic Jew. He is the descendant of Jews who fled Spain with the Reconquest . They came to New Mexico where a group settled along the Rio Grande south of Albuquerque in Sanchez’ village of Tomé.

I will end with a table by an artist that my wife “discovered” when she was curator at the Metropolitan Museum.  It is by the artist Albert Paley who became the outstanding exponent metalwork of the Studio Craft Movement. He started out making pieces of jewelry that he wanted to form to the body he was making them for. (These incredible works looked great on his statuesque wife, Frances.)  He subsequently moved on to steel furniture, architectural ornament and monumental sculpture. His metamorphosis occurred in 1974 when he won the Renwick Gallery’s national design competition to create decorative metalwork doors for the gallery shop. His Portal Gates opened the door to a new career. For an excellent lecture by Albert about his work go to

 I remember when Penelope took me to Albert’s studio in Rochester, New York where he forged his steel and I saw there a lectern, which I loved but we had absolutely no use for.  When I had to ask if I could by it, Albert’s responded, “There are 6 people ahead of you”.  A few years later when we were in a new apartment, I longed for a coffee table to go between 2 couches opposite each other, but my wife did not want one.  I was inspired to ask if we could get a coffee table, if Albert would make one for us.  She agreed but then I heard her on the phone with Albert saying that he should make a table on which I could not pile on large coffee table books!  Here is the result of one of our quirkiest and favorite works of art that has been the centerpiece of our homes in New York and New Mexico.

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