Sunday, August 27, 2023

Lazy Days of Summer ??? ... Cont’d

Our Indian Market Week started off at a gala for the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) and their scholarship fund. IAIA is a public tribal land-grant college in Santa Fe focusing on the arts. It’s President, Robert Martin, explained that they want each student to graduate with no student debt. I have found that generally people open their wallets wider when the subject is the education of students and this evening’s auction and paddle call were extremely successful. (For any who have managed not to attend this sort of fundraiser, a paddle call is when the Master of Ceremonies calls out the dollar number and audience members raise their paddles to contribute in that amount.) 

There must have been 400 diners that evening. The auctioneer started out with $20,000 and went as low as $250. When $20,000 was called out one attendee shouted, “I want to give more”. He was not ignored and when asked how much more, he said he wished to donate $100,000 to the scholarship fund. That started things off with a bang. This kind of figure is very rarely seen here with such a small population and so many cultural institutions seeking support.

The SWAIA (Southwestern Association for Indian Arts) Indian Market which is the climax of Santa Fe’s “season” happens once a year on the third weekend in August. Native Americans come from all over to show and sell their work. This year’s Market seemed larger than ever. According to the local newspaper, “The New Mexican”, this year there were 800 artists from 250 Indian Nations i.e. Federally recognized Tribes.

Before Market begins there is a Best of Show Ceremony and luncheon. Artists who wish to compete for the prizes bring their works to the Community Center for judging. Ribbons are awarded by panels of judges according to media, for technical excellence and nowadays for innovation. Competing artists, volunteers and those paying to attend the luncheon can inspect the first prize winners in each category set up on a dais where the artists are called up to receive their awards. The audience is seated for the division award presentations with anticipation building for the Best In Show announcement.

This year the top prize went to a small pot with graffiti decoration of dinosaurs by Jennifer Tafoya (Santa Clara Pueblo). Hardly traditional, the award was as a surprise to all, including the artist who, unlike other winners, was left speechless. Here she is holding her prize winner.

What wins Best of Show and other first prizes usually sell immediately when Market opens the next morning. A fabulous painting by Dan HorseChief (Pawnee/Cherokee) representing the battle the artist titles, "Judgement Day Manifest, The Greasy Grass 1876 Keough's Stand." Anglos call it the Battle of Little Big Horn or Custer’s last stand. The artist, after a great deal of research, believes that what actually happened is the army of the west were not outnumbered but outsmarted by the Indians using their hunting tactics. We tried to find the artist the next day at market and failed. Quite possibly he did not bother sitting in a booth because his one creation was sold right away. Here is his painting photographed by Tira Howard.

For the luncheon which is outside the Convention Center one has to either be an invited competitor or spend a pretty penny to attend. We are in the latter category but usually find interesting people to sit with. This year a Native lawyer and author joined our table and as she spoke with an Anglo couple from Arizona that was already seated, they found they had gone to the same elementary and high schools in Santa Fe and had mutual friends from fifty years earlier.

Even though, we spent 3 hours the following day, Saturday, touring Indian Market and another 2 hours on Sunday I know we did not see everything. We collect very little these days since our house has hardly an inch of wall or table space that is not covered with Native American Art. We have actually given some pieces to museums including the Metropolitan in New York. So, we looked at a lot but did not linger except at booths where we had become friends with the artists in the past. Here is an image of just one street of booths, multiply by 4 and you will have some idea of how large the market is.

Having said that we no longer collect is not quite accurate. I am on the Board of the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian in Santa Fe, which had a benefit sale earlier in the week. I was manning a table that included baskets and carved katsina figures that represent the spirits of the Hopi religion. Sure enough, I fell in love with one of the latter, actually not a katsina but one of the human clowns that appears during the Katsina dances. It is beautifully carved and the face has such a great expression. Behind his back you can see he is holding a cigarette which is clearly a no no. Not mentioned on the label was the mark on the bottom which we were able to trace to the carver’s family through friends more familiar with the field than we are.

These last two weeks have certainly not been Lazy but rather tiring! Still, it is a wonderful opportunity to participate in community and get together with friends and neighbors in common cause.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Lazy Days of Summer ???

We always hear about the lazy days of summer. Whoever came up with that myth? If you live in a tourist town, a destination place that is pleasant in the summer months it is the other way around.

Particularly this year when so many locations are far too hot and others far too wet, we see lots of visitors here at 7,000 feet in Santa Fe, New Mexico. We have lots of sunshine but not extreme temperatures and a dearth of rain. This wonderful weather and the beautiful skies and mountain scenery are reasons in themselves to visit.

The summer also brings music from the famous Santa Fe Opera in its modern partially outdoor theater to the Chamber Music Festival. The Lensic Theater has added the Lensic 360 program which includes free concerts on the Santa Fe Plaza and in other venues around town.

Fairs abound and surround. It starts in July with Folk Art Market, bringing artisans from around the world. That is followed a couple of weeks later by Spanish Market. These events happen over weekends. We skipped the folk-art market this year but went to Spanish Market which showcases the local Hispanic traditions. We are not collectors in this field but once in a while we are tempted. One year, being culturally Jewish and my wife born into the Christian faith, we bought this straw work cross, inlaid with a Menorah and a Jewish Star. The artist, Charlie Sanchez, explained that his village of Tomé, NM, was settled by Sephardic Jews fleeing the Inquisition.

August started off with the second year of the 2-day Lighting Boy Foundation Competition of Native youngsters from 4-year-olds to virtuosos in their 20’s. Here is last year’s Missive about the Hoop Dancers:

This year I took some shots of the younger set trying their abilities ...

Then this past week brought dealers in ethnographic arts in two established fairs which we always called “Old Indian Market” although material from other parts of the world is included. The one we are most interested in is the Whitehawk fair which this year packed more dealers than ever into the Community Center downtown. They used to serve food for the $100 opening night, but it seems that since another company has bought the fair, so no food but many more dealers packed into narrow aisles. Nonetheless, the quality was as high as can be expected in any fair.

One stand was occupied by the Mexican Jewelry designer Frederico Jimenez. He sells his own creations as well as other Mexican silver and there is always such a crowd at that he has his good friend, a local Santa Fe celebrity, working with him. I managed a grab shot of her. Does she look familiar? Think “Love Story”.

Ali McGraw

Penelope picked out her “Best of Show” which was also not Native American. It was an exquisite Chinese embroidered coat lined in white fur on the stand of Sheila Ellis who sold it opening night. Actually, it was nice to see a lot of business being done, the collectors were back.

Another event that we went to was Feast Day at Santa Clara Pueblo which was open to the public for the first time in 3 years. There are 3 plazas on which 3 different groups danced in sequence. If you are lucky enough to have received an invitation you will bring some food for your host and be served a feast. When we arrived, we were reminded that photography is not allowed at these events and told to leave our phones in the car. I asked one of the many policemen, both tribal and BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) what would happen if I was caught with the phone. I was told the phone would be confiscated and I would have to appear before a tribal Judge during the week and pay a fine to retrieve it.

This coming week will be even busier with Native American events which you can read about here next week.

Sunday, August 13, 2023


This is my car which sports a word from the Hopi language meaning Anglo (whiteman). From here my story continues ...

Could this car belong to Mrs. James Bond?

Could she be following this guy?

Commie sympathizer? Can she ...

Now that he has stopped at the ...

The next morning, he went to Indian Country ...

Might be time to ...

We better watch out for ...

This is not like chasing ...

Oh no ... was somebody shot?

Please ...

Readers comment ...

This is for next week ... meanwhile ...

Monday, August 7, 2023

Roxanne Swentzell and Her Heritage

In 1997 I met a woman from Santa Clara Pueblo who changed my world view, the late Rina Swentzell, a Santa Clara potter, a teacher, an author, an architectural historian and a lecturer.

The other night we heard a talk by her daughter Roxanne Swentzell (b.1962-) an eminent pottery artist. She had asked what subject she should address as she might well have lectured on Permaculture as she is an active proponent of, “the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems.” For this audience however the organizer asked her to address her art.

Roxanne creates figural sculptures and her primary medium is clay. I wrote about the importance of clay in the Pueblo culture some months ago.

One of Roxanne’s most monumental pieces was commissioned in 2008 for the Santa Fe Community Civic Center and according to their website is 14 feet in diameter. The title is “Family”. At the time when she was asked about her choice of subject she replied, “If I were given one image to capture the "seed" or beginnings of this state of community consciousness, it would be a child born within an extended family in which they come around him/her in total support.” (Images of “Family” and Creating Family)

Roxanne explained that due to a medical issue as a child she was very late in beginning to speak. From the age of 3 she made clay figurines as her means of communication, a skill she learned from her mother. The extenuated hands and feet that are part of her mature work continue to be a way she expresses herself. Think of who you know who speaks with their hands.

I loved the story she told of her mother driving all the kids somewhere and suddenly stopping on the side of the road and telling her children to take off their socks so she could use them to collect mud (clay) for her pots.

Another of Roxanne’s monumental sculptures, “Mud Woman Rolls On” (2010-2011), was created for the Denver Art Museum. It is almost 11 feet tall, and she explained that she had to make it of adobe, straw wattles mixed in the clay, to support the weight. She collected the clay along the way up to Denver, a five-and-a-half-hour drive.

Two major themes in her work are mothers and children. In her presentation Roxanne spoke of women of the earth. She stated, “Clay is our mother” and repeatedly referred to “remembering the mother”.

Roxanne and her mother, Rena, built Roxanne’s Tower gallery off the main highway north of Santa Fe with the same adobe used for “Mud Woman Rolls On”. Here is the finished gallery with a cast bronze by Roxanne; and Rina working on the building.

Near the end of her talk Roxanne quoted her mother speaking of “An Understated Sacredness” in working with clay. I am going to end where I began, with her mother, Rena. In order to understand where Roxanne has come from and how her work expresses that culture, when you have time, spend 18 minutes listening to the PBS episode where her mother speaks of the world from the Pueblo point of view and the lessons that it holds for us today.