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.

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