|When Friends Meet — 1987|
at the Denver Botanic Gardens 2011 exhibit
Allan Houser (Warm Springs Chiricahua Apache, 1914–1994), Native Roots | Modern Form
My friend Steve and I drove from Albuquerque to Denver in June 2011 for a touring production at the Denver Performing Arts Center. It was also my first visit to the Denver Botanic Gardens, and turned out to be an initiation into the sculpture of Native American Allan Houser. I knew his name, had seen a piece here and there and lots of photographs of Houser's work, but never so much live and in person, and in one setting.
Truly, for those of us who love collecting and understand the privilege of being a steward of expressions of the creative spirit, art in some form abounds just about anywhere we find ourselves. If we choose, sometimes we get to bring it home for awhile. Most times, we are offered an opportunity to be a part of some public presentation. Maybe it's a special garden or park in some city, or a museum or other institution where art is on display. Sometimes it's in someone's home.
The Denver Botanic Gardens are a beautiful mixture of the planned and rustic.
And in this instance, a backdrop for the exquisite work of a very talented man. According to our friends at Wikipedia, "one of the most renowned Native American painters and Modernist sculptors of the 20th century."
And according to another website, "teacher and mentor to an entire generation of American Indian sculptors. At various stages of this journey he mastered drawing, painting, stone carving, and sculpting in bronze. He also changed his name to Houser (from Hazous), easier to spell and pronounce in the larger world in front of him." www.okhistory.org
This is where we started and finished in the Denver Botanic Gardens.
|Morning Prayer — 1987|
For the Houser exhibit, this Navajo weaving had been framed and stood on a large easel in the main area of the visitor center, the centerpiece of a special exhibit on Native American art. Three weeks later it stood in my living room, and now it hangs on a very sturdy lath and plaster wall.
|Navajo-Cornstalk-Yei, 55" x 38", 1910 (unframed)|
One of the thrills of the hunt is the unexpected find, such as this 1930s Navajo bracelet cuff. Unsigned, as is typical of early work—a professional friend said about this piece that I found at the estate sale for a 94 year old man in Albuquerque, "Wow, that has got it all!" Lots of nice turquoise, heavy carinated triple split shank silver with deep stamp work.
Sometimes I am in disbelief of what I find. It happens rarely that you walk upon something, as we say. Several years ago while killing time in a resale shop in rural Texas, I found a Rose Gonzales (San Ildefonso) vase that had been made into a lamp. It was the day before Thanksgiving. A little irony here. I thought to myself—someone is manufacturing lamps that look like San Ildefonso pottery. I bought it, and started Googling for images of San Ildefonso pottery vases. Thanks to the generous guidance of a dealer in Arizona, I disassembled the lamp to look for the mark on the vase bottom, and there it was, in script, her name "Rose". I owned it for a few years and then sold it. Nice money, but in a way I wish I still had the vase. I have to remind myself every time I let go of something I love that it's all temporary, anyway. And there are many more treasures waiting. "There will always be another piece of pecan pie. And if I die first, then it won't matter."—I sometimes say jokingly when I sell a piece I love or miss out on a piece.
|Rose Gonzales Vase|
It's all part of the journey. In this corner of my bedroom: a couple of checkerboards bought over the Internet from dealers in upstate New York share space with Italian stone fruit in a primitive wooden trencher from Mexico, a pair of Shoshone moccasins (so I'm told), and on the wall, mounted on linen with all the warts and wrinkles showing around the edges, a primitive still life that had to be pulled from the wall where it was nailed in a furniture making shop somewhere near Atontonilco, between San Miguel de Allende and Delores Hidalgo, Mexico. I was visiting a pioneering friend who in her late 60s had decided to live in Mexico for awhile. That's a serigraph of a Gerald Nailor painting of a quail facing the corner of the room.
I have long loved early treenware. And always, when I say the word, I am reminded of an article from long ago titled something like, "When Treenware was the Only Ware". This dynamite large maple bowl came from a dealer in upstate New York that I've never met. I've bought several things from him over the last few years. Even though I've gone through a couple of significant collecting periods, including early Americana and Texana, and said goodbye to both collections, I have a soft spot for wood. It simply doesn't get any better than this bowl.