Saturday, September 27, 2014

A modest and extremely abbreviated tale of loving art and the hunt for It...

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.

Corn Maiden
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."

Navajo Shepherd
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."

Spirit Dancers
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.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

"Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them." — A.A. Milne

My garden in Albuquerque
In an article dated July 1963 written for the Garden Club of Taos, Ruth L. Fish writes an interesting history of the Hollyhock, perhaps the favorite summer flower of New Mexico. (Link to the garden club's website and an excerpt from Ms. Fish's article included below).

Apparently mistaken for—or considered even—a weed by some, its persistence in surviving, sometimes in the midst of concrete sidewalks, is testament to its tenacity. Ironically, my own efforts to get hollyhocks started in my garden in Albuquerque took its own persistence. Finally, in year 3 my plants sprang to a height of 6 feet and Bloomed! Ah, sweet mystery of life.
Santa Fe
1930s painting of bees among the Hollyhocks.
Found in East Texas.
New Mexico Randall Davey Audubon Center
Santa Fe, New Mexico

"Its genaeological background is long and interesting. Its botanical name is Althea rosea, a genus of the Mallow Family, and a cousin to the exotic hibiscus of the tropics, as well as to the practical okra and cottons of the temperate zones. Its common name derives from Hocys Bengaida, a name given in Wales to the Malva benedictus, "holy mallow" of medieval Latin literature. Wedgewood, an English botanist, says that it was called "holy" because the first of the plants brought to southern Europe came from the Holy Land, to which it had been transplanted from China, its original home. Its characteristic of survival in all climates and soils had caused it to be transplanted to all parts of the civilized world during the Middle Ages, and it is mentioned as "holy-hoke," an adaptation of the Welsh name, in a British horticultural treatise of 1548.

"To the Spanish, the plant was generally known as Las Varas de San Jose, "rods (or staffs) of St. Joseph," and as such it was pictured in many early paintings of St. Joseph in southern Europe, its quality of enduring all manner of circumstances in all climates and soils typifying God's love and mercy for mankind. In this way, it came to have a very special meaning for our Spanish colonists who brought the seed from the Mother Country in the earliest years of settlement. The Spanish people have ever been lovers of flowers, and even in arid New Mexico, the doƱas and their gardeners soon had flowers lining their portales and bordering their adobe walls. The hollyhocks survived when many more tender plants could not abide the rigors of late spring and early autumn frosts, burning noon-day sun, and persistent drought; and so they became the favorites; seed was shared; and soon, as one of my aged neighbors has said, 'Everyone had hollyhocks.'" — Ruth L. Fish, July 1963

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Bugs, and Worms, and Snakes

A staff member shows us her garden find at
Randall Davey Audubon on September 23, 2014.
(CLICK on any image to ENLARGE it)

The following information is from our good friends at Wikipedia. Click on the link below to read the whole article about the smooth green snake, also referred to as a garden snake:

"The smooth greensnake (Opheodrys vernalis) is a nonvenomous North American colubrid. It is also referred to as the grass snake. It is a slender, "small medium" snake that measures 36–51 cm (14–20 in) as an adult. It gets its common name from its smooth dorsal scales, as opposed to the rough green snake, which has keeled dorsal scales. It is found in marshes, meadows, open woods, and along stream edges and is native to regions of Canada, Maine,Illinois, Virginia, Wyoming, New Mexico, Iowa, Missouri, Colorado, Texas, and northern Mexico. A non-aggressive snake, it seldom bites and usually flees when threatened. It mates in late spring to summer and females lay their eggs from June to September.

"Typical for a nonvenomous snake, its eyes are large and round. It uses its tongue, red with a black end, by flicking it in and out of its mouth to "smell" what is around it.[8]

"They are docile snakes, seldom bite and usually allow humans to come close.[15] If provoked, it can secrete a substance from its anal gland, causing a foul smell.[11] When handled by humans, it usually shows excited behavior and calms down after wrapping itself around a finger.

"Smooth green snakes mostly eat insects and spiders,[2] including spineless caterpillars, harvestmen, moths, ants, snails, worms, and slugs. While hunting, it uses both chemical and visual clues to find prey, and kills with a strike instead of constriction.[5]"

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Zuni Bracelet Cuff

Known these days primarily as a fetish carver, Fred Weekoty was also a silversmith earlier in his career (pre-1970s)—according to biographical information for this artist on the Internet. Beautiful stones set in handmade bezels, set off by elegant, simple stamping. Perfect silver patination. Signed FW Zuni, this row bracelet cuff is singularly Fred Weekoty.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

True Story

South Capitol residential area of Santa Fe, New Mexico

Seven years ago, it was the romantic associations of structures like this true adobe casa that fascinated me about the capitol city in the state of New Mexico. After a few years living in that city, I packed up and moved 65 miles south to the true hub of this place many call the Land of Enchantment. New Mexico is enchanting, in spite of the extremes of poverty and prosperity that become so apparent once you live here, especially in the capitol city. I'm still trying to figure out whether I have been embraced or rejected by this land. I knew as a child in 1951, on the only real vacation our family ever took, that I wanted to embrace it. These days, I live in one-half of a 1940s duplex in an historic neighborhood near the University of New Mexico—my tiny (by just about any measurement) rented space only one-quarter the size of the home I own on family land in central Texas. I visit that home only a couple of times a year, for a few weeks each time. New Mexico proudly calls itself the Land of Enchantment. Some say, ironically, the land of entrapment. One of the "official" monikers of Santa Fe for decades has been The City Different. Many say, again ironically, the city indifferent. It's all true. Or as a friend often comments about matters of happening and history, "true story".

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Two Days South of the Autumnal Equinox

Fall is looking over our shoulders here in central New Mexico. A peek here and a peak there. We've toyed with daytime highs hovering in the low 70s and other days where Indian summer rules. But oh, the morning air, the light, and the smell. If only a picture—well, maybe someone else's camera and eye—could paint the story. Grasses have topped out with their autumn whispers, and the Gallardia is giving up its intense orange, making seed heads and trusting on another summer. After a 30-minute walk through the neighborhood early this Saturday, I sat in my front yard, and facing east I just breathed.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Early Utah Art

Rural landscape by Utah artist Hilma Mole, dated 1930.

Hilma Mole Payne (1902-1965) was born in Croydon, Utah, and lived most of her life in Ogden. She studied under famed Utah artist, James Taylor Harwood, art department chair at the University of Utah. Mole (Payne) graduated from Weber College and the University of Utah. In 1928 she went to Paris, via London, where she enrolled in the Academie Julian. She also studied at the California School of Arts and Crafts in Berkley.  

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fall Flush of Purple

New England Aster, (A. Novae-angliae). Described as a ubiquitous species of Native American Aster, grows from Vermont to Alabama, west to North Dakota, Wyoming and south to New Mexico and the higher elevations of Virginia. Reportedly, the Native Americans used this plant as a root tea for treating fever and diarrhea.

All images taken at Randall Davey Audubon Center, Santa Fe NM, September 16, 2014

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Santo Domingo Pueblo (NM) Shell Pendant

Artists of the Santo Domingo (Kewa) Pueblo, situated about midway between Albuquerque and Santa Fe along the historic Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad (ATSF), have a long history of selling their jewelry and pottery to tourists traveling to the West. As early as the 1880s/90s, traditional Santo Domingo objects of art found their way into the hands of travelers eager to carry home  a piece of the West and Native America that appealed to their sensibilities. Travelers making their way along historic highway Route 66 added further to this history.

The story I am told about the shell mosaic pendant pictured here is that it was purchased from the shop of well known Santa Fe trader, Rex Arrowsmith, in the early 1970s. Arrowsmith's Relics of the Old West was my first stop on visits to Santa Fe in the late 1980s and early '90s. On snowy mid-winter days, the fireplace was stoking behind the heavy historic door, ornamented with hand forged iron straps, that led into Arrowsmith's on Old Santa Fe Trail. I've never met Rex. I think he was sort of retired by the time I discovered the shop. His name is key in the history of the marketing and trading of Indian art, including the famed Indian Market, which has taken place in Santa Fe for close to 100 years.

One older Santo Domingo jewelry artist told me recently over Labor Day at the pueblo's annual arts and crafts festival that she thinks the piece could date to the 1950s. So far, I haven't seen another piece like it. Maybe I'll know more about it someday, more that is, than that I like it, a lot.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Summer Retreating into Fall, Santa Fe New Mexico 2014

Labyrinth garden on the plaza of St. Francis Basilica

New Mexico Audubon Center (above and below)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

La Fonda on La Fonda—Santa Fe, New Mexico

 Mural on an outside hotel wall situated inside the entrance to the ground floor parking garage. It would be difficult to miss this striking image of La Fonda, painted by artist Tony Abeyta (Navajo), as one enters the hotel from the garage.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Mid-20th Century Zuni Turquoise and Silver Art

Pin on left attributed to Dan Simplicio. Pin on right attributed to Juan Calavaza.

Monday, September 1, 2014

My office window—sorta

Buddleia davidii, Randall Davey Audubon Center
Santa Fe New Mexico
This is where I hang my hat every Tuesday, as a volunteer in the visitor center of New Mexico Audubon. I just celebrated my fifth anniversary.

As a bumper sticker I saw recently declares:
"It isn't new and it isn't Mexico". So noted.