The Santa Fe, New Mex­ico, home of Todd and Mar­jo­laine Green­tree fea­tures art that con­nects with their trav­els and in­ter­ests.

American Art Collector - - Contents - By John O’Hern

Afghanistan, Somalia, Rwanda, Bos­nia, Ethiopia, Nepal, Democratic Repub­lic of the Congo and El Sal­vador are places where Todd and Mar­jo­laine Green­tree have lived and worked in their ca­reers. He as a For­eign Ser­vice Of­fi­cer and she with the In­ter­na­tional Com­mit­tee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the United Na­tions. They now live in Santa Fe, New Mex­ico, the City Dif­fer­ent in the Land of En­chant­ment. Todd, who was liv­ing in a com­mune in Cal­i­for­nia hitch­hiked through Santa Fe in 1969 “the time of Easy Rider,” he notes. Mar­jo­laine vis­ited Santa Fe with a friend on a tour of the Amer­i­can West in 1989.

The cou­ple met in Africa on 9/9/99 and was mar­ried there. When they were liv­ing in New­port, Rhode Island, while Todd was at the Naval War Col­lege, they be­gan mak­ing plans to re­tire. Todd re­calls, “We asked, of all the places we’d been around the world, where did we want to live.” Mar­jo­laine de­scribes their cri­te­ria: “We were look­ing for a place that would be cos­mopoli­tan, have his­tory, moun­tains, good food and not be enor­mous. Santa Fe

seemed to be the place.”

Todd re­calls hav­ing posters in his room at the com­mune and tak­ing an art his­tory class when he was study­ing at the Johns Hopkins School of Ad­vanced In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies.

Mar­jo­laine says, “We grew up with art around us in our home in Switzer­land. Our par­ents en­cour­aged our in­ter­est in art and gave me my first wa­ter­color on my 12th birth­day. One of the first artists my fa­ther re­sponded to was Walter Mafli, who we met—he died last year at 102. My fa­ther gave a painting to my sis­ter and one to me, and we still have it in our col­lec­tion.”

Also in the col­lec­tion is a painting by Éliane Bou­vier, who was Mar­jo­laine’s men­tor at the ICRC. Bou­vier’s fa­ther served three times as pres­i­dent of the Swiss Con­fed­er­a­tion and her hus­band, Ni­co­las, “was well-known as Europe’s Jack Ker­ouac,” Todd says.

“We both brought things from our pre­vi­ous lives,” Todd ex­plains. “You can walk around and iden­tify some­thing from ev­ery cor­ner of the world.” The cou­ple has avoided what he calls “For­eign Ser­vice style” in which works from all over are as­sem­bled and dis­played al­most hap­haz­ardly. “One of the things I love about Mar­jo­laine is her abil­ity to cre­ate har­mo­nious ar­range­ments so that one thing goes with an­other. She can walk up to an item and move it 2 inches or turn it just right so it’s per­fect.”

Mar­jo­laine notes, “It was im­por­tant to me to have some art of the re­gion where I was work­ing in my lit­tle house. Mostly, they were con­flict ar­eas where it was dif­fi­cult for peo­ple to cre­ate art. I brought back what I could.

“We have a mix of out­sider art and some sort of non-aca­dem­i­cally-trained art,” she con­tin­ues. “We found it in places where

peo­ple want to do some­thing artistic but don’t have an ed­u­ca­tion. The Col­lec­tion de l’Art Brut, Lau­sanne, where I stud­ied, is a mu­seum of out­sider art. It took the art of peo­ple who were in in­sti­tu­tions and put it on the in­ter­na­tional stage.”

Jean Dubuf­fet, who as­sem­bled a col­lec­tion of l’art brut, wrote, “By this [Art Brut] we mean pieces of work ex­e­cuted by peo­ple un­touched by artistic cul­ture, in which there­fore mimicry, con­trary to what hap­pens in in­tel­lec­tu­als, plays lit­tle or no part, so that their au­thors draw ev­ery­thing (sub­jects, choice of ma­te­ri­als em­ployed, means of trans­po­si­tion, rhythms, ways of writ­ing, etc.) from their own depths and not from clichés of clas­si­cal art or art that is fash­ion­able.”

Todd re­calls be­ing in El Sal­vador “dur­ing the dark days of the war. I was in­ter­ested in ar­chi­tec­ture and an­thro­pol­ogy and ex­pe­di­tions in Me­soamer­ica. Then I dis­cov­ered the con­tem­po­rary art scene. Sal­vado­rans re­ally value their art. Even places at war that don’t en­cour­age art have an art scene.”

A large mask in their en­try hall is from Rio São Francisco, Mi­nas Gerais, Brazil. “The São Francisco is a huge river less known than the Ama­zon,” Todd says. “It was set­tled by Por­tuguese boat­men. Wood­carvers al­ways had a roll in boat-

amaz­ing old maps of New York,” Mar­jo­laine says. “It’s a metaphor for life and des­tiny. There are still things to dis­cover in it—and the sheer beauty of it!”

They have col­lected sev­eral por­traits by out­sider artist Lor Roy­bal who lives off the grid with her dogs in a com­pound she con­structed among the gi­ant boulders on her prop­erty. She is watched over by the brothers at Pe­cos Bene­dic­tine Monastery. “We’ve traded fire­wood and dog food for paint­ings,” Todd said.

They are await­ing de­liv­ery of a spe­cial piece from Ar­mando Adrian-López who lives in Abiquiu and comes from Mi­choacán, Mex­ico, which Todd de­scribes as a “dark, mys­te­ri­ous vil­lage.” López vis­ited the Green­tree home and is cre­at­ing a sculp­ture of the Aztec cre­ator de­ity Quet­zal­coatl out of wo­ven grasses on a wire frame.

“He learned to weave grasses with his grand­fa­ther,” Todd says. “We love his stuff. He’s a fab­u­lous, lov­ing per­son who’s ab­sorbed in his art. It’s who he is.”

López says, “My life is not separate from my art, my life is art and has al­ways been art. I am, for all in­tent and pur­poses, self-taught. I have an un­shak­able be­lief in La Unidad, Unity in all things. I be­lieve we are all con­nected to ev­ery­thing and every­one. I see my­self as a spir­i­tual sto­ry­teller; the nar­ra­tive-sym­bolic al­lows me to tell a sto­ries in which I am not the sole in­ter­preter, the viewer is also an in­ter­preter.”

The Green­trees’ con­nec­tion to the places they have been, the art they have ac­quired and the artists who have made it echoes the phi­los­o­phy López ex­presses.

3The White Palace, 2009, oil on can­vas, by Rodney Hat­field (“Art Snake”), hangs above a 19th-cen­tury pine chest from Switzer­land and a 19th-cen­tury lad­der-back chair from France. The weav­ing is from Nige­ria.4Alexan­dra Eldridge’s Les Mys­teres de la Main, 2007, mixed me­dia, hangs in the mas­ter bed­room.5 Re­flected in the bath­room mir­ror is Crane, 2012, acrylic on linen by No­cona Burgess (Co­manche). On the counter is a pot by Stella Chavar­ria (Santa Clara), which is next to a Triple Face Mask from Lega-Len­gola, Democratic Repub­lic of the Congo. The tall bronze fig­ure is from West Africa, circa 1970. Alexan­dra Eldridge’s mixed me­dia on board,Life’s Fly­ing Nee­dle, 2010, hangs on the wall.


8The large mask in the hall­way is from Rio São Francisco, Mi­nas Gerais, Brazil. It hangs above bas­kets ac­quired in Ad­dis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 2009. The painting on the near wall is He­lena, circa 2005, acrylic on pa­per, by Lor Roy­bal. Her Ado­nis, circa 2005, across the hall, is also acrylic on pa­per.

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