A woman un­der the in­flu­ence (of art) Re­mem­ber­ing Elaine Hor­witch

RE­MEM­BER­ING ELAINE HOR­WITCH

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS -

One day while Julie Sasse was work­ing for Elaine Hor­witch, she got an ur­gent call from her em­ployer. Hor­witch, the renowned gal­lerist, was holed up at home un­der po­lice or­ders be­cause es­caped con­victs were sus­pected of be­ing in the area. She needed food and sup­plies. At her re­quest, Sasse stopped at Furr’s cafe­te­ria to pick up a bucket of fried chicken and, af­ter be­ing cleared by the po­lice, joined Hor­witch and her house­keeper on the roof, where Hor­witch waved to the po­lice heli­copters that were scout­ing the area. “She was no­to­ri­ous for lov­ing fried chicken from Furr’s cafe­te­ria,” Sasse told Pasatiempo. “We had fried chicken and cherry pies, and she had a pump-action shot­gun, pis­tols — at least five or six weapons — and binoc­u­lars, all laid out. She wasn’t afraid. The pris­on­ers were out there and she wanted to find them. She had her horse wran­gler sad­dle up her horse the next day and I saw she had a scab­bard. She slipped her ri­fle into the scab­bard and went out to track th­ese guys.”

Sasse, chief cu­ra­tor as well as cu­ra­tor of mod­ern, con­tem­po­rary, and Latin Amer­i­can art at the Tuc­son Mu­seum of Art, di­rected the Elaine Hor­witch Gal­leries in Scotts­dale, Se­dona, Santa Fe, and Palm Springs. In May of this year she was in Santa Fe as a fel­lowin-res­i­dence at the Women’s In­ter­na­tional Study Cen­ter, work­ing on a book ten­ta­tively ti­tled Art Gal: Elaine Hor­witch and the Rise of Con­tem­po­rary Art in the Amer­i­can South­west. “It’s a bi­og­ra­phy, but it’s also part mem­oir be­cause I worked for her for 15 years as her di­rec­tor in var­i­ous ca­pac­i­ties in both Scotts­dale and Santa Fe,” Sasse said. “I helped her open her gallery in Palm Springs and helped her to close it. I also was part of the Se­dona gallery clos­ing.” Hor­witch, who died of a heart at­tack at her Santa Fe home in 1991 at age fifty-eight, had come a long way from her hum­ble beginnings in the art world: sell­ing prints out of the back of her car. By the time she died, she had rep­re­sented some of the most prom­i­nent Na­tive and non-Na­tive artists work­ing na­tion­ally, in­clud­ing Fritz Scholder, R.C. Gor­man, Tom Pal­more, Billy Schenck, and David Bradley. Al­though her taste in art ran from high to low, she helped es­tab­lish Santa Fe and Scotts­dale as premier cen­ters for con­tem­po­rary Na­tive artists.

“There’s a gen­er­a­tion of us that still know the sto­ries and have mem­o­ries of her and knew her,” Sasse said. “If some­body didn’t write about her, her his­tory might slowly dis­ap­pear. To me, it’s too im­por­tant and piv­otal a time to have those mem­o­ries and that his­tory go away. What started as the story of Elaine Hor­witch has now be­come so much big­ger. It’s be­come about the rise of con­tem­po­rary art in Ari­zona and New Mex­ico through the hubs of Scotts­dale and Santa Fe, and touches on some of the artists that con­trib­uted from Taos and Al­bu­querque or Tuc­son, be­cause they reg­u­larly showed in th­ese two art cen­ters.”

Hor­witch, a mother of five, came to Scotts­dale from Chicago in 1955. She was a house­wife then, not a gal­lerist. Sasse tells the story of her trans­for­ma­tion into a driven, ca­reer-ori­ented en­tre­pre­neur: “At one point she read Betty Friedan’s The

Fem­i­nine Mys­tique and her hus­band pan­icked. His wife was ed­u­cated and came from a smart and well-to-do Chicago fam­ily. He came home one day and said to her, ‘I’m afraid that af­ter a while you’re go­ing to get bored be­ing just a mother and I think you need to find a ca­reer.’ She went with him on a buy­ing trip to New York — he was in the ap­parel man­u­fac­tur­ing busi­ness — and went to the mu­se­ums and the gal­leries. She came back to the ho­tel one night and said, ‘I found my ca­reer. I want to build a busi­ness that’s mod­eled off of Tup­per­ware.’ ” In­stead of go­ing door to door and sell­ing Tup­per­ware, how­ever, she joined her friend Suzanne Brown to start The Art Wagon. “What they did — and this is a leg­endary story — is they would load up their sta­tion wagons with prints that they ei­ther bor­rowed or bought from other gal­leries and they would meet with Jewish women’s groups or school groups, you name it. There wasn’t a lot of art in town. There were just a few gal­leries, but mostly they were fo­cused on Na­tive Amer­i­can art or West­ern art. They would sell the art right out of their sta­tion wagons. Their hus­bands said, ‘If you don’t find a gallery soon, we’re go­ing to di­vorce you be­cause you’re con­stantly tak­ing the cars.’ ”

In the mid-’60s, Brown and Hor­witch found a lit­tle space in Scotts­dale that was not even large enough to host artist re­cep­tions. But Brown and Hor­witch had

dif­fer­ent aes­thetic in­ter­ests. Brown’s hus­band was run­ning for Congress and she had less time to de­vote to their joint busi­ness ven­ture. “So Elaine got her own space and that’s when she took off. Ev­ery­thing changed for her then,” Sasse said. “She put a mas­sive amount of money into ad­ver­tis­ing na­tion­ally. She had that much con­fi­dence in the type of art she was show­ing that she felt that she had ev­ery right to be com­pet­ing with New York and Los An­ge­les gal­leries.”

Hor­witch opened her Scotts­dale gallery in 1973 and the Santa Fe Gallery fol­lowed three years later. She booked pop­u­lar en­ter­tain­ers to play at her open­ings. The artist Larry Rivers played with his jazz band at the open­ings of his own shows. When she es­tab­lished another gallery in Palm Springs, she brought in Queen Ida and her zy­deco band to play for an open­ing there. “Elaine had charisma,” Sasse said. “Peo­ple wanted to be around her.”

When the Santa Fe Opera opened in 1957, she started com­ing to Santa Fe with her hus­band to at­tend per­for­mances and fell in love with the city. She bought an 8,000-square-foot house on Cir­cle Drive. “It was her fa­vorite home, her fa­vorite gallery, and this is where she re­ally wanted to be. What I’m trac­ing is when she started, why she started, and how she got to be so pop­u­lar and so suc­cess­ful. She was gross­ing in the mil­lions and mak­ing artists famous. Fritz Scholder ... was al­ready get­ting at­ten­tion na­tion­ally, but she was tak­ing full-page color ads in lo­cal and na­tional mag­a­zines and pro­mot­ing him in ways no one else had done.”

Sasse, who early in her ca­reer was a weav­ing and met­al­smithing pro­fes­sor in Wash­ing­ton, had also worked for Hor­witch’s for­mer part­ner Suzanne Brown. Sasse joined Hor­witch in 1980. “It changed my life,” she said. “She taught me about busi­ness in ways that I’ll never for­get: how she han­dled peo­ple, her to­tal fear­less­ness, and her busi­ness acu­men. Ev­ery day was a new ad­ven­ture, sell­ing to peo­ple like Vin­cent Price, Linda Lavin, and Robert Red­ford.” Even the ex­er­cise guru Richard Sim­mons was a client. “He twirled me around and said, ‘Aren’t you a pretty thing.’ I came from a very hum­ble univer­sity fam­ily. My fam­ily were pro­fes­sors. I’d never been around this swirl of wealthy and im­por­tant celebri­ties. It was hugely ex­cit­ing for me. I worked in Scotts­dale and came to Santa Fe in the sum­mers. I sent my fam­ily a post­card about how a famous pi­anist was com­ing to the gallery and we were

“What started as the story of Elaine Hor­witch has now be­come so much big­ger. It’s be­come about the rise of con­tem­po­rary art in Ari­zona and New Mex­ico through the hubs of Scotts­dale and Santa Fe, and touches on some of the artists that con­trib­uted from Taos and Al­bu­querque or Tuc­son, be­cause they reg­u­larly showed in th­ese two art cen­ters.” — cu­ra­tor Julie Sasse

moving in a grand piano: That was Michael Til­son Thomas. I’m think­ing I’ll do a sec­tion in the book called The Leg­ends.” Dur­ing her time with Hor­witch, Sasse or­ga­nized ex­hibits of works by Beatrice Wood, David Hock­ney, and Louise Nevel­son, among other prom­i­nent artists.

In 1998 New York’s Guggen­heim Mu­seum mounted an ex­hi­bi­tion called The Art of the Mo­tor­cy­cle.

Ac­cord­ing to Sasse, Charles Falco, one of the ex­hibit’s cu­ra­tors, lived in Tuc­son when Hor­witch did her own mo­tor­cy­cle ex­hibit at her Scotts­dale gallery — an ex­hibit he likely had seen and that may have in­spired the Guggen­heim show. “She would go shopping for vin­tage mo­tor­cy­cles with Nick Sealy, one of her em­ploy­ees. Some­times he would say, ‘Elaine, that’s too much money.’ And she’d say, ‘Nick, I know what I’m do­ing.’ ” Sasse ac­com­pa­nied her on a such a trip while vis­it­ing Los An­ge­les for an art fair. Hor­witch kept her cash on hand in a large roll and whipped it out, pay­ing cash for the cy­cles. “Th­ese were rough-look­ing bik­ers and there were mo­tor­cy­cles ev­ery­where, mar­i­juana joints half-smoked and sit­ting out on pieces of equip­ment. But she ne­go­ti­ated with th­ese guys and had them in the palm of her hand. It was ex­hil­a­rat­ing. She would go to the flea mar­ket out­side Santa Fe ev­ery week­end and buy out whole booths, then sell all of it marked up 1,000 per­cent from her gallery the next day.” Hor­witch did not just sell con­tem­po­rary and his­toric art. She also sold tchotchkes, low-end items that some­times ran­kled artists who did not want their work seen along­side hang­ing mo­biles and ta­bles full of cow­boy boots. “She showed what she wanted to show and made no apolo­gies for it,” Sasse said.

Hor­witch took to riding horses and wear­ing Na­tive jew­elry, con­cho belts, and Larry Ma­han boots. Ac­cord­ing to Sasse, she had a closet lined with all her cow­boy boots in “ev­ery color of the rain­bow.” And then there were the guns. Al­though some fam­ily mem­bers in­ter­viewed by Sasse dis­agree on the specifics, it is likely that she owned a Glock and a pearl-han­dle Smith and Wes­son, as well as ri­fles and other pis­tols. “She kept the Smith and Wes­son in her purse. She’d be out to din­ner with clients and if they talked about gun con­trol, just to freak them out she’d pull out her gun, slam it on the ta­ble and go, ‘Well, I al­ways pack heat.’ ” It was a les­son a shoplifter who tried to steal a Zuni fetish from her gallery learned the hard way. “Ac­tu­ally, it was a cou­ple of guys. She blocked the door to keep them from leav­ing and said, ‘You’re un­der ar­rest.’ ”

Hor­witch’s for­mer gallery in down­town Santa Fe is cur­rently oc­cu­pied by Patina Gallery. Be­fore that, it was a gallery owned by Ar­lene LewAllen, who, for a time, part­nered with Hor­witch. When Hor­witch died in 1991, LewAllen con­tin­ued to op­er­ate the gallery un­til her own death in 2002. Tom Pal­more still shows with LewAllen Gal­leries in its cur­rent lo­ca­tion in the Santa Fe Rai­l­yard arts district.

Elaine Hor­witch is a name fa­mil­iar to many peo­ple in­volved in the arts in Santa Fe. Al­though she in­flu­enced the rise of con­tem­po­rary Na­tive arts, par­tic­u­larly in its hey­day in the 1980s, not much has been writ­ten about ei­ther the topic or Hor­witch. That, in part, is what prompted Sasse to write her book. “I had gone to a friend’s fa­ther’s fu­neral in Scotts­dale and I looked around at who was there. I re­al­ized th­ese were all Elaine’s col­lec­tors, art pro­fes­sion­als, and friends who knew her and they were all get­ting older. Some were get­ting de­men­tia. Some were dy­ing. I thought, ‘If any­body’s go­ing to write this book, it’s got to be me and it’s got to be now,’ be­cause I knew who every­body was and where to find them. With­out ac­cess to the ar­chives ... in this state, and ac­cess to the peo­ple who were a part of her life, the whole story couldn’t be told the way it needs to be told.”

Billy Schenck: Flamingo Road, 1982, oil on can­vas, cour­tesy Schenck South­west; top, Elaine Hor­witch in a limou­sine, circa 1987, photo cour­tesy Julie Sasse; mid­dle, Bob Wade: Cow­girls & Har­leys, 1990, acrylic on photo linen, cour­tesy the artist; op­po­site page, Hor­witch with her Rolls-Royce, circa 1982, photo cour­tesy the Hor­witch fam­ily

Hor­witch and Robert Red­ford, circa 1981, photo cour­tesy Nancy Sil­ver; right, David Bradley: The Elaine Hor­witch In­dian Mar­ket Party, 1984, acrylic on can­vas

ELAINE HOR­WITCH AND JULIE SASSE

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