Com­mit­ted Col­lec­tors

In­spired by a pas­sion for Na­tive cul­ture, Santa Fe col­lec­tors look for­ward to In­dian Mar­ket.

Native American Art - - IN THIS ISSUE - By John O’hern

Sel­dom is a col­lec­tor also an ar­chi­tec­tural de­signer who can cre­ate her own house as the home for her­self and her hus­band—the perfect set­ting for their col­lec­tion of Na­tive Amer­i­can art. Their com­mit­ment to fine Na­tive Amer­i­can and other In­dige­nous art is such that he bought her a paint­ing by Earl Biss (Crow, 1947-1998) as an en­gage­ment present. “That’s my en­gage­ment ring,” she laughs. Over the past 25 years they have en­joyed ex­pand­ing the col­lec­tion to­gether. Three years ago they moved to Santa Fe to over­see the con­struc­tion of their new home for which she did the ar­chi­tec­tural draw­ings and cu­rated the art.

She grew up in Ger­many and dis­cov­ered the ad­ven­ture nov­els of the Wild West by Karl May (18421912). “My grand­fa­ther had all 70 of the nov­els in his li­brary,” she re­lates. “When I was 13 or 14 I asked if I could read them and he told me ‘Those aren’t books for girls.’ I in­sisted and even­tu­ally read all of them. I was im­pressed by the main char­ac­ter, Win­netou, an Apache chief who was a coura­geous, kind and good leader. I went to the li­brary to do re­search be­cause I was re­ally in­ter­ested in what hap­pened to the Na­tive peo­ple, their cul­ture and the geno­cide.”

Her hus­band’s in­ter­est in In­dige­nous art be­gan in his child­hood when his father, who worked with Stan­dard Oil, took his fam­ily to as­sign­ments around the world. When he met his wife, she was well into amass­ing an im­pres­sive col­lec­tion of katsi­nam. She ac­knowl­edges that he is a quick learner. “He got hooked,” she says. Both have served on the na­tional coun­cil and the board of trustees of the Na­tional Mu­seum of the Amer­i­can In­dian.

Ear­lier, af­ter her first mar­riage ended, she came west to visit Taos and Santa Fe and bought her first katsina. She be­came in­ter­ested in the Santa Fe In­dian Mar­ket and later be­came a vol­un­teer.

At one mar­ket she saw a work in the youth sec­tion but couldn’t read the name of the artist. Since she was in­tent on be­ing in line to pur­chase a katsina by Muriel Navasie (Hopi, 1954-1988) she asked a friend to stand by the door of the con­ven­tion cen­ter where the pre­vi­ous night’s pre­view had been held. “I told her that if some­one walked out car­ry­ing that paint­ing, she had to fol­low the artist to their booth. I gave her a bud­get and asked her to buy it.” The paint­ing was by the 17-year-old Tony Abeyta (Diné) who grew up to

be the 2012 re­cip­i­ent of the New Mex­ico Gov­er­nor’s Ex­cel­lence in the Arts award, and to be rec­og­nized as a Na­tive trea­sure by the Mu­seum of In­dian Arts & Cul­ture. There are now about 30 Abey­tas in the col­lec­tion—and two Navasies.

Be­fore one In­dian Mar­ket she was check­ing peo­ple in as they brought pieces to be sub­mit­ted for judg­ing. She saw a woman en­ter car­ry­ing a green bas­ket and was im­me­di­ately at­tracted to it. Dur­ing a break, when the vol­un­teers were al­lowed into the main hall to look at the sub­mit­ted pieces, she went look­ing for the bas­ket, found the artist’s name and re­solved to buy it. She had to be out of town the first day of mar­ket and asked her hus­band to pho­to­graph it at the artist’s booth and to con­tact her about the price. Af­ter an ex­change of texts, the cou­ple soon owned a spec­tac­u­lar black ash bas­ket by Ronni-leigh Goe­man (Onondaga) sit­ting on a stand of in­tri­cately carved antlers by her hus­band Stone­horse Goe­man (Seneca). Both had won blue rib­bons—best in Divi­sion and Best in Sculp­ture.

The col­lec­tors’ first mar­ket to­gether was in 1994. “It’s re­mark­able how we think alike,” she says. “We were in a mall in Cal­i­for­nia and saw a gallery across the way. We both made a bee line for it with­out say­ing a word.” On dis­play was a silkscreen from Andy Warhol’s Cow­boys and In­di­ans se­ries. “We were at­tracted to it be­cause it was the print Kachina Dolls.” he ex­plains. It now hangs in their home book­ended by a col­lec­tion of prints of katsi­nam by Tony Abeyta.

Her hus­band is a gift giver, be­gin­ning with the Earl Biss en­gage­ment “ring.” “One day when we were vis­it­ing Santa Fe I was out for my morn­ing run and saw a Tony Abeyta in a gallery win­dow. I went back later and bought it for her.”

“In Ger­many,” she re­lates, “we have a tra­di­tion of cook­ing a goose at Christ­mas. I still carry that on. He

gave me a katsina of a Koshari by Wilmer Kaye (Hopi). The Koshari is car­ry­ing a goose in a sack.”

An­other piece in the col­lec­tion was mo­ti­vated by a per­sonal con­nec­tion. He is an avid scuba diver. Pre­ston Sin­gle­tary’s glass sculp­ture, Killer Whale Man, is a nod to that pas­sion. It is one of 12 Sin­gle­tary works in the col­lec­tion.

A Sha­lako katsina with em­broi­dered robes holds pride of place in the din­ing room. Cre­ated by Rod­ney Banash­ley (Zuni/apache), there are only three in the world. One is in the col­lec­tion of the Na­tional Mu­seum of the Amer­i­can In­dian and an­other is in the Barry Gold­wa­ter Kachina Doll Col­lec­tion at the Heard Mu­seum.

Early on in her col­lect­ing she wanted to help the In­dige­nous peo­ple of north­ern New Mex­ico in some way. She be­gan gath­er­ing good used clothes (jeans, T-shirts, run­ning shoes, etc.) from her clients and pe­ri­od­i­cally would send off a large box of use­ful items to a friend at Zuni Pue­blo.

One day she re­ceived a call from her friend invit­ing her to the Sha­lako dances at the win­ter sol­stice which had been closed to “An­g­los” at this time. The dancers rep­re­sent the couri­ers of the rain deities and come to bless new homes. It is a rare honor for an An­glo to be in­vited to the cer­e­mony. “It still brings tears to my eyes,” she says.

Re­tired from his ca­reer in com­mer­cial bank­ing and hers in ar­chi­tec­tural de­sign, the cou­ple con­tin­ues to have a pas­sion and com­mit­ment to Na­tive Amer­i­can art and causes.

1. A large Tony Abeyta (Diné) work hangs in hall­way on the right. 12. Amorous Waters by Tony Abeyta (Diné) hangs above, from left to right, a beaded and silk-wrapped feather pey­ote fan by Steve Dar­den (Diné), The Book Worm by Joe Ca­jero Jr. (Je­mez) and Killer Whale Crest Hat by Pre­ston Sin­gle­tary (Tlin­git).

5 5. Gold Thun­der­cloud, a bronze by Tammy Gar­cia (Santa Clara) is in the gar­den.

6. Em­bod­i­ment of Prayer, a bronze by Joe Ca­jero Jr. (Je­mez), com­mands the space be­tween the main house and the guest ca­sita. 6

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