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