One Trader’s Legacy: Steve Get­zwiller Col­lects the West

Wick­en­burg, AZ

Western Art Collector - - CONTENTS - By Susan Sorg

For decades, Steve Get­zwiller built his rep­u­ta­tion on his knowl­edge and work­ing ex­pe­ri­ence with Navajo weav­ings. Get­zwiller is equally adamant that while he’s fo­cused on deal­ing and com­mis­sion­ing the finest in Navajo tex­tiles, he is also a collector first… and not just in weav­ings. You can see just how far his pas­sion goes in One Trader’s Legacy: Steve Get­zwiller Col­lects the West at the Desert Caballeros Western Mu­seum in Wick­en­burg, Ari­zona, through June 3, 2018.

When mu­seum cu­ra­tor Mary Ann Inga and for­mer di­rec­tor San­dra Har­ris vis­ited Get­zwiller in his home/gallery in Sonoita, Ari­zona, to talk about a new ex­hibit, the depth and breadth of his per­sonal col­lec­tion of Western his­toric pieces cap­tured their at­ten­tion. To have all of this in one show was a daunt­ing chal­lenge, but well worth it.

“While we hoped the exhibition would be an ex­cel­lent pre­sen­ta­tion of the Get­zwiller Col­lec­tion,” says Inga, “we were thrilled with the vis­ual im­pact it has in our Cul­tural Cross­roads Learn­ing Cen­ter. The dis­play is with­out a doubt the best use of the space since the build­ing open­ing in 2011.”

While prize-win­ning Navajo weav­ings hang from the rafters, you stroll past cases hold­ing gen­er­a­tions of Nam­peyo pot­tery, rep­re­sent­ing some of the best Hopi artistry along with Talashoma kachi­nas and the finest in Pima and Apache bas­ketry. Here, Cur­tis oro­tones are not far from Jack Van Ry­der paint­ings. There’s an Ace Pow­ell paint­ing, said by one vis­i­tor to Get­zwiller’s gallery to sim­ply be the best Pow­ell piece he’d ever seen. It stands next to an au­then­tic Tomb­stone sa­loon up­right grand pi­ano, which has two 1880s Tomb­stone guns on top, one of which was owned by Vir­gil Earp.

An­other case holds price­less Apache ar­ti­facts, in­clud­ing a quiver with a can­vas strap stamped “U.S.” with a con­nec­tion to the Army’s cam­paign to cap­ture Geron­imo. This is near a case hold­ing an­tique ranching pieces from Get­zwiller’s fam­ily, who set­tled in south­east­ern Ari­zona Ter­ri­tory. In short, to have an over­all un­der­stand­ing of the West, it’s an ex­hibit worth see­ing.

“Our vis­i­tors are spend­ing an un­usual amount of time care­fully in­spect­ing each case, and ac­tu­ally read­ing the la­bels,” says Inga. “They are es­pe­cially in­trigued by the firearms, and, of course, the Navajo weav­ings. Be­ing able to tell the fam­ily sto­ries adds a sig­nif­i­cant di­men­sion to the work.”

Get­zwiller is proud of how strong this ex­hibit is. When asked if he re­al­ized just how much he had, with a chuckle he an­swers “I make a point of not count­ing things…”

A Robert Be­centi (1949-2001) paint­ing is in the cen­ter, and a clas­sic-style Beatin Yass (1928-2012) is next to it to the right. Be­low the Be­centi are two Ed­ward S. Cur­tis (1868-1952) oro­tones.

The con­cho belts are first, sec­ond and third phase belts from the 1880s to 1980s.

A rare and mint-con­di­tion 1860s Navajo blan­ket is on the top left, above a sec­ond phase chief’s blan­ket from the 1840s that is also in ter­rific con­di­tion. The blan­ket at bot­tom right was wo­ven at Bosque Re­dondo in the 1860s.

Be­low: Quiver with “U.S.” stamped on strap, made from moun­tain mul­berry. Passed down through a Texas fam­ily whose an­ces­tor was the chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer for Gen. Nel­son Miles, who Geron­imo sur­ren­dered to in 1886.

Mescalero Apache shirt from the 1880s to 1890s, likely used in the Ghost Dance cer­e­mony.

Ace Pow­ell (1912-1978), Women Went West, oil

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