Saturday, March 28, 2009

More of the South West

On our trip through the South West our goal was Sante Fe. We stopped at the capitol of the Navaho Nation at Window Rock. Looking for the Window Rock Trading Post we found the rock with the window in it that also had a memorial to Navaho warriors and the Code Talkers of WWII by accident.

The Trading Post was full of great stuff from all over the Navaho Nation. We scored a nice piece of jewellry for Betts. I don't think you can get a better deal unless you go to the source like Window Rock.

If you ever get to Sante Fe I recommend the Bonito Pueblo Bed and Breakfast. Built in the late 1800's it is authentic adobe. It's walking distance to the Plaza, clean and well furnished with a great breakfast. We were warmly greeted by Strellsa, a local artist and the owner Herb, who is a horseman so we talked shop about owning horses in the southwest.

We went to Taos but were disapointed in as much as the Fechin Home and Museum was closed so we went back to Sante Fe. Betts loves Sante Fe and rightly so. There must be something about the thin fresh air that makes for so much art. There are over 5000 artists in the Sante Fe area and that doesn't count all the Native Americans that come to the Palace of the Governor to show their wares.
They have to show their tribal enrollment cards as well as establish that their work is made by hand. Each day their are new artisans that roll their blankets out. There are also many, many galleries some of great prominence such as the Fenn, Alterman and Gerald Peters fine arts galleries, crafts galleries, and galleries of a vast array of contemporary arts.
We visited the Sante Fe Fine Arts Museum for the opportunity to see works of the Taos Society, Georgia O'Keefe and an excellent curated show of SW artists "How the West was One". We had the fortunate opportunity to sit in on a presentation by 6 conceptual artists doing 'bleeding' edge stuff that I enjoyed emmensly. Between the symbolic language of the Hopi, the inspiring landscape of the Colorado Plateau and wealth of creativity in Sante Fe, Betts and I had one of our best trips.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Burnt Sienna, history, Gregg, Betts and the SW

Anywhere is as close the nearest airport, just ask a stewardess. Betts and I just got home when we left for Flagstaff, Arizona so she could be on a panel having to do with telecommunications and the Stimulus Package (I'll Stimulus Package U). Sounded like an opportunity for this iternerent pallet to go someplace I hadn't been before. Turns out that the SW US is another cosmic feature of our great place on the planet we all refer to as the US of A up there with Bar Harbor, Maine, the Berring Sea and the Sanpoil of the Colville Rez.
While Betts did here thing on the www, I got lost on the convoluted streets of Flagstaff, AZ and found the first of the Catholic Churches that pervade the SW that I painted. Although not adobe this ediface presents the pervading pink a.k.a. burnt sienna and white that built my pallet during this sojuorn through parts of the SW.
From Flagstaff we tried to unwind and get into the trip although what with Betts channeling contacts through her cell phone it was a challenge for her to chill.
2 hours north we scoped the big hole mother of many Native American creation stories and American Pie photo ops, the Big GC.
While I painted, Betts scoped a place to stay. At $350 a night we opted for Cameron Trading Post, 3o miles on our way to the Hopi First Mesa, $120, clean, neat and charming walled garden, excellent breakfast too although pretty campy chinese made knockoffs of indian artifacts.
Night fell and no Gregg so Betts calls 911 and notifies the Rangers her paintoro is missing. I get back in time to flag off the rescue squad and Betts breaks out the makings for a martini and pollo picnic. Gotta love that girl!
We headed out on SR 89 to which takes us across the heart of Navaho and Hopi country to scope the pots, rugs and jewelry using our trusty AAA road atlas and a book Betts had of Trading Posts of the SW. Betts having been here before had an agenda, me I was in hog artist heaven in the wonderland of Red Rock Mesa's and dinotopia. Everywhere is a painting. Unfortunately the pueblo tribes have been overwhelmed with tourists and either prohibit taking pictures or charge a few. What do you expect when you pave a road to the top of your fortress? But then it's a great way to get folks to pay to take a tour and man do they need the money. 60% unemployment on the rez and the associated social problems that go with that burden.

We stopped at Yuba City and took in the Flea Market. That's where the action is. Every weekend Indian country gets together and does a local flea market off the tailgate of their pickups. It's pretty cool. We were the only whites in a huge, I mean 200 pickups selling, bartering and trading. It's a culture. There wasn't any art or crafts to speak of this is where folks Pow Wow. We got some strange/indian food, Peeka bread? made from blue corn and ash, kind of like a potato chip/filo bread, not to appetizing but then I haven't had much native american food that has been. Everyone sells Pinion nuts, the fruit pf the Pinion Pine. I guess you're supposed to shell them like pistachios. I managed to get a sliver of shell through my gums which I worried the rest of the trip with my tongue. Managed to extract it about 6 days later.

We stopped at First Mesa and bought a pot. I didn't take any pictures out of respect for the no pcture policy. Met Lawrence and Lucida Namoki. Had an intense conversation about Hopi prophecies. Lawrence's family has been Katcheena makers for ceturies. Lawrence has started to make hand built pots and paint them with Katcheenas in such a way as to express his personal world view using his culture's symbolic language and colors. It isn't traditional but he is well recognized with pieces in the Smithsonian. He has a collector that is an astronaut that took one of Namoki's pots on the space shuttle. Altogether we had a cosmic discussion about Hopi, art, life and what the future will bring which according to Namoki is good although it will be traumatic. Namoki holds that everything is arranged to come down by 2012. We left with one of his smaller pots and stories, good medicine for the rest of the trip.

We continued on to Chinle' and arrinving in time to see the sunset over Canyon de Chelly (e.k. Canyon de Che'). Awesome! I think Canyon de Chelly is the most sacred, beautiful place I have ever been. I left Betts at the Thunderbird Inn (I recommend the Navaho Taco for breakfast) and greeted the moon coming up over the Plateau and then set up my easle to capture the sun coming up casting long shadows into the canyon. I painted Spider Woman Rock, which has to do with many native creation stories. I hiked around the rim and got a view from the west. The painting captured the moment but fails to share the story. As I painted, listening to the birds wake up in the cedars, 2000' below a woman emerged from her hogan which sits at the base of Spider Woman. She threw a blanket over her pony standing unteathered in front of the hogan and began to gather her goats and sheep. It was magical! If I had to choose a place to paint for the rest of my life it would be Canyon de Chilly.
The place is a national monument so you have to hire a native guide to tour by jeep or horse the Canyon itself. The floor of the Canyon are the homesteads of the Navaho and is private. The People have hogans where they raise sheep, goats, horses, weave rugs and grow blue corn for income and ceremonies. Some day I will return and get to know these people.
Where ever there is an overlook you will find Navaho with stuff for sale layed out on blankets. Not much of it is the quality you will find in Sante Fe, the trading posts or on the pueblos but it is a way for the locals to make a few dollars. They are all willing to dicker so don't be shy of negotiating.
I best go feed the horses and continue this later. Atleast we came home and the snow was gone.