Sunday, May 22, 2016

Dismantling an Exhibition

Stories about exhibition installation are written fairly often but rarely about dismantling them.

For the last 10 months the Ralph T. Coe Foundation has had an exhibition representing about 10% of the collection legacy left by the late curator and director Ted Coe.  As a matter of fact, I wrote about it when “Connoisseurship and Good Pie” was installed at the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, but the closing of a show is a sadder event and, therefore, usually ignored.

Taking it down sounds so easy but logistically it is not.  You cannot just turn up throw 200 works of art into your car and drive back to the Foundation.  It takes a lot of planning so that it is done in as orderly and timely manner as possible.  When an exhibition comes down a new one inevitably goes up so as welcome as you may have been, the institution now wants you out of there as expeditiously as possible.

Installation tool box for installation crew for the next show
and the table with soft wrap for packing up

If you do not have a large staff at your institution, it is helpful to have lined up some volunteers and, in this case, I was one of them.  Someone has to head the operation and keep track of everyone involved in the process in order to avoid errors.  In this case it was the Coe’s Curator and Executive Director, Bruce Bernstein, with the help of Assistant Curator, Bess Murphy.

Shortly before D-day that is de-installation day I received the following lengthy memo from Dr. Bernstein:  [my commentary appears between brackets in blue]

“Wheelwright De-Install
Everyone is working in teams: our objective is to safely finish taking all of the collections to the Coe Foundation on Thursday [Altogether the Coe teamp totaled 6).  Please do not deviate from planning without consulting Bruce.  The plan is designed to control object movement and tracking.  Please keep your hands clean, no dangling jewelry, no sharp edges.  Pencil only [On the theory that pencil can be erased should it accidentally get on an object].  Please remember we are handling irreplaceable art objects.  Work carefully and methodically to avoid problems.  Wheelwright will remove Plexiglas  [The objects were shown with plexi sheets in front of the cases].  We have catalog information with an image on small labels.  Place labels in cases with objects.  Some objects have mounts, consult only Bruce or Bess about which mounts return to the Foundation [The Museum had supplied some of their own blocks and mounts which we could not take with us].  We will try to mark which mounts return to Foundation.  There are several large objects; these will be last moved.  We will work in exhibition order, starting in the introduction and moving clockwise; if there is a question about which case is next, ask Bruce or Bess.

Volunteer John Whitman and President of the Coe, Rachel Wixom
watch Bruce Bernstein and Bess Murphy wrapping a larger object

Move your table close to the case.  [Packing had to be done on a flat surface on which to place the wrapping to be used] Place the object on the table. Soft wrap the piece.  Any questions about packing, ask Bruce.  (We will review packing before we begin) [Soft wrap means not using a box or crate but just tissue and soft non-abrasive materials].  On the outside of the wrapping place the sticker [which was placed in the case earlier] with the proper catalog information.  If there is a mount with the object: write the object number on a small white sticker and stick to it to the bottom of the base of the mount.  The mounts can be packed with their object –same, putting the mounts in first!  But ideally we will put the mounts to the side and move them in a single box.  For security and to not let things sit in the sun, we will pack a truck’s worth and then load the truck.  As you carry a tray out the door, Gerald [Yours truly] will check the piece off the inventory.  Place the tray on the truck deck. Gerald is inventory control [The catering trays with their wrapped art begin to be assembled at the door].

At the Coe Foundation we will unload the truck.  Since we have a limited number of trays they need to be unloaded and the wrapped objects placed on the waiting carts and tables. 
Return to Wheelwright, repeat.”

Rachel Wixom, watching over the first truck-load of art
before its departure for the Foundation

These rules gave a structure to those who had not done or had been directed differently elsewhere.   As we went along we found little things that still needed to be improvised but it all went amazingly smoothly as we worked around the museum staff that was removing the plexi fronts to the cases and getting ready for the next show by removing painted wooden blocks from the cases and piling them together so that they could be used as needed for the next round.

Of course, when all the art arrived at the Coe Foundation it had to be unwrapped.  As I sat there beginning to un-twirl tissue from the objects, a visiting curator walked in and said, “It’s like Christmas, isn’t it”.  Yes, that was exactly the feeling each piece of tissue that was removed revealed a treasure that had come home again.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Vigée Le Brun

Once again I am coming rather late to the party since when this is published the exhibition, “Vigée Le Brun:Woman Artist in Revolutionary France” will have closed at the Grand Palais in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum in New York.   There is, however, an additional venue from June to September at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.

The independent curator for the exhibition, who is not affiliated with a museum but rather with the trade, Joseph Baillio, is an old friend of ours.  He has a house in Santa Fe but we have hardly seen him here as he has toiled over the show for over three years.  His interest in the artist, however, has been for far longer than that.

Though we know he struggled with his Louvre publishers to make a proper catalog and not a picture book, which usually sells better.  He prevailed and they had to reprint the hefty result three times when the show was on at the Grand Palais in Paris.  New York, Paris and Ottawa all have varying catalogs not just because of language but also because different paintings were included.  The main reason for this is that the Russians refused to lend to the show in the United States, I presume on account of restitution issues.  Also, there were other paintings that were lent here and in Canada that did not go to Paris!

Vigée painted over 600 portraits during her career and the Metropolitan exhibition has 80 of them, which is not bad considering what it takes to get a loan these day both from public institutions and private collectors. Neither want to be without their treasures for too long.

Contrary to popular belief there have been important women artists in the past.  Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (1755-1842) was one of the most popular portraitists of her time.  She painted the important people at court.  In 1774 at 19 she was admitted to the Academy of Saint-Luc, the guild for Master Painters and Sculptors.  Just four years later she became official painter to her patron, Queen Marie Antoinette, and in 1783 she was accepted as a member of the Royal Academy.

In 1785 Louis XVI commissioned an official portrait of the Queen and her children, which was unveiled at the Salon of 1787 before it was hung at Versailles.  The King had instructed that the painting be full length and full size resulting, of course, in the monumental tour de force of the official portrait.

Vigée, however, had the ability to look into the soul of her sitters, not just paint their likenesses.  For instance, in this painting of her daughter “Julie Le Brun Looking in a Mirror” circa 1786 lent from a private collection.  Haven’t we all see our children or those of our family look contemplatively at themselves?  Here the reflected portrait of Julie seems to be staring back at the viewer!

When the French Revolution came Vigée’s association with the court made France a perilous place for her and she moved first to Rome, then Austria and Russia where she was welcomed by the aristocracy.  In Rome in 1791, she painted a portrait I handled at one time, that of  Countess Anna Potocka.  Vigée tells an oft-repeated story in her “Souvenirs” (memoirs) about Potocka: “She came to see me with her husband and as soon as he had left, she told me quite coolly: ‘This is my third husband; but I believe I’ll take back the first one, who suits me better, though he is a drunk.’”  Left out of the story is the fact that her first husband had died a decade earlier!

I will end with a painting not by Vigée but by Alexis-Joseph Pérignon (1806-1882) and shown after the subjects’ deaths.  It is based on another story in Vigée’s “Souvenir”.  It seems the pregnant artist missed a session with the Queen because of illness and arrived at Versailles the following day instead.  While the Queen had other plans she allowed Vigée to stay, the flustered artist opened her paint box and her brushes fell to the floor.  As she began to scoop them up the Queen stopped her and said,  “‘Never mind, never mind,’ said the Queen, and despite my protests she insisted on gathering them all up herself.“

Vigée was the first woman artist to achieve international acclaim in her own time and yet this was her first retrospective in France and only the second exhibition devoted to her work in modern times.  Ottawa is lovely in the summer so do go see the show.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Student Curators

Last year about this time I wrote about Young Curators at the Ralph T. Coe Foundation.

Frankly, I thought I was not going to repeat myself.  Then witnessing the transformation in the Coe Student Curators from naïve kids who in some cases had never been to a museum before to enthusiastic learners was so wonderful.

The students this year came from both the Academy of Technology and the Classics (ATC)  and the Santa Fe Indian School.  There were six, 4 from the latter and 2 from the former.  Thanks to our assistant curator, Bess Murphy, who is in charge of the program, they melded together as one through the administration of food and laughter.  We were lucky to have a repeat student from last year, Oscar Loya, who could help give the students confidence.  Added this year was the opportunity that the students had the chance to visit three Santa Fe Museums and not just have an exhibition shown to them but could see exhibitions in process and learn what goes on behind the scenes.  They even created a design for promotional tee-shirts and learned how to silk screen it.

Heaven Talachy, Nambe Pueblo

Oscar Loya

They learned why walls in a museum had different colors and got to pick their own for the exhibition.  They saw for themselves the difference between putting white letters on a grey background or black letters on the same background made it easier or harder to read.  They learned that those of us who are older have a harder time reading one than the other.

They were given the entire Ralph T. Coe collection to choose from, which includes pieces from the orient, 17th century bronzes and German sculpture, but is mainly indigenous art from around the world with the emphasis on Native American.  Interestingly, not every Native American in the group necessarily picked objects from their own culture.

They first had to agree on a title for this diverse group of objects and then write collaboratively an over arching label. They decided on, “Culture Exchange:  The Unspoken Truth”.  They wrote, “We as curators, wanted  to combine the different parts of the world: its culture, its history”.   Herewith, their collaborative Label with the names of all our student curators.

They picked objects from different tribes in the U.S. as well as a wood and lime pigment Pig Charm from New Guinea, a French Art Nouveau screen and even a lacquer box from Japan.  Then they were given the Coe Foundation data sheets on the objects they had picked as well as access to the Coe Library and, of course, with their computers they could search the internet.

The mixture of cultures makes it very difficult to pick favorites, but also makes this small gallery show more exciting.  I happen to love boomerangs and when we were in Australia it was one of the few souvenirs we brought back.  Then when we started collecting Native American art we acquired a “Rabbit Stick” which is a non returning boomerang for short range kill while the Coe boomerang is also non returning but for longer range.  Shante Toledo, Navajo wrote after her explanation, “I’ve never seen an actual boomerang and it was interesting to find out it was used as a weapon for hunting.”   This is evidence of how we can use works of art to teach about culture and much more.

A very striking object is this wood and pigment early 20th century Antelope Mask from the Congo in Central Africa.  According to Oscar Loya, who chose the object, eating the antelope flesh would cleanse one from evil.  Oscar writes, “For me, the antelope represents freedom because it can graze wherever it wants in the open places it calls home… When you are free, you are able to understand what you need in your life, and thus able to cleanse negative things out.”  That is refreshing!

Elizabeth Lukee, Acoma Pueblo/ Navajo chose a Quill Box by Rose Kimewon, Ottawa, Canada. made with birchbark, natural and dyed porcupine quills, sweetgrass and thread. These boxes are used by the East Coast and Plains tribes.  Elizabeth writes, “The complex detail on the box is amazing and very difficult for me to begin to comprehend.”

I especially like what Danielle Cata said about the Quilled Eagle Box from the Great Lakes, she kept it simple, “I selected this item because it reminded me of the Eagle dances that we have in Ohkay Owingeh.  The eagle reminds of how the eagle dancers imitate the bird flying.”  Simple observation is sometimes the most profound.

We assume that just because we are of a certain ethnicity we must know all about that culture but it just isn’t so.   This experience offered the students a different perspective on their lives, as well a chance to learn about their own culture and other avenues that may be open to them.  For the Coe Foundation the students helped us demonstrate the diversity of the collection and, most importantly, how it could be used to make a difference.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Met Breuer

The new “wing” of the Metropolitan Museum which was built originally as the Whitney Museum by Marcel Breuer (1902-1981) in 1966 has been recently branded as the Met Breuer. When the Whitney decided to build their new landmark building on Gansevoort Street in lower Manhattan a deal was made so that the Met could lease their abandoned space for its modern and contemporary art programs. It is rather strange, therefore, that their first exhibition is basically an Old Master show with some established modern artists at the end. 

In the 1970’s I was asked to testify before congress and my lawyer gave me the following advice.  He said, when asked a question reply, “Thank you so much for asking me that question and then say whatever it is that you wanted to say in the first place”.  I found this to be great advice for my entire life. I feel that must have been what happened here, the curators were asked to prepare a contemporary exhibition and said, we’d be delighted to and then did the show they always wanted to which in this case is, “Unfinished Thoughts Left Visible”.  As an exhibition it wanders all over the place with just too many points to make. The two main themes of the exhibition are paintings that were left unfinished because the artist, for whatever reason, put them aside, and those that were “unfinished” on purpose.  I would claim that in that case they were finished …  but if you are like me and just want to see wonderful pictures and sculptures, it is a fine show!

After I had been looking around for a while, I hear someone call out, “Gerry” and was somewhat startled since during the second half of my life I have been known as Gerald.  Sure enough it was an old friend, Michael Conforti, recently retired director of the Clark Art Institute, who I have known since both our early days in the art world.  He proceeded to say, “I can’t get over the fact that I am at the Whitney” and I realized I had felt the same way.  It is somewhat disorienting when you expect to see a section of Edward Hoppers around the next corner and it is something totally different.  It’s a bit like walking into your own home and seeing a huge spiral staircase and marble floors in front of you!  It took some getting used to and the fact that Leonard Lauder a major donor to the Whitney was one of the main funders for this show didn’t make it any easier.

The idea of unfinished works of art is not a new one but I cannot remember one with as wide a range of some 500 years.  In some cases such as with Jan van Eyck’s (1390-1441) “Saint Barbara” from Antwerp of 1437 it is totally obvious that the picture had not been finished, while the “Vision of St. John” by El Greco (1540-1614)  from the Metropolitan Museum I have been staring at for years and never thought of it as unfinished. My fault?.  The latter is for an altar in a hospital outside Toledo that the art historians believe was cut at the top after damage and they speak of the unfinished sky and the figures floating. At least they admit that it adds to the “mesmerizing quality”, since El Greco is all about atmosphere …

A personal favorite in the show is a bronze relief of St. Jerome done in the 1570’s by Francesco di Giorgio Martini (Siena 1439-1501) and lent by the National Gallery in Washington D.C.   It is pointed out here, and it is clear, that some areas have been highly finished and others left in a rough state.  This is referred to as “non finite aesthetic in sculpture”.

Then there is a small Frans Hals (1582-1666) called “The Smoker” (1523-25) from the Met.  I gather from the label that it is included here because Hals used a rough style of painting which forces one to look from a distance to get its full impact.  I believe that in today’s terms we might say that is what gives it wall power.

J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851) may have left more unfinished paintings than any other well- known artist.  “Sun Setting over a Lake”, lent by the Tate, is one that is extremely unfinished, showing many of the abstract qualities that were so admired by artists like Robert Motherwell and Helen Frankenthaler.  What is not mentioned in the label is that Turner liked to finish his paintings while they were on exhibition finding that they sold better that way… another very contemporary notion.

 One of my favorite artists is Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) besides being a leading member of the Vienna Secession he was the most popular portraitist in Vienna.   His “Posthumous Portrait of Ria Munk III” 1917-18, lent by the Lewis Collection, is of a woman who had committed suicide after being spurned by her lover.  Having produced two portraits that the family did not care for, Klimt himself died before finishing this, the third.

My final image for this Missive is by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) and even though he is a 20th century artist, he has been referred to as an Old Master.  The artist is represented by a work from the Museum of Modern Art, “The Charnel House” 1944-45. Picasso referred to it as the “massacre” and when you look at the dates and think of the Spanish Civil War followed by World War II and the holocaust, the picture is not surprising.  Picasso used charcoal to draw his picture and only after he had finished applied paint.  He considered the picture finished enough to donate it to The National Association of Veterans of the Resistance in 1946 but asked for it back again in the same year, ostensibly to make changes.  He kept the painting in his studio until 1954 when he sold it to an American collector having made hardly any changes at all.

There are some more contemporary images in the show but the Met Breuer does not live up to its hype for being the contemporary art showcase for the Met.  Upon reflection I am very happy about that since we have a number of museums in town already fulfilling that function.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Unbound: Narrative Art of the Plains

The National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in New York at Bowling Green is such a perfect museum setting.  It is in the old customs house whose rotunda has murals around the ceiling by Reginald Marsh (1898-1954), known for his images of New York City.  The rotunda no longer has customs officials but the day I was there was used to entertain and teach little tots!

Around the circumference of the building are the galleries making it quite easy to follow from one gallery to the next.  The exhibition I went to see with a high school friend, David Phillips, tells Native American stories, which were narrated through images created on the materials at hand.  Originally, in the southwest the Indians told their stories as rock art, i.e. petroglyphs, then in the 18th century where this exhibition begins the Plains Indians used deer hide, buffalo robes and muslin on which to record their tales.  Still later their was ledger painting with pictures drawn on the pages of ledgers, account books of traders and government  agents.  Around the turn of the last century these were plentiful but today artists sometimes struggle to find individual pages from old ledgers.

I love the hide paintings and it does not take long until you begin to pick out the concept of the stories if not the actual event.  I was told by a Kiowa woman that the hides showing battles were usually painted by the men and the ones with more decorative images by the women, which is rather logical if you think about who was doing the fighting!   I would guess that the fans of each kind of decoration could be divided by the same sensibilities.  Of course, today, one finds these rules not always adhered to. 

One of the scenes on elk hide in the exhibition dates from around 1880.  It is by Spotted Tail, a Crow Indian, and illustrates the accomplishments in war of a fellow Crow, White Swan, who was a scout for the infamous, then Lieutenant Colonel, George Armstrong Custer.

Two interesting women’s dresses had battle scenes on them.  One dates from the early 1900’s and is attributed to Running Antelope.  It represents battles of the Lakota Indians.  These  are “Honor dresses” made following in the tradition that only women who had relatives killed in battle could wear them.  Lauren Good Day Giago followed a more recent tradition honoring the achievements of her grandfather in the Vietnam war.

The second part of this exhibition is devoted to the artists of today who are carrying on the tradition of hide and ledger painting.  It being easier to get one’s hands on sheets of ledger paper than hides, much less painting on them, more artists have followed this tradition.  The first or last, depending where you entered the exhibition is a hide, however.  It is by Dallin Maybee, Northern Arapaho/Seneca, who is a lawyer by profession, but is also an artist and is currently running Santa Fe’s famous Indian Market.  This work was created in 2013 on a commercially tanned hide with several different kinds of beads including steel, copper and gold accentuating the painted imagery.  Dallin says this is his interpretation of the evolution of Native traditional and contemporary art forms.  It reminded me of a model Tippi that I saw a few days later given from the Ralph T. Coe collection to the Metropolitan Museum.  It is from the 3rd quarter of the 18th century and painted by a Blackfoot, Alberta/Montana.   It is also uses beads and other materials enhancing the painted imagery.

I have written often of the Ralph T. Coe Foundation and Ted Coe.  He was very close to the bead worker Joyce Growing Thunder Fogarty and bought objects by her and many members of her family.  Darryl Growing Thunder, Assiniboine/Sioux, Joyce’s son, is a leger painter and Ted suggested before he passed away that we look at Darryl’s work. We did and acquired our first ledger painting.  The last painting by Darryl that Ted bought he put on the ceiling over his bed so he could admire it when he was lying in bed!   My favorite of the works by Darryl in the exhibition is a depiction of traditional dancers in colored pencil, gold marker, graphite, ink and glue on an old ledger sheer. The artist dated his work 2012 beside the date on the sheet of 1871.  After writing this I see it is one of 3 candidates to be the cover of next year’s NMAI calendar!

I love collaborations so I will end with one.  This is by Darryl and his sister, Juanita.  It is a doll wearing an “Honor Dress” like we saw earlier.   Darryl painted the horse-raiding scene and Juanita created the doll and dress.  The Coe Foundation has a more elaborate doll by their mother Joyce which I have always loved.

To learn more you can look go to
The exhibition was curated by Emil Her Many Horses, Oglala Lakota, and will run through December 4 this year.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Thanks for Calling

I will be working in New York this week so I thought I would let my son, Danny, do the heavy lifting.  He is a Commercial Real Estate Agent with Coldwell Banker in Traverse City, Michigan and he writes a monthly blog with updates in his field.  The one below I wish I had thought of.  The images have been added by Dan’s father!

Recently I returned a customer’s phone call and I received a very enthusiastic reply saying, “Thanks so much for calling me back and not emailing!”  At first I wondered if I’ve been emailing too much, but upon talking with him further, he said that he had called another agent multiple times and the agent would never return his calls, but would send a short email response instead.

That got me wondering about the correct business etiquette for modern times.  I tend to respond to inquiries in the same way I receive them.  If someone calls me, I call them back.  If they text me, I text them back and if they email me, well you get the picture.  However, it can get extremely confusing keeping track of all the places one needs to check to make sure all inquiries are being responded to.  In addition to calls, texts and emails, I get messages through Facebook, linked-in and specific websites that you can only respond through the website.  My preference is to get those people to email me as it is time consuming to log onto a specific site each time I need to reply to a short question.  And finally, upon occasion, I may actually see someone face to face and get to have a real conversation.

Communication methods have changed dramatically in the last decade.  Keeping up with the responses and not letting any fall through the cracks can be a challenge.  I like being able to flag messages in my email so I remember to follow up on them later.  I still have a hand written list of people I want to follow-up with, but I’m probably behind the times not using an electronic list like Evernote or OneNote.  I find texts can be the most challenging because you can’t flag them or save them like a voice mail, so they really demand immediate responses.  That is usually what the person sending the text expects, however I often feel it’s inappropriate to send a business text after hours, unless it is urgent or applies to a meeting early the next day.

I recently read about a social experiment done by Julie Dobrow, a professor at Tufts University, where she asked her students to call people for one day instead of texting to see how they would respond.  While the results are mostly anecdotal, the consensus seemed to be that students thought it was uncomfortable to make a call, but also felt a deeper connection talking with friends, even though it was still mostly about trivial things.  When the parents got phone calls they first wanted to know what was wrong, and then were thrilled to actually have a chat.

The fact that more millennials and generation Z’s are all texting instead of making phone calls also makes it apparent that we must try and communicate with our customers in the way they prefer to be communicated with. I personally like email since it has a written record of what was discussed and is easy to reference later if one forgets.  I have my assistant email monthly updates to our clients with a list of activity on their properties for this very reason.

The old fashioned phone call or face-to-face meeting seems to be fading away, but there is definitely a cohort of people that appreciate the deeper connection and ability to get their questions answered and will always prefer a simple call.  I thought about concluding that when in doubt one should pick up the phone or use the same method the customer uses to contact you, however asking may be the best option as I once returned a client’s phone call (yes they called me) and at the end of the conversation they said, “I really don’t do phone calls very well, I’m much better with email, so please contact me that way in the future.”

Dan Stiebel, CCIM

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Rina’s Gone! (1939-2015)

“Rina Swentzell of Santa Clara Pueblo was known as an architect, a potter, a teacher, an author, a historian and a lecturer. She also was an activist for justice who wasn’t afraid to stand up to her own tribal council to argue for the rights of all people.” (Santa Fe New Mexican 10-31-2015)

Rina touched my life so profoundly as she did others and we recently attended a memorial for her at the school of architecture at the University of New Mexico. Filling the auditorium were members of her extended Native family as well as Anglos, academics and friends, who had all been touched by her.


Rina was born into the Naranjo family, an unbelievably talented family of artists many of them potters.  Rina started out similarly but she became inspired in a modeling class where she started to think about doing models of buildings and thus began a journey into the world of architecture.  She went to New Mexico Highlands University where she earned her bachelor’s degree in education and went on to The University of New Mexico, earning a Master of Art in architecture in 1976 and a doctorate in American studies in 1982.  Upset by the transformation of Santa Clara by the federal H.U.D. program of cookie cutter houses with no sense of place, she wrote her Master’s thesis on the architectural history of her pueblo.

Rina met her husband Ralph at Highlands and they moved to Santa Fe where Ralph taught at St. John’s College.  They were married for 40 years and lived in the house that they designed  bringing up 4 children, a boy and 3 girls.  When Ralph died in 2006, Rina moved back to the Pueblo where she and her family built her house in the traditional fashion.

I met Rina in 1997.  I had been on what was known as The President’s Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) in Washington D.C. which had a very idealistic premise  to stop looting of archeological sights internationally.  Unfortunately, it had been rigged, first by U.S.I.A. and then by the State Department, to come out against the collecting community, which included American museums.  I quit when the CPAC seriously considered the request by Italy that the U.S. ban import of objects from the original Holy Roman Empire, which included most of Europe.  My story on CPAC would be a book in itself but suffice it to say there was a great deal of discontent about the Committee. 

Another former member of CPAC was Eugene Victor Thaw.  He had moved from New York to Santa Fe and felt that more might be accomplished by what was then known as The School for American Research (today, The School for Advanced Research).  He sponsored a 5 day seminar where a diverse group of stake holders in culture would meet and discuss the topic of who owns culture.  There were about 10 of us including, representatives from the World Bank, a a preservationist from the J. Paul Getty Museum, a museum director, an archeologist who had written about subsistence digging, even a philosopher.  I was there representing the art dealing community and a Native American anthropologist by skill if not by trade, Rina Swentzell.  Here is an image of the late Marty Sullivan, then director of the Heard Museum in Phoenix, yours truly and Rina.

During the 5 days of the seminar we lived in the very comfortable “dorms” that were on SAR’s beautiful campus so we interacted socially as well as in our day long meetings.  Rina explained that Native Americans did not believe in collecting but rather believed from dust to dust and repeated her oft-told story:  Every day her grandmother walked her to school and they passed a house that was beginning to fall apart.  She told her grandmother that they needed to fix the house and her grandmother replied that when the house fell down they would build a new one.

I countered, that art can act as an ambassador for a culture:  In 1989 we found ourselves at The Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff right after their show of Hopi Indian Art and fell in love with what we saw.   We, then, set out on a quest to learn about the Hopi culture, which opened our eyes to a whole new world. 

There was an objective to the seminar and that was to write a book on who owns culture from our various perspectives (because of a change in administration at SAR shortly after the seminar it unfortunately did not happen.)  We were, therefore, all taking notes or at least had note pads at the ready.  Sitting next to Rina I saw that she was making notes but also doing wonderful drawings on her pages, which I believe she referred to as “doodles”.  At one point discussing collecting, I commented that I thought I would love to “collect” her so called “doodles” because I thought they were wonderful.  The conference closed, I went back to New York and two weeks later her “doodles” from that week arrived with a note shown here as well as one of her pages of “doodles”.

Rina spoke often of “World Views” and she certainly changed mine and I believe that maybe I gave her a glimpse of another one.