A short while ago we were at one of the best charity events I have ever attended. It was for the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian. First of all it took place in one of the most beautiful places, the Santa Fe Opera, high over and looking away from the city. We were not in the opera itself but on the rehearsal grounds behind.
There was a large tent under which tables were set and there was a huge spread of hot and cold dishes, always a welcome sight. The caterers supplied the hot food and the ever-loyal volunteers of the Wheelwright did a tray of cheeses, muffins, bagels and a delicious desert tray.
The real reason we were there was to watch 20 artists create a two dimensional work of art in an hour and a half. There were some very well known artists and a number of them had travelled many miles to participate. The event actually commenced with an amusing invite by Ricardo Caté illustrating the “competition” with a typical Native American sense of humor.
The rehearsal grounds are situated in a bucolic setting, and there was even a swimming pool though that was closed. On a higher terrace there were 8 or 9 artists and the rest were spread around two levels below on the grass, a small path and under the portal of a building. It could not have been a more relaxing circumstance. Since it was a paying event there were not huge throngs of people but a nice manageable and congenial group. We did not just stare at the artists as they worked, but we could ask questions or just chat with those we already knew . Needless to say, there were some we had not even heard of and I made notes of a few that I want to follow up on after having seen their work.
Most worked on good size paintings and some on drawings, pastels and watercolors. But others did works that were so small I could not photograph them, such as the artist who worked with extremely tiny beads. He obviously was not going to finish in the allotted time so he announced when time had elapsed that he would let those people know who had expressed interest when he had completed the piece.
What interested me a great deal were artists who were trying something new. For instance there was a potter by the name of Robert Tenorio who said that this was the first two dimensional picture he had ever done, and it might also be his last, because he usually paints on his pots. Another, was an artist by the name of Ramona Sakiestewa, an extremely famous weaver. Her work can be found in many major museums. She announced that she would not be working in that media anymore and that at this time she was painting.
Ricardo Caté did what was referred to as a risqué work of art, the only one of his cartoons ever rejected by The New Mexican newspaper. It showed two Indians sitting at a campfire, while a young brave with a girl on each arm is entering his oversized tepee. One of the Indians at the campfire is saying, “I guess size does matter”!
After the hour and a half was over all the artists were asked to bring their works over to the tent where the potential bidders were finishing their brunch or returning for the exciting finale, the auction of the works created.
It was quite a convivial crowd and no one was there to prove a point as I have found at other charity auctions but rather to show their appreciation of the artists and a desire to benefit the Wheelwright. The Museum’s Director, Jonathan Batkin, announced that the artists and the Museum would split the proceeds equally so, of course, it was the director’s wish for high prices, not just for the Wheelwright’s sake but for his artist patrons as well.
Jonathan then commenced auctioning the 20 lots. These artists did not yet command astronomical prices with the high being $2,600 and the low $400. We were very excited by a number of works from artists we were acquainted with and some we did not know. In all I think that we bid on 5 lots and were the underbidders on 3! Making it most frustrating was that the individual with the same taste we had was a lovely lady at our own table. We did prevail in gaining one lot and that was the painting by Raymona Sakiestewa, the former weaver. The title of the picture is “In the Beginning” and it represents a Germinator Katsina.
Afterwards, the director told us that many of the artists had achieved record prices for their work. Quick Draw was a rare duel where every one came out ahead.