Thursday, September 6, 2007

Evolutionary Art

Being a slow learner, it took me a while to understand the importance of art in my life. My first truly significant acquisition came as Barry and I strode the pavement of the weekend flea market at the Phoenix dog track. It was the early 1970s, and Duke frequently took us along when he went seeking treasures to supplement the inventory of a secondhand store we ran from a leaky tin shed on the south side of Blanding. Since Barry and I also enjoyed the hunt, we often wandered independently and reported back to Duke when we found something useful.

Kira Simpson & Allison Snowhawk Lee
Kira Simpson with Navajo Jewelry
Artist Allison Snowhawk Lee

On one occasion, we stopped by a booth containing a large assortment of items Barry and I did not recognize. As the owner of the curiosities spoke earnestly with other interested individuals, and intentionally neglected us, Barry reached into a bin and extracted an unusual gadget neither of us recognized. Thinking the shape looked familiar, I took a step back, believing it might be safer to observe the developing situation from a distance.

As he puzzled over this latest find, and questioned whether it was something Duke might be interested in, Barry spied a button on the bottom of the instrument and flipped the switch. The thing came to life and began to dance wildly. Startled by the movement, Barry dropped the squiggler back into the bin. The gentleman manning the booth became extremely animated as he intervened to stop the commotion. Barry and I took the opportunity to quickly exit the scene.

As we anxiously continued our quest, speculating on the intended use of that extraordinary item, I noticed a poster of Farrah Fawcett and knew my life would never be complete without it. Although I could not compete with the Six Million Dollar Man, I did have six bucks in my pocket, and soon the image was mine.

Barry assured me Rose would never allow the poster in her house. Upon our return, however, the pinup was quietly affixed to the back of our bedroom door, where it stayed the remainder of the 1970s; serving as a constant reminder of God’s most artistic, fascinating and baffling creations.

Once I finished my formal education, and began generating a stable salary, I invested in framed Ansel Adams posters, assuring myself I was on the path to artistic nirvana. Almost everyone I knew had similar copies, so I felt comfortable I had made a good start. It was not until I came to the Twin Rocks trading post, and met Jana, that I knew for sure my initial ventures into the world of art had been misguided.

Not long after our marriage was consummated, the Ansel Adams posters were jettisoned in favor of original art. Although I felt a bit like an art refugee, I soon acclimated.

Last week, I was reminded of my inartistic legacy, and Barry’s flea market misadventure, as Jana, Kira, Grange and I strode the booths of Santa Fe Indian Market. Kira and Grange had bulging pocketbooks and were looking for art to supplement their Traders in Training inventory. Having had the benefit of an early immersion into Native American art, they sped quickly towards artists specializing in jewelry with unusual stones and potters with refined techniques, and I began to believe they may have been spared the poster phase.

Grange Simpson & Michael Kantena
Grange Simpson with Pueblo Potter Michael Kantena

While the kids scurried from Wilfred Garcia, to Michael Kantena, to Myron Panteah and on to Allison Lee, I felt comfortable they were acquiring the skills necessary to develop a rich relationship with art. Along the way, they were getting to know some the the most interesting individuals in the Southwest; doubly enriching their lives.

Having spent so much time at the Twin Rocks trading post, I have come to believe the primary reason I enjoy the art we collect and sell is that I love the people. When I look at a rug from Eleanor Yazzie or a basket woven by Lorraine Black, I see those individuals in every fiber of the creation. Kira and Grange are beginning to realize that same emotion, and are now incorporating this beauty into their lives.

Yesterday I went into Kira’s room to tell her good night and noticed a poster of Harry Potter. Scratching my head, I walked across the hall to Grange’s room and there I found a poster of the Nebraska wrestling team; featuring one of Grange’s heroes, Robert Sanders. Maybe the kids have inherited my genetic predisposition for posters, or it may be a case of art evolution. In either case, gene therapy may be in order.

With warm regards,
Steve, Barry and the Team.

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