Friday, August 13, 2010

Match Light and Rainbow Raillery

Last Saturday morning's sunrise was spectacular! From where I stood, looking out our living room window, it was as if a monstrous match had been struck. The virtual flame fired up the morning with a visage of red, orange, yellow and blue light, just as such a brilliant blaze might. Standing there in the fiery glow caused me to feel warm and comfortable with the world as I know it. Dorothy, from the Wizard of Oz, spoke most eloquently when she said, "There's no place like home." When it comes to visual wonders, San Juan County definitely has its share. The Navajo artists that frequent Twin Rocks Trading Post are often asked, "From where do you derive your inspiration?" Almost without exception, these thoughtful and expressive people briefly look within themselves, then outward, lightly point their lips past the Kokopelli doors and say, "There!" They refer to the natural world in all its glorious, motivational splendor.

Twin Rocks Trading Post

Upon our worn counter tops artists like Bessie and Ruby Coggeshell, Edith and Bernita Martin, Eleanor Yazzie and Luana Tso unroll woven wonders derived from a palate of color gathered from surrounding landscapes. From their highly practiced fingertips and active imaginations spring intricate interpretations of myth, legend and native spirituality expressed in extremely complicated designs. Looking closely we recognize iron red sandstone formations, sage, rabbit brush and cornstalk greens with golden yellow desert flowers and silky, pollen encrusted tassels. We are introduced to dark brown to black manganese flows staining cliff faces, resulting from millennia of echoing summer thundershowers. There are also turquoise blues and greens drawn from skystone, and patches of zinc leeched from the earth. Within the weaving are color variations of dawn, daylight and dusk. Beauty abounds!

From artists like Kenneth and Irene White, Susie Crank, Nancy Chilly, Lorraine Williams and Alice Cling, we see flood bowls depicting ancient water sources, seed pots and utilitarian items. Vessels plain and decorated with deities, those benevolent beings so near and dear to the hearts of the People. Presented from the soiled folds of a tattered towel or a rumpled cardboard box padded with crumpled newspaper, these pottery pieces propose a lesson in creativity spawned by a nearly lost tradition and culture. The potters search out banks of clay, dig it, dry it, pound it and sift it for foreign debris, then re-wet the clay, hand work and decorate it into irrationally symmetrical and stylish pottery forms. The finishing touches come from a red hot firing with charcoal and dung. The pots are then coated with purified pinion pitch to allow a high shine and glowing finish. Simply put, from earth, water, fire, tree sap and man's incredible ingenuity comes a work of fine art.

Jewelers the likes of Allison Lee, Eugene Livingston, Verdy and Albert Jake, the Reeves Brothers, Ray Lovato and Tommy Jackson allow us wonderful objects of wearable art. These shining examples of adornment decorate our showcases and then the appendages of appreciative customers. The soft and alluring glow of precious metals set with turquoise from rare and remote mines such as Bisbee, Morenci, Orville Jack, Stennich, Lander Blue, Indian Mountain, Pilot Mountain, Battle Mountain and Damele. Localities producing minute amounts of high-grade natural turquoise through excessive amounts of patient effort. The range of blues and greens are as randomly varied and exciting as Mother Earth can and does allow.

Basket weavers are an interesting bunch, to say the least. They are highly creative, expressive and, dare I say it, quirky! The basket makers we deal with are some of the most renowned Native American craftspeople in today's art world. The Black family; Mary, Sally, Lorraine and Peggy, just to name a few, are as varied and unique a group of people as can be imagined. Throw in a spicy mix of personas like Elsie Holiday, Alicia Nelson and Joann Johnson and you run the entire gambit of personalities possible to the human condition. What spills forth from this perplexing population, are a few of the most incredible art forms you will ever see. These woven storyboards present the best expressions of Navajo Life Ways, Chant Ways and historical perspectives Native art has ever realized.

Then there are those who keep us laughing, stretch our imaginations and push our limits of jocular understanding; the folk artists. Jokesters the likes of Marvin Jim and Grace Begay, Ray and Alondra Lansing, Rena Juan and Matthew Yellowman. From these crazily creative individuals we are introduced to the drier, wittier side of Navajo humor. We think these jesters of wood and stone see things a bit differently than the average Joe Begay, Benally or Betsuie. Thank the good, red earth they do, because they add a joyful light-heartedness to our existence. It is always a pleasure to see a sculpted witticism emerge from under a scruffy coat, pulled from a Blue Bird flower sack or playfully presented from behind the back of Tom Foolery. The fun and fanciful fantasy just does not get better than this.

As I stood there reveling in the magic of the sunrise and contemplating the trading post lives we lead, the sun popped over the horizon, extinguishing the perceived flame. To the south and east of the house a rainbow magically appeared. There must have been moisture and/or dust in the wind somewhere there. Unlike Dorothy, we are not from Kansas, but we do feel we magically dwell somewhere over the rainbow.

With Warm Regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team.

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