Friday, April 22, 2011

Will Work For Art

Whenever I am in a major city (Bluff, for better or worse, does not fit into that category) I often see people sitting on street corners, reclining at major intersections or standing in the median with cardboard signs inviting passersby to contribute to their support. For one reason or another, these folks are unable to sustain themselves and require assistance from the rest of us. At times, some, rather than requesting a handout, display signs stating, “Will Work for Food.”

Seventeen Beautiful Butterflies Basket

While there have been times at the trading post when I thought Barry and I might also wind up with tin cups soliciting contributions to our general welfare, so far that has been avoided. I realize I worry unnecessarily when it comes to economic issues, and that I also typically exaggerate the risks. For example, I often think of the time when, as a newly minted lawyer with a comfortable salary, I fretted about having a child. The issue was not whether I would genuinely love the new arrival. No, my primary concern was how I might afford the cases of diapers necessary to keep an infant adequately Pampered.

With panhandlers, trading posts and Pampers weighing heavily on my mind, I recently tackled The Undaunted: The Miracle of the Hole-in-the-Rock Pioneers, by Gerald Lund. This historical novel tells the story of the Mormon settlers who left their comfortable homes in Cedar City and St. George, Utah territory, to settle in the wilderness of southern Utah. While that story is exciting enough by itself, the author has added a few fictional characters for good measure.

While slogging through this massive work, I was inspired by the words of Jens Nielson, the leader of the expedition and first bishop of Bluff. As he urged his flock across the untamed and impossibly “slantendicular” landscape towards what would ultimately become their home, Jens advised them, “Even when there is no way to go through, you must go through!”

Jens’ comment reminded me of the early days of Twin Rocks Trading Post, when the challenges ahead seemed as impossible as getting wagons through the Hole-in-the-Rock, over the Colorado River, around Grand Gulch and across Comb Ridge to Bluff. These financial obstacles were not, however, unique to us; the local Navajo artists had for many years before we arrived been attempting to overcome similar difficulties. Southern Utah is a land of vast beauty and equally vast economic hardship. Navigating the canyons and valleys of this stark land, whether physically or financially, is never easy.

Despite the obstacles, neither the settlers, the artists nor Barry and I gave up and turned away. Instead, we all found a way to go through. The Mormons scratched out a community that has endured more than 130 years. The artists chose to develop entirely new styles of rug weaving and basketry that have excited collectors and museum directors for decades. Since innovation and rapid evolution have always been a way of life for the Navajo, it must have seemed almost natural for the local weavers and basket makers to develop their new motifs based upon traditional legends and the monumental landscape of their homeland.

As for Barry and me, upon seeing the stunning work these Navajo artist were creating, we knew our role was supporting the innovators while they pursued their passion for art. As a result, Barry and I adopted the motto, “Will Work for Art,” and we have been doing so ever since. Jens, a Danish convert to the LDS church with a flair for the English language, might have admired our “stickie-ta-tudy.”

With warm regards,
Steve, Barry and The Team

Great New Items! This week's selection of Native American art!

Our TnT's purchased new treasures! Check out Traders in Training!

Enjoy artwork from our many collector friends in Living with the Art!

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