Friday, June 20, 2014

Dang It!

Last Friday I received a telephone call, which caused me significant distress; a man named David was calling from an undisclosed location in Florida. When I pleasantly greeted him and asked where in the Sunshine State he was located, dear David blew right past my pleasantries. He wanted to get to the meat of the matter. "Humph," I thought to myself, "that was rude!" But hey, my hozho is well developed; I am on the pollen path, no problem. I breathed deeply, found my center and waited for his question. It seems David was on a mission of discovery, he was focused and he was in a rush. He hurriedly explained he was a dealer in, "All things of value." He said he had found some, "items of interest" at a local thrift shop and wondered whether I might help him place a value on them. I told him I would try, and wondered out-loud why and how he had come to call us. "Well," he said, "your Twin Rocks tags are still on most of the items."

"No!” I cried, feeling the hurtful impact of what he said. That cannot be! How, I wondered, had a collection of Native American art from Twin Rocks Trading Post have found its way to an east coast thrift shop? Someone was asleep at the switch. David told me there were traditional and culturally expressive cottonwood sculptures by Lawrence Jaquez; Robin Willeto; Marvin Jim and Grace Begay; and Leland Holiday. In my mind I flashed back on the effigy sculptures Marvin and Grace once carved of Steve and me. All these artists are passionate about their art, and diligent in their creativity. And, hurt of all hurts, there were Navajo baskets included in the mix. "Oh my goodness!" was all I could say. "Alright David," I said, "I am sitting down. Who are the weavers and what do the baskets look like?" David must have realized the news was hurting my feelings, because he filled me in with a note of sympathy in his voice.
Steve & Barry

There was a 10" ceremonial basket by Betty Rock Johnson. Betty is the sweetest little lady you will ever meet, and is a cover girl for Navajo people. She still adorns herself with sky stone and silver and dresses in traditional clothes of satin and velveteen. Betty's salt and pepper hair is always brushed back and wrapped in a traditional bun tied with cotton string. The deeply impressed wrinkles on her beautiful light brown face testify to the harshness of our local environment. Her amazing brown eyes sparkle in merriment and acknowledge her family love and commitment. Because of the tightness of her weave and the extraordinary symmetry of Betty's baskets, they are sought by medicine men and collectors alike. For over 40 years we have bought and sold this woman's baskets.

There was an Alicia Nelson ceremonial basket, set with 12 arrowheads finely napped by our old friend Homer Etherton. Homer passed away several years ago. When he died we put away a hand-full of his finest points as a reminder of his artistry and friendship. Alicia weaves wonderful baskets that reflect Native tradition in its finest light. Steve and I have watched as Alicia wove her way into one of the best basket makers of all time. We were there when she and Jonathan bore and raised their small family. We watched as the couple separated and suffered the pain associated with that disaster. We saw her art reflect the hurt she obviously felt and were amazed as she regrouped and regained her style and grace. Alicia's admirable character is reflected in her art.

David drove the final stake through my heart when he mentioned there was a Mary Holiday Black multi-colored butterfly basket in the collection. Like the metaphor of this creature, Mary turned her simple upbringing into a life projecting beauty and grace. She has fought hard to create a revolution in Navajo basketry. She took the time and invested the effort to teach each of her nine children to weave. Then she made sure every family member, new or old, who was interested in basketry was given the opportunity to learn. Mary is primarily responsible for the preservation and renaissance of Navajo basketry and is a contemporary legend. In 1995 she received the Utah Governor's Folk Art Award, and in September of 1996 was awarded a $10,000.00 National Heritage Fellowship Award from the National Endowment for the Arts. This was presented to her in Washington D.C. by then first lady Hillary Clinton.

I asked David how much he paid for the collection. He refused to say, but implied it wasn't much. I think he was, by then, feeling sorry for me because he had discovered my overly sentimental attachment to the Navajo people and their art. David could not explain why the individual who inherited this collection had not called us to attempt a more proper disbursement. It was apparent a passionate individual had lovingly accumulated the art, and that an undeserving someone had simply dumped it for a small payday. David sent images, and I shared them with Steve. He too became despondent. David did say he would do his utmost to place the pieces in loving and appreciative homes. If that was not possible, he promised to send them to us for help. At least there was that.

The moral of this story is, find a job selling cars, groceries or stocks and bonds. This trading post business can cause far too much emotional attachment. If you are not careful, you may loose perspective and become consumed by an overabundance of enthusiasm. And for heavens sake, if at some point you discover the Marvin Jim folk art sculptures of Steve and me in a dirty storefront of some undistinguished thrift shop, please bail us out and take us home.

With warm regards from Barry and the team;
Steve, Priscilla, and Danny.

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