Monday, August 25, 2008

The connection between culture and art

I'm interrupting coverage of Indian Market, which will continue shortly, with some thoughts inspired by an essay I just read from another site called Aboriginal Art Directory.

You can access it directly through this link.

That said, it does have some relevance to Indian Market.

The essay discusses the connection between native or tribal art and the world outside it. While specifically applicable to Australia, where the separations between aboriginal communities and urban centers are even more extreme than they are (for the most part) in the United States, the observations have some resonance with all tribally created art and the people who appreciate and acquire it.

Years ago, we used to make buying trips to the Southwest during which we traveled to the artists' peublos and homes, where we would sit and chat and admire the work in its natural environment. We still do that with Zuni artists. It is a rich and rewarding part of acquiring art, in addition to the art itself.

For the last three years, we have been coming to Indian Market. Here, all the artists come to one place and set up in their booth/tents to sell to the world of the Native American art collector. As Santa Fe is an urban center, even though many artists live in and around Santa Fe and Albuquerque when they are not home on the pueblo or reservation, Indian Market is the equivalent of bringing the artists to us instead of going to them.

I don't want to diminish the importance or excitement of Indian market, or of its significance in facilitating economic support for the artists. All that is true.

But post-market today, I was feeling a little melancholy.
It seemed something had been missing. The activity had not been as intense or personal as when we sat in an artist's living room and became part of his or her life in addition to buying his or her art.

After reading the essay linked to here, I began to appreciate what was happening to us and, I presume, the artists. It is something different to stand and talk with an artist while a dozen others stand by and watch, listen or compete for attention. It is the same art. But it s not the same relationship.

We have often believed that people who acquire tribal art do so for more than the aesthetic appeal of the art. They are buying the story behind it, the traditions embedded in it and the personality of the artist who created it.

I think this is some of what the essay is talking about.

So, next year, we may resort to the old ways. If we come to Indian Market at all, it will be as tourists. But our acquisition of art will be one-on-one in the artists homes or on their pueblos. We will be on their turf, not ours. We will be acquiring more than the art.

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