Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Fascinating Tale of Australian Aboriginal Art.

William Ernest Waites periodically reports on tribal art news and happenings. This report features information about Australian Aboriginal art.


I have recently come across an article that was written some time ago that covers the history of Australian Aboriginal tribal art and its emergence from the communities and stations of the outback onto the main stage of world fine art. The article, written by Carly Berwick, was published in It was based on a show of collector John Wilkerson’s 50 works of Australian Aboriginal art, which toured the US.

Entitled, Collecting the Dots, the article charts the history of Australian Aboriginal art in the commercial marketplace. In 1971, an English schoolteacher encouraged schoolchildren in the northwestern territory community of Papunya to paint on the walls of their concrete block homes.

In short order, the tribal elders became so excited about seeing their ancient dreamtime stories portrayed that they joined in. Soon, the paintings evolved to masonite boards and canvases. Palettes evolved from natural ochre, charcoal and chalk to acrylics and commercial colors.

The designs, which were not called “art” by the Aboriginal artists - there is no word for art in any Aboriginal language – began to merge into perceptions of modernism, although they were rooted in the timeless stories passed down from generation to generation telling of the Creation, or Dreamtime. Often called "Dreamings", the stories describe the arrival on the face of the earth by ancient ancestors, and of their interaction with the landscape and geography.

Captivated collectors, such as Wilkerson and Richard Kelton, began to acquire the works of the “mob”, as the desert painters were called. These works by the likes of Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula, Mick Namararri Tjapaltjarri, Shorty Lungkarla and Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri became the core of a show that began to tour the US. "Dreamings: The Art of Aboriginal Australia" was shown in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles in 1988.

Early paintings, for which as little as US$80 or less was paid, laid the groundwork for auction results which began to amaze the art world. In 2007, a work from 1977 by Clifford Possum has hammered down at US$2 million in a Sotheby’s Auction in Melbourne, Australia.

Granted that Clifford Possum had taken the genre to new concepts with that painting, “Warlugulong”, which portrayed the total of Possum’s Dreamings as a map seen from above in a huge canvas.

I encourage you to visit ArtNews Archives to read the entire story.

But first, a side trip to a tale of two collectors who were active in Australian Aboriginal art at about the same time. Susanne and I began our collection in the late 1970s, traveling to Alice Springs to acquire a few pieces. Then back again in the mid-90s, when we ventured back to Alice, up to Darwin and to the Yirrkala community at Nhulumbuy (Gove). We also revisited our former home in Adelaide where several Aboriginal resources were available. Our last trip to Australia was in 2001 (September, to be exact; a very memorable time). On that trip we visited Darwin again, the Tiwi Islands, Maningrida, Oenpelli, and down the Sturt Highway to Alice, Adelaide, then flying to Sydney.

But this is not about our travels. It is about our relationship with the art.

In the meantime we had moved to Chicago. About the time the “Dreamings: The Art of Aboriginal Australia” was touring the US, we moved to Fort Myers, Florida. We opened our gallery, Aboriginals: Art of the First Persons, on Sanibel Island. By the late 90s, we had two shows featuring works from our collection. One at the Museum of Fine Art in Owensboro, KY, and one at the Alliance for the Arts in Fort Myers, FL.

Little did we appreciate that we were in the vanguard of Australian Aboriginal art’s growing world-wide popularity. All we knew was that we had several paintings by outstanding Aboriginal artists, works that bring beauty and grace to our lives and home.

We include all the paintings, desert paintings and bark paintings and artifacts, on our web site at TribalWorks. We invite you to enjoy them with us.

Shown here are works (l) by Gabriella Possum, Clifford's daughter, & (r) Pansy Napangati.

Of possible additional interest is this video that discusses the care and storage of these valuable works of art.


PS: Shortly after Hurricane Charley smashed into Sanibel and Captiva Islands, we closed our Sanibel gallery, deciding to exhibit and sell exclusively online. Nothing was damaged in the storm; not us or any of the art. But we took it as a sign that it was time, after 16 years into a 15-year project, to do things differently.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Reprinting verbatim from SWAIA We greatly regret that we will miss this show as we at Aboriginals: Art of the First Person are great fans of Ira Lujan and Spooner. We have a few glass works by Ira, including this one that was made on commission from us. Please visit our websites at, and
Native Modern Art and Design Series Continues
with Photography and Glass

Who: Legends Santa Fe and the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA)
What: Native Modern: Art and Design Series. Paper and Glass
Where: Legends Gallery: 143 Lincoln Ave. Santa Fe, NM (505) 983-5639
When: Friday June 4, 2010 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
How Much: Free

The Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA) and Legends Santa Fe is presenting the most ambitious exhibit in its Native Modern: Contemporary Native Art and Design Exhibit Series. Following the success of "Precious Metal" and "Against the Grain," the third installment of Native Modern "Paper and Glass" will push the definitions of Native art into unexpected places.

With established and award winning artists including,

* Will Wilson Photography

* Ira Lujan, Glass
* Robert Spooner Marcus, Glass
* Da-Ka-Xeen Mehner, Photography
* Larry McNeil, Photography
* Lillian Pitt, Glass

Paper and Glass promises to be the most talked about Native art gallery show in recent history. The use of glass and photography by Native artists as materials for their creative expression embodies a strikingly clear, dynamic and unclaimed energy. From the socio-political to the broader language of commodity and culture, Paper and Glass reveals a new bravado in Native self-representation.

The Native Modern series of exhibits debuts a new show every month at Legends Santa Fe. SWAIA and Legends Santa Fe will seek distinctive and previously untested ways of bringing Native artists together from across cultures, media and themes. The shows, like Indian Market, will be at once traditional and brimming with innovative ideas. The result will be the presentation of Native art unlike anything else in Santa Fe.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

This posting and the "borrowed" youtube video are presented by the proprietors of Aboriginals: Art of the First Person, who also host websites devoted to African tribal art, Australian Aboriginal art, Native American art, jewelry and pottery and art from other tribal traditions.

I stumbled across this essay on beauty and art by Philosopher Roger Scruton. It started me thinking about the role of "beauty" in tribal art.

When we look at tribal art, certainly authentic tribal art, we usually see what the artist perceived as "beautiful" within his or her culture.

I think of exquisitely carved African masks and sculpture, shimmering Native American jewelry, lovely Pueblo Pottery, Inuit carvings that please the eye and Australian Aboriginal art that may challenge Western concepts of beauty but represent attempts by those artists to create beauty in their daily life.

Moreover, given the cultural values of Aboriginal art, why would any artist want to reflect on it with shame or mockery?

So it strikes me that lovers of tribal art are privileged to apply their devotion to fields where art that mocks beauty is rare and seldom seen.

What do you think?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Upcoming Events In Native American Arts

This summary of impending events of interest to collectors and admirers of Native American Indian and other tribal art, is presented by Aboriginals: Art of the First Person and its allied web sites at, for fine, hand-made Native American jewelry,, for authentic Indian Pueblo pottery, for a mix of African, Australian, Arctic and Navajo folk art, and, offering outstanding Zuni, Cochiti, Navajo and San Felipe carvings by top fetish carvers.

May 30-31 - The annual Jemez Red Rocks Arts and Crafts Show at Jemez Pueblo - Call 505-834-7235

June 7 - Bonhams' Native American and Pre-columbian Art Auction - San Francisco - Call 415-861-7500

June 18-20 - Red Earth, America's Greatest Native American Cultural Festival - Oklahoma City - Call 405-427-5228

June 24 - Taos Pueblo San Juan Feast Day - Taos Pueblo - No cameras allowed.

June 25-27 - Cody Old West Show and Auction - Denver, CO - Call 307-587-9014

July 2-4 - Annual Hopi Festival of Arts and Culture - Museum of Northern Arizona, Flagstaff, AZ - Call 928-774-5213

July 9-11 - Taos Pueblo Pow Wow - Taos Pueblo, Taos, NM - Call 575-758-1028

July 24-25 - High Country Arts and Crafts Festival - Eagles Nest, NM - Call 574-377-2420

July 25-26 - Taos Pueblo Feast Days of Santiago and Santa Ana - Taos Pueblo - Taos, NM

August 6-8 - Navajo Festival of Arts and Culture - Museum of Northern Arizona - Flagstaff, AZ

August 6-8 - Great Southwestern Antiques, Indian and Old West Show - New Mexico Fairgrounds - Albuquerque, NM - Call 505-255-4054

August 12-14 - Annual Antique Ethnographic Art Show - Santa Fe Community Convention Center - Santa Fe, NM - Call 505-992-8929

August 12-16 - Annual Inter-Tribal Ceremonial - Red Rocks State Park - Gallup, NM - Call 505-863-3896

August 13-22 - Santa Fe Show-Objects of Art - Santa Fe, NM - Call 310-456-2120

August 14-15 - Allard's Best of Santa Fe Auction - Scottish rite Hall - Santa Fe, NM - Call 888-314-0343

August 15-17 - Annual Invitational Antique Indian Art Show - Santa Fe Community Convention Center - Santa Fe, NM - Call 505-992-8929

August 19-20 - Wheelwright Museum Annual Silent Auction and Live Auction - Santa Fe, NM

August 21-22 - Santa Fe Indian Market - Santa Fe, NM - On and around the Plaza

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Eunice Napangardi heads for Germany

This is a report from Aboriginals: Art of the First Person , proprietors of, which deals in tribal art, including Australian Aboriginal paintings.

Well, not the actual Eunice Napangardi. She unfortunately passed away about five years ago.

This Eunice Napangardi is a lovely Australian Aboriginal desert dot painting created by Eunice in about 1995. We have had it in our collection since 2000.

It was a portrayal of the Bush Banana dreaming, which Eunice's clan is entitled to paint.
Her paintings depict variations of the radiating vines of the bush banana plant, which grows in rock crevices close to the dry river beds. Known as Yuparli in the Aboriginal language of Eunice's Warlpiri home near Yuendumu, it is gathered by the Aboriginal women both as fruit and as medicine. Bush Banana is very important in Aboriginal culture because of its combined healing and nutritional qualities.

Bush Banana Dreaming (signifies the journey of Yuparli ancestors). In this respect, it is like many Aboriginal dreamings, which portray various aspects of Aboriginal history and mythology. Such paintings were originally done by men artists, on the ground at corroborees (or clan gatherings). As a result, they also were often referred to as sand paintings. Among their purposes was to share the culture with younger members of the clans as they grew and acquired knowledge.

Eunice was one of the first women painters, emerging shortly after an English art advisor in the desert convinced tribe members that it was okay to paint their stories. Even then, the deep meanings of the symbols, shapes and icons are not shared outside the clan, and often not outside the senior men.

Now, Bush Banana Dreaming by Eunice Napangardi has found a new home with a wise investor in Aboriginal art.

Eunice's paintings are totally unique. She demonstrates a great artistic flair and surety of touch in her ability to represent one dreaming.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Watch out for stolen concho belt

The Antique Tribal Art Dealers Association (ATADA), of which Aboriginals: Art of the First Person is a member, has issued an alert for a concho belt believed to have been stolen from a motel room in Gallup, NM.

The belt is a Zuni needlepoint turquoise concho belt by the Panteahs, using Sleeping Beauty turquoise. It was created in the 1970s.

At the time of the theft, the belt was owned by Pat Harrington.

For more information visit the theft alert page at

Keep your eyes open for the stolen item. It is important for anyone who encounters it to notify the authorities or Pat Harrington at 505-256-1023.

Possession of stolen property is a crime.