Aug 22, 2016

Phoenix - Art, Culture, History

The only normal people are the ones
you don't know very well.

Joe Ancis

Window to the past, bronze by Roxanne Swentzell, 1999
Gracing the grounds of the Heard Museum, established in 1929
Woman looking into a very small bead between her fingers
Time to re-discover Phoenix while we wait for our flight to Australia...

Art, History, Culture can be seen at no or nearly no costs, inside or outside...
We visited at least 8 Art Galleries, Museums or outdoor displays. 
Of the hundreds of things we saw, these are our favorites...

Glass Art Fence to simulate ocotillo fence welcomes you into the Heard Museum
Some of the artwork by native American who studied under the tutelage of famed glass artist Chihuly
Giving a talk about burden baskets
Burden Baskets:

Great Basin women made many kinds of baskets for specific jobs in collecting and processing plant and animal foods. Burden baskets woven of split willow or other plant fiber over a stick-rod foundation were made in both coarse and fine weaves. Finely woven baskets were used to collect, carry, and store seeds, nuts, and berries. Open-work baskets were used to transport large plant products, such as pine cones or kindling, or to move household goods.

Of all the baskets of the southwest region, early three rod coiled Apache baskets of the Western Apache and Yavapai Apache are the most collectible.

While coarse twined burden baskets are still woven today, Apache fine coiled willow basketry on the three rod foundation died with the Great Depression of the 1930's.  A number of influences converged at this time.  Tourism to the Southwest slowed. The basket collectors market dropped off as wealthy collectors bought up existing collections of basketry from "less liquid" collectors. By the late 19th century the Industrial Revolution had produced cheap pots and pans so labor intensive basketry was no longer practical or necessary culturally so most baskets made during the 1880-1930 era were made for resale.  Apache children were sent to government schools and discouraged from traditional weaving.

An art form perfected over thousands of years was lost in a decade as weavers took up new lines of work.  Generally, only the relatively quickly made open weave single rod burden baskets continued to be made for the tourist industry.  When the economy and interest in basket collecting returned after World War II, fine three rod coiled basketry had disappeared; there was no economic incentive to spend months weaving fine basketry in the new inflationary economy. 

Burden Basket Meaning:

The Sacred Path medicine of The Burden Basket says to pull from your own inner-strength and to become self-reliant. By trusting in yourself to find your own answers and letting go of your burdens, you can conquer the world.  Our problems stop being burdens when solutions are found.

The Burden Basket teaches us not to leave our troubles at the door of another. If we rely on ourselves and our connection to the Great Spirit we learn to stretch into our own unique potential.  If we become confused and we seek counsel, we should always use the advice given.  We should not waste the time of others if we do not intend to respect and honor the wisdom given to us.  We should also know that it is not our job to solve the problems of others. In doing so, we rob them of their right to self-reliance.

While we walk through our lifetime, we only carry the burdens we wish to carry. If we find pleasure or a feeling of importance because we have so much to handle, then we need to look seriously at our ideas of self-importance.  The lesson of the Burden Basket is that we are all self-reliant and should use our own talents to find our own solutions.

Before the First People were forced onto reservations, Burden Baskets were used to gather wood by the women of the tribes. This wood would be used for cooking fires and Grandmother Fires to heat the inside of the lodges.  The heating fires were so named because the wood was small enough that even a Grandmother could carry it. The wood was placed in the Burden Basket to free the hands to gather and collect items for cooking.

Today small versions of these baskets are hung by entrance door of homes.  One is to leave their ‘burden’ in that basket upon entering home for a visit.

Archive picture Cecilia Henry - 1/2 burden basket
San Carlos Indian Reservation

Proudly showing the inside

Archive photo of Geronimo
Geronimo, an Apache made infamous by American written history.  A part of Apaches history that we never hear is that they were actually a very environmentally friendly tribe.  Unlike other tribes, they did not dig anything out of Mother Earth.  They didn't use metals to make jewelry or tools, they didn't make pottery either.  Geronimo didn't become that 'bad' Indian until his whole family (mother, wife, 3 kids) was massacred by Mexican militia when he was in his 20's. 

Kachina dolls - photo Greg Vaughn
Sculpted by men, given to small children or girls only

For years, Native Americans of the Southwest have prayed to the great spirits to bless their world with good weather, abundant game and a bountiful harvest. The Pueblo people believe that each year, just after the winter solstice, beings known as Kachinas bring them messages from these spirits, walking upon the earth to interact with the Pueblo people. At the end of the planting season, they return to the spirit world.

Kachinas (or Katsinas) are representations of the spiritual essence of everything in the real world. The dolls depict men dressed in Kachina masks for dances and ritual in order to take on the spirit of the Kachina. The tradition of Kachina dolls goes back at least 1500 - 2000 years. The dolls were given as gifts to the women and children and hung in homes to keep present the spirit of the Kachina.  The dolls were passed down from generation to generation, staying with the tribes for hundreds of years. 

It is a bit of a misnomer to call Kachina figures dolls at all.  These stylized icons are a tangible way to teach Hopi children about their beliefs, and have been serving this purpose for m any generations of Hopi Indians.  Authentic Kachina dolls are made from cottonwood root and painted to depict one of the 400 mythical beings in the Hopi religion.  The Hopi Kachina dolls were accented with things like hair, fur, and even butterfly wings or bird feathers.  As of the 20th century, Navajos make "Kachina" dolls and they are highlighted with beads and turquoise.

Only men are allowed to personify the Kachinas. To educate the rest of the tribe about Kachinas, men carve dolls, traditionally from a single piece of cottonwood root, so that the whole tribe can experience a connection.

The Hopi children took great care of Kachinas, and were instructed not to play with them, contrary to the uses of other dolls in their culture.  It is also important to note that only the Hopi Indians made the authentic Kachina dolls, and figures made by Navajos and Mexicans, while very beautiful, are not actually Kachina dolls (regardless of their labels).

Traditionally, Kachina dolls were given to uninitiated girls by their uncles during the Bean Dance, or Spring Bean Planting Ceremony, or the Home Dance in the summer.  Hopi dancers would dress up like Kachinas during religious festivals and are said to embody the same qualities of the religious beings they represent.  Some Hopis give Kachina dolls to children during other important ceremonies, in addition to the Bean and Home festivals.

There are only a few Hopi carvers who create these intricate Kachina dolls; these artisans have dedicated their entire lives to learning this craft.  Their training includes intensive religious study and master carving; which means that it takes effort to seek out qualified Kachina carvers.
Storm pattern Navajo rug
Navajo blankets were copied from or influenced by the Pueblo Indians.  They were first made with wool of the churro sheep which was long, silky, shiny, and strong.  Unlike what had been mostly thought, hand dyes were rarely used once the Santa Fe railroad made trips through the West.  Cake dyes were often used.  The churro sheep were difficult to breed and the wool of the newer breeds of sheep is not as good, influencing the quality of the rugs in a negative way.  One rug can take up to a year to weave so their prices can be very high.

The Vanishing Buffalo Herd, 1993
Bob Haozous, Apache

Taking a very different approach to the symbol of the buffalo, this installation casts an ironic eye on the devastation of buffalo herds in the 19th century and the greed of today's consumer.  The artist hand-cut 100 small buffalo out of steel, shot them through with a rifle and nickel-plated them.  He lined up the buffalo in a gallery and put a relatively low price on them, which he knew would produce a "stampede" among collectors.  When the show opened in Santa Fe, the gallery had a camera videotaping the sale, which recorded consumer behavior at its worst.  The installation is a statement about consumerism and the depletion of the Earth.  The buffalo becomes a symbol of the genocide of Native Americans and our continuing exploitation of the Earth's non-renewable resources.

Singing Mother

Grandfather Storyteller
Storyteller dolls were first created in Cochiti Pueblo by Helen Cordero. They have always been famous for their distinctive pottery which features black designs painted over white clay.  Most of the pottery they made was utilitarian-pots, bowls, etc. Sometimes they would make figures for ceremonial purposes.  One common figure was a mother holding a child, known as the "singing mother."  The mother's mouth was open signifying her singing a lullaby to her baby.

Helen had a grandfather, Santiago Quintana, who was renowned in his own right. He had many grandchildren who would climb all over him begging him to tell them a story.  He almost never refused. He told them tales of his pueblo people, and would make up stories as well.

In 1964, Helen made a clay figure representing her grandfather with children on his lap. A folk art collector suggested she add even more children. So Helen made children climbing up grandfather's braids, peaking over his shoulders, and sliding down his arms. The figure was much larger than the children showing his great influence.  Helen never called the little ones children.  They were "listeners."  The listeners were even more important than the grandfather figure because she said, "Wisdom enters the world not by the one speaking, but because it was heard." She left the figures with their mouth open to let out the stories and she left the eyes closed because her storyteller was thinking of the next thing in the story.

Helen made many versions of her grandfather storyteller. Then she began to make grandmother storytellers and later animal storytellers especially turtles.  Helen passed away in 1994 but the tradition lives on.

Dragonfly cross
When religious people forced the natives to wear the cross, the natives found a way to wear a cross of their own design.  It made the zealous religious people happy that the natives were finally following along however what they didn't know was that the 'double arm' cross actually represented the dragonfly... which symbolizes water.

Sculpture garden at the Shemer Art Center

Contemplation, Helen Hardin, 1980
Copper plate etching, Heard Museum

Mimbres Kokopelli, Helen Hardin, 1984
Copper plate etching

Deer slayer's Dream, Helen Hardin, 1981
Copper plate etching
Citadel, Patricia Sannit, 2011
Earth inspired clay work, Shemer Art Center
Il Donnone (Lady in the cube), Paolo Soleri, 1972
Cor-ten steel treated with chlorine and acid
Founder of Arcosanti, Phoenix Art Museum
White and blue-glazed sculpture, no year
Tanoue Shinya, Japanese, Phoenix Art Museum

Mass, Colder Darker Matter, Cornelia Parker, 1997
Phoenix Art Museum
Charred remains of Texas Church struck by lightning.  Chunks and splinters of charcoal suspended from the ceiling to form the illusion of a cube, dense at the center, thinning at the edges.  It appears at once flat and three dimensional, but never solid, almost disintegrating before your eyes.  The title, in part, refers to the scientific term "Cold Dark Matter" used to describe the unquantifiable in the universe.  "Mass" suggests not only a spiritual gathering, but also the solids and voids that are basic elements of sculpture, the artist also thinks of this work as a charcoal drawing or an abstract painting against a white background.

Truly liked this art work, possibly because we just had a very destructive fire burning down our garage, utility room, and classic car.  It struck a chord...

Sama Alshaibi from her Silsila Collection, The Path,, 2014
Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

Sama Alshaibi, from her Silsila Collection, Abode of Islam, 2014
Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
Multi-media project depicting a seven-year cyclic journey through the significant deserts and endangered water sources of the Middle East and North African regions.  Silsila is Arabic for chain or link.  Sama is from Palestine and Iraq.  Her work resonates in places like the Arizona desert.

Moving on to the Arizona Capitol.

Characterizes decades' long battle between Arizona
and California for Colorado River water rights

Petrified wood
Arizona Capitol Grounds
The myth of "The Five C's".  The Five C's started in the 1930's as an advertising campaign to teach kids about Arizona's economy and promote the state.  Unfortunately, it worked a little too well!  In the early days of Arizona's statehood, these five resources (cattle, cotton, copper, citrus, and climate) were instrumental in making Arizona the great state that it is today. 

Eighty years later, Arizona's economy has become much more diverse.  Now "The Five C's" account for less than 10% of GDP.  Today's largest industry is Aviation / Defense, accounting for 15%. Many people still repeat that these five resources are all that make up Arizona's economy...

The old House of Representative
When you look at each desk, it lists which job each rep held
Butcher, banker, plumber, cattleman, capitalist, attorney, sheep rancher
A lot different today with mainly only attorneys filling these positions
Entrance with Arizona Seal

Third floor

First floor

Nothing like being politically correct:
Idiots cannot vote...

List of different cattle branding
There were at least 400 different ones.

What we visited:
  • Arizona Capitol Museum and Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza - Free
  • Heard Museum - Free with Phoenix Library Cultural Pass
  • Phoenix Art Museum - Free on Wednesdays from 3-9pm
  • ASU Art Museum - Free (but parking can be very costly)
  • ASU Ceramics Research Center and Brickyard Gallery - Free
  • Tempe History Museum - Free
  • Shemer Art Center and Museum - Free
  • Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art - Free on Thursdays

And more but we were here during the slow season so many were closed... 
Have to be back during cooler times...

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