Monday, June 23, 2008

Santa Fe Week

I've returned from Santa Fe, where I was coordinating a professional writing retreat for the National Writing Project. My colleague Lisa and I decided to take a stroll through Canyon Road before dinner at Geronimo, and got a glimpse of the art business as it is conducted at this point in the town's timeline. I must say we began our walk at 4:00 PM, toward the end of the business day for most galleries there, and as a consequence did not elicit much interest from most of the owners/attendants. There were three exceptions, all on the south side of the famed street. Its gallery attendants left what they were doing to greet us. Soon we saw they were not there to sell pieces, but to talk about art: Martha Keats, Selby Fleetwood and most notably, Darnell Fine Art. All were women, and all were very friendly, despite the fact that we were clearly tourists without loads of money. This was something I did not at all expect after visiting galleries in New York this last November. Their behavior was highly consistent with what the Art Dealers Association of America, in their collector's guide, says should be their primary mission: to educate the public.

We were very pleased with those interactions, but it was very hot and past 5:00 pm. After this time, all the galleries were closed, and so we looked across the street and saw Ed Larson's sign: "Jesus said buy folk art," so of course we found ourselves at The Stables, which turned out to be a collection of seventeen working artist studios. Ed's studio was closed and so were most of the others, but then we glimpsed an open door amid a few heavily impastoed canvasses hung on the outside walls. One of them was a giant rose. The paintings intrigued me, because they weren't folk art, they were not art school art, or self-taught art. They were a hybrid of all of the above. Nobody responded when we called, so I peeked in and saw... a grand piano, in a room just like I had seen in a book I have about Santa Fe artist studios.

David Vigil stepped out of the adjoining bathroom just before we were getting ready to walk into his studio. He had a Kool-aid orange mane, brown skin and abundant chest hair: The Lion King. Fortunately we did not hear a roar but a laugh (I can be charming when I need to), as we hurriedly explained we were curious. After a brief interview in which our provenance was examined, he engaged us in a conversation on the nature of his recent work as artist, writer and composer. I found him quite endearing, not jaded or cynical, in the way he addressed these two women tourists after so many years of selling art out of a studio. We talked quite a bit about creativity. After his young musician collaborator Victor arrived, he mentioned some video clips of his music on You Tube and said he was a happy person. Warning: do not click if you don't like jazz.

We crossed the street again and sat down at the bar inside Geronimo to ponder our encounters. Fiercely air conditioned, this restaurant had a very nice wine list, but that would be another blog entry.

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