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On Santa Fe, New Mexico

Patty and I flew to New Mexico on Thursday for the wedding of her nephew, John McNair. That makes me technically his uncle, even though I am only four months older than he is. And Patty is only three years older than him, due to the fact that Patty's father sired children over a period of twenty years, which produced the result that Patty has brothers who were having their own families when she was born, and so ... you get the picture. After a family dinner on Thursday night, we all drove up to Santa Fe on Friday for the larger party.

Santa Fe is saturated with arts and crafts. A lot of it, particularly around the Plaza, is very crap indeed. There are scores of galleries on the Plaza and surrounding side streets, and many of them I have been told sell high quality Western-themed art. I can't really judge, as it's not a genre I like. There is a lot of Western-tradition art - pseudo Impressionism and Abstraction - and I am familiar with that, and almost all of what I've seen in that vein is also very bad. But then we took the bus into the centre from our hotel on Friday and passed the warehouses and galleries that are now part of Site Santa Fe, the recently inaugurated biennial, which I think would be worth returning to see. Then this weekend, today in fact, is the start of Indian Market, which is the largest display of native American arts and crafts in existence. We're going to go down and look around today, where we will be joined supposedly by 100,000 other people.

People complain about Santa Fe being spoiled by tourism and fakery, but despite the caveats mentioned above, it's still a great pleasure to walk around the streets between the reddish adobe buildings, along the arcades with their old wooden pillars and ceilings, and past churches and small homes that are among the oldest structures in the entire United States. It is a very Spanish place, and very native American place, and no amount of mass-produced gew-gaws, Starbucks, or Whole Foods stores can quite manage to efface that completely.

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  1. Wow! You did not do your homework.
    There is great art (and also not so great) in Santa Fe, the third largest art market in the US behind NYC and LA. There is much more than western art and there is good and bad around the Plaza area (and other areas of town). If you do not know anything about Native American art, shop with care as there are a lot of repros out there, but there is also good stuff. If you are not sure, ask your hotel concierge where the reputable places to shop are or buy from the Native Americans under the portal at the Palace of the Governors. It is a strict program and you can make book on the authenticity. If vendors violate the rules they are out and they won't risk that.
    Indian Market, while expensive guarantees authentic pieces- they also have strict rules.
    Site Santa Fe is a specific museum and not a collection of galleries and warehouses.
    Before you write a critique it is good to get the facts straight and then you call pull whatever you are critiquing apart.

  2. Thanks for the comments, anonymous. I can't see exactly where my facts were wrong, as I thought I'd made it clear I was offering only my first impressions. Now I'm back in Chicago, I'm going to write some deeper posts about my trip. By the way, in case it wasn't obvious, I LOVE New Mexico. It's one of my favourite places in the entire USA.

  3. Phil
    I'm convinced that artists and their critics use different parts of their brains as their default position for managing their worlds. Hence it is difficult for each to understand the other! The artist relies on the Limbic system or Hypocampus to navigate the world. The critic is connected more clearly to the Frontal Lobe. The critic may correctly say that you "haven't got the facts straight," and the artist can only reply that "but I LOVE it." Neither is wrong. Thanks for your continued insights and the delightful voyage through the sensory world.


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