On our way back to Texas, Michael and I stopped several times to visit with friends, some of which we saw at the Heard Museum Fair and Market and some of which we did not. It is always a pleasure to visit with friends and learn more about their lives, and this time was no exception.
We braved the snow and ice on the ground, and I even chuckled at the necessity of the City of Flagstaff to put snow pole markers on their fire hydrants. Certainly this is not something you would see in our part of Texas. Temperatures hovered in the upper 40’s during the day, and plunged below freezing at night – typical of this high altitude city still in the grips of winter. Yes, that meant we had two sets of clothing with us – one set for sunny, warm Phoenix and the other set for the rest of our trip.
We started with our dear friend David Dawangyumptewa, a renowned Hopi painter. David’s health won’t allow him to do shows any more, but we always try to make a point of stopping in Flagstaff to say hello and visit. This year, we persuaded David to join us for lunch at one of his favorite local restaurants, the Toasted Owl, and we shared what we saw and heard at the recent Heard show. After lunch, we returned to David’s place, where he showed us some of the beautiful work he is currently doing. The Museum of Northern Arizona is a supporter of David’s, and he has a number of his pieces for sale in their museum shop. It was only a few years ago that MNA did a two-month exhibition of David’s work, and that is when we managed to acquire a couple of his originals. Over the years, this has grown to almost a dozen originals, artist proofs, and even a print I acquired back almost 30 years ago.
David has a warm, gentle manner, as is so true of many of the Hopi culture. He related to us some of his struggles growing up as a Hopi while attending a Navajo school – almost like being in a rival’s territory. None of this, however, impacted his positive and uplifting outlook on life. Just sitting and talking with him brings us a sense of calm and peacefulness, as it seems to radiate from his being.
At the end of our all-to-brief stay, David did something that astonished me – he brought my stalwart husband almost to tears by gifting Michael with a beautiful original pen and ink on hand-made paper. It is a beautiful representation of a white buffalo with a setting sun, and both the style and colors are so emblematic of David’s work. We will frame it and preserve it under museum glass, and it will hang in Michael’s office.
With many hugs, we left David to continue his work with both originals and computer-generated images.
Later that afternoon, after we had checked into our hotel for the evening, we caught up with Navajo artist Abraham Begay and his wife Paula. They graciously agreed to join us for dinner, so we sat and chatted for a couple of hours over a nice meal. Abraham is a nationally-known jeweler, one of the best at precision micro-inlay of stones that I have ever seen. You may recall that after last fall’s Cherokee Market in Tulsa, Abraham and Paula were on their way back to Flagstaff when they stopped for a meal in Albuquerque. When they finished their meal and got ready to finish their trip, they discovered that someone had broken into their truck and stolen all of their finished inventory, raw materials, and even some of their jewelry-making tools, with a value of over $100,000. Both Abraham and Paula were grateful for the outpouring of support they received from the community of their friends and supporters, but it still took an emotional toll on Abraham.
So instead of dwelling on the past, we asked about their family. They have two daughters and two sons, and are proud grandparents as well. Other than being a top jewelry maker, and traveling across the country to various shows, Abraham is a very down-to-earth, soft-spoken man. He prefers to let his work speak for him, and it speaks volumes. We have a number of his micro-inlay cuffs, earrings, necklaces, and bolos in the Gallery, and whenever we wear them to a show like the Heard, we are frequently stopped by people to admire, ask questions, and then to scurry off to find Abraham’s booth.
With more hugs, we finished our meal and headed off to our hotel – a full day of friends and building relationships. These personal engagements, unlike the rushed fifteen minutes we obtain at a show, are so meaningful to us, as we get a chance to learn so much more about the artists, their backgrounds, their culture, and the lives that they lead. That makes the art they produce so much more meaningful, which we try to convey in our artist profiles section. The stories help bring the art to life, and it becomes so much more than oil on canvas, a piece of clay, or silver and gemstones. It becomes an extension of the culture of that group of Native Americans, and gives us insights that we can’t obtain elsewhere.