SANTA FE INDIAN ART MARKET
ON BEING BLACKBALLED
Recently I was asked why I don’t show my artwork at a famous Indian art market in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I did show my paintings and drawings at the Santa Fe market in the summer of 2003. Here is my brief story of what happened.
I applied for the first time in 2003 to the Santa Fe Indian art market and to my surprise I was accepted. I entered the competition and was very excited to be there. It was Sunday and the show was winding down. I had been showing my work and occasionally selling paintings all Saturday and was selling a few on Sunday when a rather corpulent southwest Native American guy approached me and we quickly started a conversation.
At first he seemed friendly and we visited. Then out of the blue he said, “How did you get in here?”
I was a bit confused by his question.
“What do you mean?” I asked. “I guess I just applied and got accepted like everyone else.”
“This is Southwest Indian Art!” he said firmly.
He looked at my art and said, “You are northern. You should go somewhere else.”
I just shrugged my shoulders and didn’t really know how to respond.
Then the short round guy said, “People came here to buy southwest art. My lively hood revolves around this place. This is my only show. I start painting a few weeks before the show and crank out lots of paintings. These people buy it.”
He seemed somewhat disgusted at the non-Indian customers. He laughed as he told me that he quickly does lots of paintings just before the show “so that the white-people will have something to buy.”
“I usually sell out,” he said. “I’ve been in the same location for over 30 years. We don’t need northerners here. Enjoy it while you can. You won’t be back.”
Then he laughed and walked away.
A few minutes later another Indian guy walked up and checked out my paintings. The second guy, a more slender and somewhat dimwitted looking Native American man said, “Interesting work.”
This second guy seemed interested in my electrical conduit tubes that held up my paintings. I explained how I used electrical conduit and netting to make panels that supported my paintings.
After walking around looking at my paintings he said, “Yep, you won’t be back.” He laughed and walked away.
I figured the two guys were buddies. They reminded me of a Native American version of “Laurel and Hardy.”
Sure enough, the following year I applied for admission into the Santa Fe Indian art show and I was rejected. I applied four straight years and received rejections each year. Then on the fifth year I did not apply. Interestingly, on the fifth year I received a call on the phone from a young lady who said a computer problem came up and she was calling all the artists. She told me that, although I had been “judged into the show I would not be able to attend because there was no room.” I tried to explain to the young lady that I did not apply, but she said “sorry, we have no room.” Then she hung up. I was puzzled and amused. I had not applied to the art market that year, yet I still got rejected. Now that’s what I call rejection! Anyway, a few weeks later I got an official letter saying that my work did not measure up and I was officially rejected. The young lady said I was judged-in and the letter said my work was not good enough “to get judged in.” So, to sum up that fifth year, I got rejected twice and I never applied – and I got that call from a mysterious young lady. How many artists can say they have gotten rejected twice for a show for which they never applied. This left me laughing for quite some time. Being “blackballed” has its funny side.
I don’t know who these two funny guys were but they have successfully kept me out of the show. I figure they can’t handle the competition. Besides, when I was there I saw people selling photo shopped prints and potholders – not xactly fine art. But I’m in good company. I’ve heard lots of similar stories from other very well known artists who are deliberately kept out of the Santa Fe market. As far as I’m concerned, the Santa Fe Indian market may be going down hill and some of the artists that do attend don’t have to excel in their work. It’s a good old buddy system and the art collectors are being ripped off. Now I know there are some excellent artists in this show. But because of this experience, I tell my customers to be careful because some of the painters that have been in the same location for over 30 years are cranking out junk to take advantage of their customers.
Suddenly, I’m in the mood for a good old Laurel and Hardy movie and some popcorn.
And please feel free to re-publish this post (or any part of this post) anywhere you want.
* (June 13, 2015 update: The Indigenous Fine Art Market is a new organization which is holding an Indian Art Market at nearly the same time as the market that is described above. For 2015 I have been accepted into the IFAM show at Santa Fe, but so far as I know, I’m still blacklisted at the “other” market).