2012 Santa Fe, USA

   

 

JOE BOVA
Chair of organising committee

Bienvenidos a Santa Fe. Welcome to Santa Fe.

In Spanish Santa Fe means Holy Faith. That pretty much describes what I have relied on the past 2 years working to make this event happen. Of course I had a lot of help. I am very grateful to them all. I could spend my 10 minutes, like the academy awards thanking so many people. Please read the acknowledgements in the program and on the wall at the NM Museum. But I must say that most importantly and most recently, the help and support of my wife, Linda Shafer, has made it possible for me to be with you today.

I love this city. Santa Fe. Love of course is not logical.

While you are seeing our city you might think it is superficially a stereotype of Americana kitsch. Cowboys and Indians and so forth. But I would remind you that the Native Americans are a living culture, not people pretending. And the Palace of the Governors, the building with the long portale on the north side of the plaza, was built in 1610. The oldest church in America is a 5 minute walk south from this room. I encourage you to look under the superficiality of the touristic glaze. Yet there is contemporary here too. Visit the rail yard galleries and Site Santa Fe for that. You will find a list to guide you in the program.

The history of Santa Fe in the 20th Century is entwined with Art. Often Art and money follow each other. Artists and rich Americans in the 1910’s started coming to New Mexico because they couldn’t go to Europe because of World War I. New Mexico had become a state in 1912. Then, it was a remote exotic place with an indigenous artistic culture. Artists flocked here. Soon their patrons followed. This building we are in is one result, being built in 1922 on this site where an inn has been since 400 years ago.

In the last century, the San Ildefonso potter, Maria Martinez, the only Native Amerian to have been an IAC Member, set the standard for black polished ware. Today, New Mexico still attracts many artists. The late Ken Price made his home in Taos for many years, and Judy Chicago lives in Belen. Virgil Ortiz, of Cochiti Pueblo, exemplifies the contemporary best of Native American art.

 

In the early 1990’s when I was director of the School of Art at Ohio University, I had met and befriended one of our members, Jindra Vikova at the NCECA Conference in Philadelphia. Subsequently I invited her and her husband Pavel Banka to come teach for a year as sabbatical replacements. As usual, we requested a visiting artist lecture from each of them. Jindra’s lecture was scheduled first, before Pavel’s. When the evening of her lecture arrived, she began by showing the first slide of a stunning view of Prague, their hometown. Pavel, not able to contain himself, leaped out of his front row seat and leapt to the stage beside Jindra, and with strong emotion proclaimed, “This is my city! The most beautiful city in the world!” Now, I have been to Prague, and I can tell you Pavel is justified in his feeling. Prague is indeed at least one of the most beautiful cities.

Of course everyone has his or her favorite place. Many Americans will tell you Paris. Our own San Francisco has its devotees. Tony Bennet made those feelings famous when he sang, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” Venice, Xian, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Vancouver, Sydney. But what makes one place loved by someone might make it disliked by another – New York is like that.

About ten years ago I was preparing to early retire from Ohio University and my wife, Linda and I were deciding on where to move to and settle. We pretty much could go to anywhere in the US we wanted. Linda had never been to Santa Fe. When I told her I thought it was THE place, she was not enthused. Other candidates were Charleston, SC and New Orleans. She likes the coast. But she finally told me she knew I really wanted to go Santa Fe and she was willing to live in a mud hut because she loved me. Actually we couldn’t afford a mud hut – real adobe. In one of those curious reversals that happens in life and history, what was once the cheapest way to make a home – using clay, dirt, and water – has now become expensive – it’s the labor. But take this wonderful old building that is our hotel – La Fonda. Who among us – we ceramists could not help but love this building – this town made of clay – or in some instances tries hard to look like it is made of clay. That “mud hut” look is part of what has made “Santa Fe Style” world famous.

Taos also has a history entwined with artists such as Georgia O’Keefe, the writer D. H. Lawrence, the Russian Nicolai Fechin, and Paris born Andrew Dasberg, all associated with Mabel Dodge Luhan, a wealthy heiress who had run salons in Florence Italy and New York. On Friday we will visit Taos and the UNESCO world heritage site of Taos Pueblo, which is pretty much the iconic paradigm for the pueblo-style architecture of Santa Fe. You will see clay buildings that are nearly a thousand years old. And Pueblo people have made pots for centuries, well before Europeans arrived.

My small essay in the Catalog for the Exhibition, New World: Timeless Vision, includes this passage from a poem by Marvin Bell called Drawn by Stones, by Earth, by Things That Have Been in the Fire.

There is a lost soldier in every ceramic bowl. The face on the dinner plate breaks when the dish does and lies for centuries unassembled in the soil. These things that have the right substance to begin with, put into the fire at temperatures that melt glass, keep their fingerprints forever, it is said, like inky sponges that walk away in the deep water.

There is another aspect of Santa Fe, and Northern New Mexico in general, that has endeared it to artists. From the ancestral Pueblans who built Chaco Canyon more than a 1000 years ago, with a perfect solar alignment without having a written language to communicate across the decades, to the time of the early 20th Century painters and photographers – especially the photographers – the light!

The Spanish named our mountains the Sangre de Christo. The blood of Christ. It is for the way they turn red at the wane of the sunset. There is a quality of light here that is almost magical. It has been magnetic for photographers for a hundred years. To cite only one example, there is Ansel Adams’ iconic Moon over Hernandez. Down at Albuquerque the mountains were named the Sandias. Watermelon Mountains. Another kind of red painted by the light during the waning daily sun.

I have been to the International Ceramics Studio in Kecsekemet, Hungary 4 times. Many of you have worked there too and know it well. I am sad that our friends, Janos, Jona, and Steve, from the ICS cannot be here, but they are in spirit, as I am sure are many of our friends and colleagues around the world. Once when I was at ICS , a young Turkish artist who was in residence was telling fortunes from the Turkish coffee she brought and served us. I was last. She had been telling others about love and relationships, money and travel. With me, she stared into the cup for the longest time. Finally she looked up at me and said, « You think too much! » And that was all. Nothing about life in the world!

Maybe I think too much, but probably not. I know, though, that I have thought a lot about this week for the last 2 years. And I know we have done our very best to bring you an Assembly in this special place, New Mexico, that will be memorable.

I am sure you will note the light, the color and the land, and how it enchants the visitor. Our state motto, after all, is the Land of Enchantment. Although some visitors don’t exactly get it right. When George Bush was president and visited New Mexico, he said he was happy to be in the Land of the Enchanted. Well, maybe we are all enchanted, and, who knows? Maybe you will be too. I hope so.

Joe Bova, 2012

 

PERSPECTIVES ON CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN CERAMIC ART

18.09.2012 - Judith Schwartz, Ph.D. (m), Alleghany Meadows, Helen Drutt, Paul Sacaridiz.

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AMERICAN VISIONS – ALTERNATIVE STUDIES

18.09.2012. Ceramic Center and craft School Directors Jean McLaughlin, Jeff Guido, Doug Casebeer, Tyler Gulden, Stephen Lee

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