The painting pictured here is by Percy Sandy (Kai Sa) of Zuni Pueblo and will be available for purchase at our Turquoise Gala. Sandy's work can be found in the permanent collections of the Gilcrease, Philbrook, Heard, and the MRM. This piece depicts a Mudhead with a Zuni Shalako, and demonstrates a strong stylistic influence from Sandy's artistic training at the Santa Fe Indian School in the 1930s. At the school, students were encouraged to document realistic representations of ceremonial dances and traditional activities from their own cultures. They were also taught to paint in a similar style that can be characterized as having little to no background or setting, a flat application of color, little to no modeling, and heavy outlines.
The progression and evolution of this style in paintings by American Indian artists is addressed in our Santa Fe Indian School Style: Works on Paper exhibit. Visitors to the museum encounter the exhibit as soon as they enter our doors as one of the works that we wanted to include was so large that our curator, Carmela Quinto, had to suspend it from the vigas in the museum lobby.
The large painting pictured above is by Pop Chalee (Merina Lujan) of Taos Pueblo. Like Sandy, Chalee's piece depicts Mudheads and Zuni Shalakos.
If you compare the two paintings, strong similarities are apparent in both the subject matter and style. Chalee also attended the Santa Fe Indian School, and the conventions of the school's trademark style can be seen in both artists' paintings. In 1949, Chalee began working for the Santa Fe Railway as an artist, guide, and Native American cultural ambassador. Part of her job was to teach travelers on the Santa Fe Railway's line about the various Native American communities in the Southwest. Although this painting is now in the collection of the MRM, it was once owned by the Santa Fe Railway's advertising department, and would have been displayed in the company's Chicago headquarters or in one of their ticket offices. The Santa Fe Railway's logo is still stamped on the back of the painting.
Chalee's work for the Santa Fe Railway certainly demonstrates her training at the Santa Fe Indian School. However, she is primarily known for her tranquil, idyllic, and stylized scenes of frolicking animals in serene forest landscapes, as seen in this work from the permanent collection of the Gilcrease Museum.
Once again, by comparing Chalee's rendering of elegant deer in a natural setting to a work by Sandy from the MRM's permanent collection (currently not on view), you can see the similarities in the two artists' styles. Our Santa Fe Indian School Style exhibit will be on view until May 2017, but we are already planning our exhibition schedule for next year. One of our exhibits will focus on paintings in the permanent collection that depict scenes of local flora and fauna, such as in Sandy's deer painting pictured above. A portion of the proceeds from our Turquoise Gala will fund the preparation, installation, and educational programming for next year's exhibits. For example, we would like to develop educational tours that connect the detailed renderings of plants in these paintings with the same species identified in our native plant gardens. Yet another project that will be potentially funded by our gala will be the conservation and restoration of artworks in the museum's collection. For example, the large Chalee painting in our lobby has extensive water damage that can be viewed in the detail pictured below.
If you are interested in learning more about our current exhibits and educational programming related to our native plant gardens, read our July newsletter. To purchase tickets to our Turquoise Gala, click here. If you are unable to attend, but would like to bid on any of the available artworks, you can arrange a bid by proxy by emailing me at email@example.com or calling (575) 758-2462, ext. 205.