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The Work of Art

IMG_2067 (480x640) on my tableIf your coffee table book stack is puny, if your resource library isn’t quite up to snuff, or if you’ve got just a little bit more shelf space, I have a suggestion for you.  A new book that just came out in July from IFAA Media and Museum of New Mexico Press: “The Work of Art,” by Carmella Padilla.

Now, I will tell you that between the covers of this book I’m recommending is a fair bit of self-promotion.  You only have to skim down to the second paragraph of the book jacket to read: “At the heart of this story is the work of the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe…” but that to me is okay.  I like the Market.  Beyond Borders was a vendor there for a number of years and I personally support it by attending whenever I can. As Patricia West-Barker put it in a July 8th article in the Santa Fe New Mexican, “The International Folk Art Market’s origins, past, and future are well covered in the opening and closing chapters — but Carmella Padilla’s ‘The Work of Art’ focusses on the personal lives and community accomplishments of many of the artists who helped define the market’s first decade.” In other words, it strikes a decent balance between promoting the Market and providing useful information about premier artists and their extraordinary work.

The author has plenty of accolades, and she tells the stories of the artists with lovely literary flourishes.  The section on Haitian artists Georges Valris and Serge Jolimeau is illuminating, as are many others, though I will hereby confess that at this writing, I have not yet read them all.  Those that I have read,         however, certainly ring true.                                                                                                                                                   IMG_2071 (640x480)

All well and good.  But what really makes the $29 you spend for a paperback version, or $60 for the hardcover (Which you can order online with a click  http://ifamonline.mybigcommerce.com/the-work-of-art-folk-artists-in-the-21st-century/) is the photography by John Bigelow Taylor and Dianne Dubler. If you like what you see in the first 165 pages, you’ll eat up the final 65. That section features stunning gallery-style photographs of folk art masterpieces and “was purposefully designed to be a meditation on the artwork,” said Kelly Waller, who served as the photo editor for the book. Obvious care went into the selection of works to be featured and the details captured therein are quite simply astonishing.  In the photos are revealed intricacies that defy description, from the tiniest of stitches in a Bhutanese textile to the faintest of brushstrokes on a Mexican ceramic piece.  Whoever coined the phrase, “A picture is worth a thousand words” wasn’t kidding. And whoever decided that folk art is “primitive” should have his head examined.

Contributed by Linda for Beyond Borders/It’s Cactus

Ha! It’s Me!

On a bike ID #2734 I'm pretty sure she's me...

On a bike ID #2734
I’m pretty sure she’s me…


I love art for lots of reasons.  It can transport me in time and in space.  It can inspire me.  It can challenge my thinking; teach me to

I didn't get up enough speed to even scatter the birds.

I didn’t get up enough speed to even scatter the birds.

observe and to contemplate.   But while I appreciate all that art can do for me, I find the pieces that I enjoy most of all are those that give me a glimpse of self-recognition and make me laugh.

So maybe this piece by Tunis Dixon doesn’t resonate with you as it does with me.  Maybe you didn’t have the day on the bike that I did. More’s the pity. This hard-charging gal reminds me quite clearly of me the last time I rode a bike.  No, I wasn’t topless, but I was grinding away, wind in my hair on a beach down in South Carolina.  I had the clunker; we drew straws and I lost.   The bike was heavy, with wide tires that had no penchant for holding anything in the way of air pressure. But that wasn’t going to stop me.  It was a glorious day on the beach and I was with my friends.  They were riding like the wind and I was determined to do the same; grace and elegance be damned. Puffing and chugging, I was glad for the outing and chalked my sweaty exertions up to good exercise.  I look at this gal and I think if I’d had my portrait made at that moment, on that day, this is what it would look like.

Tunis Dixon in his workshop.

Tunis Dixon in his workshop.

Tunis, you nailed it.  I saw myself and it made me laugh. Thank you for that!


Contributed by Linda for Beyond Borders/It’s Cactus


Woman’s World

The incomparable Cher in a promo for her new single, "Woman's World."

The incomparable Cher in a promo for her new single, “Woman’s World.”

A few nights ago, I watched the Macy’s “Fourth of July Spectacular – Live from NYC” with friends in the air-conditioned comfort of their Tucson living room.  Cher was one of the guest performers, strutting her stuff and belting out, “Woman’s World” with power and style that hasn’t wavered one inch off the mark since she first performed, “I Got You Babe” as a 19-year old with Sonny Bono back in 1965. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLpO7g5cZrE

“What a gal,” we all marveled, “She’s got some kind of something that gives her this staying power.” The tweens and their moms and grandmas all clenched their fists above their heads in a show of female solidarity as they sang the lyrics along with the superstar, “And I am stronger, strong enough to rise above.  This is a woman’s world.  This is a woman’s world.”

Would that it were so. Not so much in places like Haiti, where the challenges of being female are eye-popping, to say the least.  According to a report from the Office of the Special Envoy to Haiti, women have a literacy rate which hovers just over fifty percent.  Forty percent of all Haitian households have a female at the head, and sixty percent of those live in extreme poverty.  Topping it off, eighty-three

REC430 "Sunflower Season" by Rosetania Brutus

REC430 “Sunflower Season” by Rosetania Brutus

percent of all economically active women in Haiti work within the informal sector, with “informal sector” having the connotation of being, “under the table,” or “off the books.” Strictly interpreted, this condition may manifest as unreported employment, hidden from the state for tax, social security or labor law purposes, but legal in all other aspects. In other words, 83% of all working women in Haiti have little to no economic security.

The incomparable Rosetania Brutus, breaking into what has tradtionally been a man's world of metal art.

The incomparable Rosetania Brutus, breaking into what has tradtionally been a man’s world of metal art.

In Croix-des-Bouquets, where the local trade is centered around metal sculpture, women are definitely on the periphery, but there are a few who are not content to stay there.  They are challenging the notion that it is “men’s work” and going into business, either for themselves, or in partnership with male relatives.  Rosetania Brutus is one such pioneer.  Having learned from her father, she moved into her cousin’s workshop and began creating her own designs. Now, a few years later she is proud to declare that, “They work for me!”  Her delicate features do not hide the taut musculature of her arms.  Indeed, it is hard, physically demanding work, but that does not dissuade her.  She says in halting English, “I know it is not a usual job for a woman.  I can’t explain – I just like it.” Whether she likes it for its creative aspects, or the financial security through fare trade that the work provides, she intends to make the most of it.

And though I doubt that she was tuned in to the Macy’s celebration as we were the other night, I think Rosetania could sing of her dream along with Cher and her other “sisters” at the New York City pier: “All the women of the world stand up, come together now.  This is a woman’s world!”


Contributed by Linda for Beyond Borders/It’s Cactus

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