Eiteljorg Musuem Blog
  • The Drama of Ordinary People

    by Johanna Blume | May 21, 2012
    Kenneth Miller Adams, The Dry Ditch, 1964

    Kenneth Miller Adams, The Dry Ditch, 1964

    Greetings from the curatorial offices at the Eiteljorg! Johanna here, assistant curator of Western art, history and culture. I thought I’d kick off our time together on this blog by sharing a little about one of my favorite pieces in the museum’s collection, The Dry Ditch by Kenneth M. Adams (1897-1966).

    Kenneth Miller Adams began studying art as a teenager, first in his native Topeka, Kansas, and eventually in Chicago, New York and Europe. It was in 1924 that he first travelled to Taos, New Mexico, where he met and befriended the burgeoning colony of artists there known as the Taos Society of Artists. In 1927, he was elected to that group, becoming the last and youngest member of the Taos Society before its disbandment that same year. Like many other Taos area artists, Adams spent a fair amount of time painting the local Native people. But unlike many of his peers, Adams spent a considerable amount of his time painting the Taos locals of Spanish descent. The Dry Ditch is one such painting.

    So why is it one of my favorites? Well, there are three main parts to that answer. First, I’m attracted to the looseness of the composition and the paint. While still a realist painting with recognizable subjects, there’s enough abstraction, enough ambiguity present in the painting to let my imagination run wild. Who are these people? Where is the woman going? Is it the beginning or the end of the day? And what’s going on with that kid? Does he not want to move? Or has he fallen? I’m a sucker for art that tells a story, whether it’s one that the artist specifically had in mind, or one that I make up in my head. The Dry Ditch fits that bill.

    Secondly, Adams had a knack for conveying the attitudes and personalities of his subjects in his art. One scholar of Adams’ work noted his “awareness of the inward quality of common things and ordinary people.”  The people in this painting exude feeling: fatigue, sadness, maybe a little annoyance or anger, but also confidence, pride, and resolve.

    Finally, Adams was also known for his interpretations of the New Mexico landscape and environment, though his true passion lay in painting people. For me, The Dry Ditch does something not a lot of other paintings do. The landscape, the mountains and the fields and the tree on the left, become as much a character in the drama of the painting as the people. I mean, the painting is called The Dry Ditch, not Farming Family, or any of a million other possible titles.

    The American West has never really been the empty wilderness so much of Western Art has led us to believe. Humans have been affecting the shape of the land, and the land has been shaping the lives of humans, for centuries. For me, The Dry Ditch is one of those rare pieces that perfectly captures that relationship in paint. And how lucky am I that I get to see it every day?

    Johanna Blume, assistant curator of Western art, history and culture

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  • Brulé at the Eiteljorg–it's about time!

    by Jaq Nigg | May 18, 2012
    One of the best parts of my job as the Eiteljorg’s festivals and markets manager is that I sometimes get to travel to other events around the country. I’ve visited Native art markets in Santa Fe, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and Sioux Falls, as well as Western events in Oklahoma City and Cartersville, GA. Travel ranks high in my top five favorite work-related activities:

    #1 Interacting everyday with people who know and care about art 
    #2 Travelling to new places to meet new people, learn new things and eat new food 
    #3 Researching and discovering music
    #4 Buying American Indian jewelry
    #5 Eating Indian tacos 

    One of my first work trips was to attend the 2002 Northern Plains Indian Art Market in Sioux Falls, SD, to recruit artists and see their logistics; primarily artist booth set up, judging, food vendors and entertainment stage. Northern Plains is an indoor show, and there was a curiosity about the feasibility of moving our market indoors. I was extra excited about the opportunity to see the group Brulé perform. I hadn’t been at the Eiteljorg very long and didn’t know many people in the national Native art market world so I figured I’d be under the radar. I introduced myself to the 2001 Eiteljorg Indian Market signature artist Benjamin Harjo, Jr., (Seminole/ Absentee Shawnee) and his wife Barbara who pretty much immediately embraced me and made sure that I met everyone. It was a whirlwind, highly educational, so much fun and remains a touchstone for my time at the Eiteljorg. It is also the basis of many of my professional relationships, almost like I’m part of a club. There’s a knowing laugh and look shared when I meet an artist for the first time and they discover I’ve been a passenger in a car driven by Ben. “Poor thing must have been terrified” is the only way I can describe it.

    Coyote and the Hummer, Benjamin Harjo, Jr. (Absentee Shawnee/Seminole), 1999

    During that weekend, I learned that the Lakota Sioux serve their frybread with wojapi, a thick blueberry sauce–hands down my favorite non-taco way to eat frybread. Completely different from what I had seen at the Eiteljorg and in the Southwest, wojapi was a good early lesson for me about the differences between tribes. Although many have similarities, each of the more than 500 Indian tribes recognized in the United States have their own traditions and cultures. It’s obvious when I say it out loud–there is no pan-Indian–and surprises me when people constantly group Indian experiences together. I was lucky that my lesson was tasty rather than verbal.

    Even more important to my professional development that weekend was seeing the live performance by Brulé. Up until that point, I thought mostly of Native American music as soothing drums with some flute along with regalia-wearing dancers. That’s probably what most people think and it’s wrong. Here was a Native band with those elements, but they rocked–really rocked–with an inspired blend of musical styles–traditional Native American influences fused with contemporary rock. Led by keyboardist Paul LaRoche (Lower Brulé Lakota), who was adopted as an infant and raised in a non-Native family, Brulé uses music as a way to bring together the two cultures of LaRoche’s past. Every performance is an attempt to communicate, through music, the transformative discovery of who he is. Pretty lofty, but it works. 

    I returned to Indianapolis, determined to book Brule for Indian Market, but, for years and years, the timing was never right. Since then, they’ve sold more than 1 million records worldwide and won numerous awards, including “Group of the Year” three times at the Native American Music Awards (Nammys). Hearing Brulé within the first year of working at the Eiteljorg influenced me to make a concerted effort to book contemporary Native groups for market. I’m especially proud of bringing Robert Mirabal (Taos Pueblo), Joanne Shenandoah (Iroquois, Wolf Clan), Indigenous (Nakota) and Pamyua (Inuit/Yup’ik) to Indy.

     When we started talking about what we could do that would be extra special for the 20th anniversary of Indian Market and Festival, I knew I wanted Brulé. They were available and excited to finally come here. It’s been worth the wait.

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  • The Dish on the Café’s Spring Menu

    by User Not Found | May 11, 2012
    A few weeks ago, the café rolled out its new spring menu, which includes some improved classics as well as seasonally fresh options. I gladly welcomed the opportunity to taste test, photograph and spill the beans for you all.  With so many options to choose from, I decided on a salad, two cold sandwiches and a Mexicana selection.  We’ll start with my favorite:

    EnSalada Verano, served with a soft wheat roll (top image)

    A fresh and filling gazpacho salad with chopped roma tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, red onion and cilantro in a spicy lime vinaigrette.  This colorful vegetarian indulgence won’t let you down – it tastes as good as it looks!  

    The gazpacho was macho and I didn’t have enough room left over for dessert.

    Tostadas Adobo

    Two open-faced corn tostadas, shredded romaine, pico de gallo, queso fresco, chopped cilantro and your choice of chicken or pork served with house-made smoked salsa verde (spicy), roasted tomato jalepeño and garlic salsa (mild).  This dish is proudly recommended by the salsa makers themselves.  Layla insured me “the salsa verde has an authentic Mexican taste!”

    California BLT & A, served with chips and a pickle

    It’s not the least bit surprising that the California BLT & A is the most popular new addition to the Museum Café spring menu.  Extra crispy peppered bacon, green leaf lettuce, sliced tomatoes and avocado with a cilantro lime mayonnaise on toasted wheat bread will leave you in a golden state of mind.  Just cruise on down the coast (of the canal) and grab a seat on the sunny café patio!

    Serape Verde, served with potato chips and a pickle

    Smoked chicken salad with carrots, celery, white onions and tomatoes pair up with avocado, pico de gallo and garlic lime mayonnaise.  It’s the perfect hearty but light combination.  

    And that’s a wrap!

    The café has a great menu.  My all time favorite is the Texas Smoked BBQ Pork sandwich!!  Come on by, see what’s new and let us know what you think!

    Rachel Dillow, assistant events manager

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