Eiteljorg Musuem Blog
  • Eiteljorg Insider | 5 Questions with Navajo Rug Auctioneer Sherri Burnham

    by Jaq Nigg, Eiteljorg Festivals and Markets Manager | Oct 04, 2013

    As the general manager of her family business, RB Burnham & Co Trading, Sherri manages the daily operations in the Sanders, AZ trading post as well as all of the 15-17 auctions they produce and conduct, including the Navajo Rug Auction at the Eiteljorg on Oct. 5. She is the fifth generation in her family to work in the business of trading among the Navajo people, and has been doing it for over 17 years. As a Navajo, it is important to Sherri to do what she can to help maintain and preserve cultural traditions.

    If you could invite any artist to dinner, who would it be and why?

    I would love to spend an evening with the late artist RC Gorman. Not only is his art iconic in the southwest, he was also quite a charismatic character. I've heard many stories about him and would loved to have shared a meal with him and his entourage just to learn more about what inspired him.

    How do you spend most of your time?
    While not at work or on the road chasing auctions, I spend most of my time gardening and in the kitchen.

    What book are you reading right now?
    I just finished The Painted Drum, by Louise Erdrich. I am currently trying to read all of her works and am about half way through the list.

    If you had to evacuate your house immediately, what is the one thing you would grab?
    I think I would take as many photo albums as I could, granted that my family was safely out as well. My family home burned down when I was a child and somehow my parents saved our family albums and that seemed most important then and now.

    What sound do you love?
    I love being in the forest listening to birds chirp and the wind rustle the tree branches.

    Browse and bid on more than 200 vintage and contemporary weavings during this year’s auction, presented by R.B. Burnham & Co. Prices ranges from $100 to $10,000.

    IF YOU GO:
    Members only preview 
    8:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.
    Opens to the public      
    9:30 a.m. 
    Auction begins                        
    11:30 a.m.

    Go comment!

  • Eiteljorg Insider | Five Questions with TWO SPIRITS director Lydia Nibley

    by Jaq Nigg, Eiteljorg festivals and events manager | Sep 25, 2013

    Two Spirits director Lydia Nibley

    Lydia Nibley's Two Spirits is the powerful documentary that tells the story of Fred Martinez – a Navajo boy who was beaten to death because his killer believed he was gay. Martinez actually considered himself “Two-Spirit,” or “nadleehi” – a Navajo term for a male-bodied person with a feminine essence.

    At 12:30 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 28,  Two Spirits will be screened at the Eiteljorg. The film explores the bullying and violence commonly faced by LGBT people, and the epidemic of LGBT teen suicide. It also reveals the range of gender expression long seen as a healthy part of many of the indigenous cultures of North America.

    Lydia will join an expert panel this Saturday, at the museum, to discuss her award-winning film. But we wanted Eiteljorg visitors to learn a little more about our honored guest before she arrives.

    What is your favorite piece of artwork at the Eiteljorg?
    I feel drawn to historic artifacts that connect me to the people who came before—clothing and objects that were used every day.

    What inspires you?
    Finding stories to tell that can make a difference by opening hearts and minds to a new perspective.

    If you could spend an afternoon with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
    With my film Two Spirits in mind, Hastiin Klah, 1867-1937, the great Navajo medicine person, sandpainter and weaver who was third-gender. It would be fascinating to spend an afternoon in his company.  

    What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
    Patti Smith, who provided music for Two Spirits says, “It’s the artist’s responsibility to balance mystical communication and the labor of creation.” I love that.

     What is one of your favorite quotes?
    “Work is love made visible.” – Kahlil Gibran

    What should we ask you that you want us to know about?
    Will you ask me what’s next for Two Spirits? Thanks for asking! We’re working hard (with mixed success) to make the case to philanthropists and foundations that the film needs to be available in more colleges, universities, high schools and libraries nationwide. We get such great reports about the impact of the film—suicide prevention, anti-bullying, deepening the conversation around sexuality and gender in ways that make a difference now and in the future. We’re just going to keep asking for support and hoping…and asking.

    For more information about Two Spirits, visit


    The museum is asking for the community's support through the Power2Give project -which empowers you to give directly to local arts projects you are passionate about. It will cost $4,900 to bring the Two Spirits presentation to the Eiteljorg. Chase Bank is matching the dollars - but if we don't raise the full amount, the matching money goes away.

    As of Sept. 26, the Eiteljorg needs $1,635 to fully fund this LGBT program.  Any dollar amount helps.

    Go comment!

  • Eiteljorg Insider – 5 Questions with Amy McKune, Director of Museum Collections

    by Jaq Nigg, Eiteljorg festivals and markets manager | Sep 19, 2013

    As director of museum collections, Amy is responsible for the care and management of the museum’s collection. In concert with the museum’s registrar, she tracks all the objects in our collection and everything that comes in on loan. She works to provide a great environment (temperature, humidity, appropriate lighting, pest-free, and protection from dust) for the collections, both in storage and on display. And she maintains the collections management database that stores all the data we know about our collections so that the information is available to share with our public.

    amy mckune with george harrison's guitarFavorite piece of art at the Eiteljorg:
    Just like one’s children, Amy tries not to play favorites.  (Plus the curators might remember and accuse her of favoritism). 

    1. What inspires you?
    Beauty. I discovered as a teenager that I am dramatically affected by the environment in which I live. I feel better when I am surrounded by beauty…in art and in nature.

     2. If you could have any piece of art in the world in your home, what would it be?One of Monet’s Water Lily paintings. 

    3. If you didn’t work in museum collections, what would you do?
    My strengths lie in being able to process and handle lots of technical information and being able to make it understandable to others. I might be a technical writer. I’m an introvert, so that kind of solitary job is appealing.

     4. Do you collect anything?
    Yes…Viewmaster viewers and reels…mostly of places that I have visited.  I’ve even made some of my own reels as part of my Creative Renewal Grant received from the Indianapolis Arts Council. Several years ago, a job required that I spend lots of time going to antique shows and shops. I didn’t collect anything at the time and I wasn’t always successful at finding what my museum needed. So I needed another way to chase away boredom during those long days of walking on concrete floors through miles of antique booths. I grew up with Viewmasters (sadly none of those were saved) and they were an inexpensive way to satisfy my collecting bug. 

    5. If you could invite anyone to dinner who would it be?
    Several years ago, I had the opportunity to visit with Eugene McCarthy, former senator from Minnesota and candidate for the presidency in 1968 (and a few times after that).  Sadly, he is gone now, but I really enjoyed getting to know this brilliant, compassionate man. I’d love to meet Gloria Steinem. She became a real hero to me as a young woman in college and I’ve always admired her activism. Might want to include Martin Sheen as well. Again, he’s an amazing activist. That’d be quite the dinner party.

    Bonus Question: What would you serve?
    A great Barefoot Contessa recipe of panko-crusted salmon. In fact, maybe Ina Garten should join us. Or maybe a bourbon-glazed salmon that is really fabulous. I’m sure I would spend days pondering the menu.

    Go comment!

  • Eiteljorg Insider: 5 Questions with Western Art Society member David Anderson

    by Guest blogger David Anderson, Western Art Society | Sep 03, 2013

    I am a stay-at-home dad or, as I sometimes prefer to be known, professional minivan driver. My wife, Caryn, and I have three kids who have gone from diapers to teenagers in the blink of an eye. I dabble in creative writing, like to golf and ski, and spend a fair amount of time chasing volleyball and hockey schedules.

    What is your favorite piece in the Eiteljorg’s permanent collection?
    Eanger Irving Couse, The Wedding, 1924
    The Wedding, 1924
    Eanger Irving Couse (1866-1936)
    Gift: Courtesy of Harrison Eiteljorg

    That’s a tough one. I love Eanger Irving Couse’s The Wedding because I identify that with the Eiteljorg and we had a poster of it as one of our first wall hangings right after we got married. But I’m going to have to say Dan Smith’s Stillwater Crossing. It’s a piece that just sticks with me. Like all of Dan’s work, it is amazingly detailed. The wild eyes and the head above water give it a unique perspective that makes it a very moving example of wildlife art. (Pictured: Stillwater Crossing, 2009, Daniel Smith (1954), Acrylic, 2009 Quest for the West Harrison Eiteljorg Purchase Award.)

    If you could invite any artist to dinner, who would it be and why?
    Well, as part of Quest for the West, I’ve been lucky to be able to participate in basically inviting 50 artists to dinner for a weekend every September. The best part of the show has been to get to know the artists. But if I had to limit it to one, I would invite George Hallmark because it would be fitting since he was the first artist I met. I was in a gallery during my first trip to Scottsdale. I was admiring Hallmark’s work and said to the fellow next to me, "I don’t know much about art but I like this guy’s work." It turned out that the fellow next to me was George. We had a great conversation that was the beginning of me becoming hooked on Western art. 

    What book are you reading right now?
    I am reading The Princess Bride by William Goldman. I am a fan of young adult literature and The Princess Bride is one of my all time favorite movies. I realized that I had never read the book. It is a very interesting premise: it is an abridged version of a classic novel that never existed. Goldman is a talented writer, having written the screenplays for movies like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Maverick, and Misery.

    Caryn and David Anderson

    Why do you collect Western Art?
    I started as an enabler for my wife, who is genetically predisposed to it. Caryn’s parents, Ed and Phyllis Cockerill are original members of the Western Art Society. We discovered our own passion for it, and I think it has to do with the combination of history and beauty that is represented by the genre. To a large extent, the story of the West is the story of America. It holds most of our natural monuments and represents our greatest triumphs as well as our greatest tragedies. And, living in the Midwest, it is awfully nice to sit in our house, admire the art, and take a virtual vacation to the places and stories represented.

    What inspires you?
    Extrinsically speaking, trips to the National Parks, standing on the top of a snow covered mountain, and writers who are doing great work. Intrinsically, I am inspired by the notion that "it is over before you know it" and it is imperative to do something.

    Go comment!

  • Eiteljorg Insider | 5 Questions with James Nottage

    by Jaq Nigg, Eiteljorg festivals and markets manager | Aug 05, 2013
    As vice president and chief curatorial officer, James has oversight of the Curatorial, Collections and Exhibitions departments. This means planning and administration for the development of all the collections and their care and overall planning for exhibitions and related publications. He also serves as the Gund Curator of Western Art, History and Culture, developing exhibits, publications and the collections related to traditional art of the American West. 

    James Nottage
    James next to Bartering for a Bride by Alfred Jacob Miller

    Favorite piece of art at the Eiteljorg
    : Are you really going to make me pick just one?  Certainly, one of my favorites is Ernest Blumenshein’s The Plaster. It is beautifully painted. Then again, our beaded James Bay Cree hood is rare and quite special.  Or, how about Alfred Jacob Miller’s 1847 oil painting, Bartering for a Bride? Or, maybe . . .

    1. What inspires you?
    Great art and literature are at the top of the list. People who are devoted to important causes are as well. Beauty in nature is there too. I could go on and on.

    2. If you could have any piece of art in the world in your home, what would it be? Being a typical curator, I can’t imagine having just one! Let’s see. Maybe I would like . . . No, how about . . . Oh, wait a minute, wouldn’t . . . Oh, boy. This is a tough question. Oh, I know:  Claude Monet’s Waterlillies, 1926. Now, ask me again and it will be something else.

    3. If you weren’t a museum curator, what would you do?
    I was first intrigued by museums in the 4th grade and decided to be a museum curator when I was in high school. I have not been able to get out of the game since. I enjoy doing free-lance writing and would be challenged by teaching. 

     4. Do you collect anything? 
     really am not a collector in an organized way. You might say that I accumulate books on Western art and the history of the West and I accumulate a lot of music, mostly blues, jazz, swing and American roots music. 

     5. If you could invite any artist to dinner, who would it be and why?
    In the work I do as a curator, I often have this opportunity to interact with many of my favorite artists. The individuals it would be nice to connect with are the painters and sculptors who are no longer living. I’d love to spend time with George Catlin, talking about his 1830s trips to the West. A. P. Proctor would be interesting to be with, talking about his sculptures and techniques. Oh, and Thomas Moran in his later years would be good company, discussing how the art world changed during his career and what kept him inspired.

    Go comment!
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