Sunday, February 27, 2011

One New York designer gets Native American art; why don’t the rest of us?

Sunday’s struggle on the stationary bike was worse than usual thanks to last night’s enchilada overload at my favorite Tucson restaurant El Charro. Sunday mornings are a ritual, sleeping in late, working out and reading the New York Times while riding the bike. Like life, some days are harder than others and today’s was hard.

At least it’s Oscar weekend and even the pain of an expanding belt line couldn’t take away from the morning’s awaited paper. Undoubtedly there would be numerous stories on fashion and fame at its most extreme.

I decided on starting with the epitome of Oscar fantasy, the Times style section. The first few pages were as hoped, Oscar gowns, gossip and the authoritative prediction of the night’s winners and losers. As I turned the slightly sweat stained pages my pace slowed and I became engrossed. Suddenly I was brought from Hollywood right back to Tucson all care of the New York Times by a tasteful ad by Ralph Lauren on pages 8 -9. An expensive two-page spread of fashion and home design. Interspersed in the ad, between a young model and Lauren home design, were 20 pieces (I did count) of vintage Native American art. The images included Navajo rugs from the Crystal trading post, banded Navajo blankets, a large Pima Olla, Mono and Tohono O’odom baskets. I was brought home when I was expecting only the razzle and dazzle of L.A.

A New Yorker’s insight into what was supposed to be cool and hip brought me back unexpectedly to my own business and inspiration, Native American art.

Lauren, never afraid of being a dictator of taste, has stayed true to his aesthetics of what it means to be American and still have original style. Lauren has consistently included Native arts in his world. It’s a shame that more of us that live in the West aren’t as perceptive when it comes to collecting. Of late I have heard the drum beat of dealers in our profession, lamenting collectors are getting older, the kids don’t want it, and it’s all about the contemporary art scene.

These are valid points, yet some how a New Yorker like Lauren can dismiss these nay Sayers with a single ad. He still sees the value and uniqueness of Native American arts in the most modern of settings and cultural happenings. A vision, which has not waivered on what, makes art and design in his mind’s eye.

I also still love seeing a great blanket or kachina added to my home’s surroundings. My love for Native inspiration still burns and hopefully these objects will also touch my children and not just during Oscar week.

I encourage you, while watching the Oscars and litany of magazines boasting fashion of the rich and famous, to make sure and look for Native inspiration. I know if Ralph Lauren has anything to say about it you’ll find it somewhere, because he gets it. So thanks Ralph. You extended my bike ride by an extra 15minutes as I digested your take on the world and it was just as good as El Charro’s green enchiladas!

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