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Dark Canyon: Sexual Abuse and Secrecy in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe

Via Coeli Monastery was the name the church used for Servants of the Paraclete

Story one of our special series aired live on KSFR’s Wake Up Call on September 19th. The airing of this first story reflects a nine-month process of research, interviewing and more research into both the practice of Catholic faith in northern New Mexico and the work done by other media outlets about the sexual abuse scandals in the U.S. Catholic Church. It also reflects my close collaboration with two fellow radio journalists, Hannah Colton and Rita Daniels, whom I brought in to participate with me in the creation of this series. It was downloaded more than 2000 times in the first week and has been heard digitally close to 5000 times in the first two weeks, in addition to the terrestrial listeners who tuned in as the story aired live.


It’s Complicated!

Reviewing the new study center for Southwestern jewelry at the Wheelwright Museum was a challenging assignment in late summer 2016. Here is the result:

That the art of Southwestern jewelry connects intricately to Native peoples’ contacts with 19th-century visitors to their homelands is a key takeaway of the Jim and Lauris Phillips Center for the Study of Southwestern Jewelry at the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Staggering collections of jewelry, hollowware, horse adornment, and plugs of stone carved into animal fetishes represent smithing and lapidary histories spanning 1870 to the present. Nearly 750 objects are exhibited in the center. The museum spent a decade collecting the trove from various sources; the gift of the Phillips collection itself arrived in 2013. That gift precipitated the Wheelwright’s building of a new, 2,000-square-foot wing in which to exhibit it. Behind its selection and presentation are longtime museum director Jonathan Batkin and curator Cheri Falkenstien-Doyle.

Opened in June 2015, the 1,600-square-foot Martha Hopkins Struever Gallery that houses the center is a clean, well-lit space named for a prominent Santa Fe dealer in American Indian jewelry. The Schultz Gallery, a 400-square-foot space next door, is dedicated to changing exhibitions.

Illustrating histories of colonial contact manifest in jewelry is a complex idea from the get-go. So is showing a permanent collection of jewelry as a “study center.” Since its 1937 founding, this museum’s engagement with Native artists and voices is a keystone of the story.

Bostonian Mary Cabot Wheelwright was the Wheelwright Museum’s eponymous founder. Living in Santa Fe, she met and befriended Navajo singer and medicine man Hastiin Klah. Wheelwright recorded Klah’s song of the Navajo creation story, and had the idea that archiving and preserving oral histories and their materialization into objects was essential. [1]

In the case of the Phillips Center, the object lesson imparted by the case-upon-case of eye-dazzling objects persists alongside an elaborate if inefficiently presented narrative reconstruction that wants to lean heavily into anthropological documentary.

That reconstruction attempts to map how jewelry’s material practices among Southwestern tribes evolved. Panels of text are tucked inside of individual vitrines, so that a viewer has to actually work to read and take in very fine points about when techniques were learned, how they passed among pueblos and tribes, and how diverse Native peoples incorporated them with decidedly individualist twists into their own material practices.

The visual flair and drama embodied in the room attest to Native peoples’ indelible creativity. Further, the room writes a map of the instinctive travels of symbols through its objects—like the inverted crescent that is the Navajo pendant, typically on a squash-blossom necklace, called the naja. The naja has DNA as old as the goddess Astarte and the Moors’ multi-century occupation of Spain. It was hung around the necks of camels as an ornament. On the bridles of Spaniards’ horses traveling north through the Americas, the symbol conveyed protection for soldiers and steeds. The Navajo, in turn, took it from the Spaniards.

Entering the Struever gallery, one is instructed by a center kiosk to turn left to start circumnavigating the wall-inset cases in chronological order. On the way to the back, one passes between a pair of cases starring the works of father-and-son Navajo silversmiths, the Peshlikais.

The elder Peshlikai (roughly 1830–1910) went by the name Slender Maker of Silver or “Old Peshlikai.” He was the first known Navajo silversmith. (His Navajo name was Atsidii Sání.) Among his achievements was launching a jewelry business. Slender employed more than 10 silversmiths in a shop, according to what his son, Fred, told photographer-archivist John Adair in 1940s Los Angeles.

Around the corner from Slender Maker of Silver’s vitrine, inside a case with the title “Men’s Adornment,” are the mid-19th-century men’s accessories that a photograph of Slender recorded him wearing—leather leggings studded with silver buttons.

Other of the eldest southwestern smithing traditions of note are Slender’s concha belts and silver-beaded necklaces hung with najas. They have a presence that is hard to underestimate; the oversized “conchas” (seashells) correspond to a radically streamlined, nearly modernist form.

Slender’s son, Fred Peshlikai, became a turquoise specialist in Los Angeles in the 1930s; he bought his stones directly from a mine owner named Doc Wilson. Fred Peshlikai’s work attests to lapidary itself becoming dominant in ways suggestive of pop-culture influences. A matching pair of 1960s rattlesnake arm bracelets is bold enough that one could imagine Elizabeth Taylor wearing them.

Much of what was learned about adaptations of jewelry at Navajo, Zuni, and Hopi sites was the work of 19th-century anthropologists and archivists such as Frank Hamilton Cushing, who traveled to Zuni pueblo in 1879, or John Adair, who conducted oral histories at Navajo Nation and with the Hopi tribe beginning in 1938. Cushing, who had arrived at Zuni with John Wesley Powell of the Bureau of Ethnology, lived among the Zuni from 1879 to 1884 as a “participant observer.” In the 1930s, Adair wrote down the oral history of Lanyade, the first Zuni silversmith, 95 years old when he told Adair how he had learned his trade (from Slender Maker of Silver, the Navajo, in 1872.)

Visually speaking, one of the most palpable arenas of difference in Southwestern jewelry lies in the dominant use of silver, turquoise, and coral among the Navajo, and the stone and shell used by Zuni and Hopi jewelers. Starting as early as 600 AD, the Zuni traded bison hides for shell, coral, and seawater. The spondylus shell that details the naja on a 1900 Zuni necklace surprises a viewer. By 1920 a Zuni conch shell pendant is inlaid with turquoise and jet.

In seven gorgeous examples of Zuni work in the gallery, a panel of text has been included which allows, “Zuni is complicated.” That’s an understatement.

I recently heard a story from an art gallery owner who said that the Zuni’s practice of “petit point”—beginning around 1920, Zuni lapidarists would set tiny, hand-cut stones, often hundreds of them, in a squash-blossom necklace—derived from the Zuni picking up the small chips of turquoise that would fly off Navajo smith’s benches. The anecdote bespeaks the residual industriousness of jewelry makers.

Many of the cases in the Struever Gallery present objects made 30 to 50 years apart. One, for example, contains handwrought silver typical of 1900 and commercial sheet silver from the 1930s and 1950s. Yet the real stars of the show, and the place where the scholarship falls the most short, lies in the mid-century masters like the Navajo Tom Burnside and Austin Wilson and the Hopi Lewis Lomay and Charles Loloma. Their incredibly masterful intersections of jewelry and fashion took traditions way, way out on a limb, and were the precedents to head-to-toe fashions authored fully by Native designers.

Yet mainstream museums have come late to acknowledge that Native design in fashion merits front-row play, and are still reluctant to exhibit innovators outside of the context of tradition. One exception: The Peabody Essex Museum’s (PEM) bold Native Fashion Now, which opened last October, mixed up Native designers with European ones to manifest the constant intersections between popular culture and material culture in the Southwest.

PEM’s fashion survey claimed to be the first large-scale survey exhibition of Native American fashion in the US. On its heels comes this permanent exhibition of Southwestern jewelry which may be just one of two such museum commitments to jewelry—the other being the collection that Millicent Rogers collected in Taos and wore personally, now housed in the museum named after her.

What is great and what is imperfect about the Phillips Center lie therefore in close proximity as the world itself tends not to permit Native American artisans to emerge fully from the knot of tradition.

It is also a fact that the relationship of tradition to experiment can be an uneasy one in the present-day Southwest, best known for market events like Santa Fe’s annual Indian Market, where presentations both reflect the rule of practical economics—a jewelry maker’s livelihood for the year can be earned in the weekend—and the difficulties of being an exception. The organizers of Indian Market insist on strict definitions of traditional work that can be showcased at their event.

This traditional versus contemporary relationship is also awkward at the Phillips Center. When one reaches the epoch of the 1960s in the exhibit room, one gets an uneasy feeling that the curatorial effort to treat all periods of jewelry making as equivalent has managed to shortchange a huge breakout for Native Americans.

Preston Monongye was raised at Hotevilla at Hopi. His coral and turquoise pendant creates an abstracted naja that curves almost like an early Paloma Picasso design for Tiffany. Navajo Kenneth Begay’s handbag handle and ornament on a red leather purse beg the question of for whom he was working—a private commission, or a fashion collaboration?

There is only a minute amount of cast gold on display in this collection. Tufa-casting turns the use of high-karat golds such as those Charles Loloma used into a surface with a rough appearance that retains a closeness to expressions of earth even alongside the most refined lapidary imaginable. Loloma was to my mind the most brilliant and innovative of jewelers of the 20th century.

When it came to inlay, Loloma had no rival. He carved a coral plug into a badger paw and paved the inside of a 24-karat gold bracelet with lapis. The so-called “height bracelets” include an example here of silver and fossilized ivory, wood, coral, and turquoise. Tufa-cast rings from 1975 wrap metal around silver Pre-Columbian ceramic fragments. His work sizzled with curiosity and a refusal to be constrained. It also, in retrospect, reflects the difficulties of breaking out. When Loloma was flying his own airplanes and having models for Oleg Cassini sport his height bracelets on the Paris runway, being a Native person embraced by white European commerce was exciting, but it was confusing to his identity at home as a Native spiritual leader, according to sources who knew him.

This makes the paucity of explanatory text or historical information about what happened next all the more confusing. By today, one can easily assert that jewelry team Gail Bird and Yazzie Johnson continue what Loloma started—work that employs gold and precious stones for European tastes as well as Southwestern ones. Pat Pruitt brings to his latter-day jewelry a self-selection aspect in that the wearer has to be willing to sport weaponry in a part-Goth, part-Hell’s Angel aesthetic. Yet the fact that this center hosts only one “Designing with Metals” case and just one “Women Masters” case underscores how tough a job the curators may have had leaping from 1870 to now—from preservation and scholarship to “what the heck is going on?” wonderment. Can a study center be both historic and contemporary in heart and mind?

A close friend of mine who is a Navajo artist and brilliant wearer of jewelry compared the Phillips Center, not favorably, to a butterfly collection. I intuited that her fear was that the jewelry is presented as exotic, as lepidoptera, specimens of a lost world.

Could an alternative approach have been taken that would serve to manifest that contradictory things can simultaneously be true—and often are? All mastery relies first on a good teacher. Yet true fluency may be—and often is—throwing out the syntax of what you know.

It should go without saying that as in any tradition, Southwestern jewelry’s manifold influences are embossed and persistent. This gorgeous collection induces awe of the makers and their inventiveness.

Yet the “study” can’t entirely shrug off the strictures of anthropology to allow the heights and depths of innovation to show through. To simply be, as they are, both jewelry that belongs to a history and jewelry that departs from all attempts to give it a date-stamp and pin it down.

INDEX IMAGE: Charles Loloma, ring with badger paw, circa 1960, tufa-cast silver, 51 mm, photo: Jonathan Batkin

[1] Forty years later, in 1977, the Wheelwright became the first US museum to voluntarily repatriate from its collection two medicine bundles, cultural patrimony of the Navajo, back to the Navajo Nation.

Ellen Berkovitch began writing about jewelry in New York in the 1980s. She was editor-in-chief of American Jewelry Manufacturer magazine and published widely in Metalsmith and American Craft. In New Mexico since 1993, she has been editor of two print magazines, and she became a journalism entrepreneur who founded AdobeAirstream.com, the West’s first online contemporary art magazine, in 2008. She learned radio production in order to launch AdobeAirstream’s national award-winning podcast. She became news director of KSFR-FM, Santa Fe Public Radio, in August 2016.

Portrait: Narrative Media


Communications Strategy As White Whale

Stanford Social Innovation Review and Harvard Business Review Are Talking Communications Strategy:

I love the way this recent Stanford Social Innovation Review article opens.

Strategy. It’s the white whale of the social sector. Chances are, the word is hovering in a document on your desk right now. 

Let’s have that one more time. Strategy. It’s the white whale of the social sector. (We English majors love our Melville references.)

So what does it mean?

The white whale was Ahab’s monolithic focus — so monolithic it led to destruction. But seen a new way, the implications of calling strategy “the white whale of the social sector” frames the idea that for enterprise nonprofits and social impact organizations, the best communications must be strategic. Silo-based thinking in which your PR is divided from your social media is divided from your e-newsletter is divided from your blogging, is not strategic. Rather, the re-definition of strategic communications that is leading some of the top business reviews to devote ink to it, connotes a sea change. The current has shifted between old ways and new ways of running the communications side of your nonprofit or business messaging.

The best strategic communications are models of new power, versus old power. New power communications operate with values of being “open, participatory, peer-driven.”

I can’t tell you how often I have heard from business owners that something to do with their communications is “proprietary.” Unless, dear readers, you have a trademark for a social-media sharing app that you have not yet brought to market, proprietary attitudes are actually the opposite of what works today. Peer-driven communications are participatory. This means that as one aspect of strategy, your business or organization should be identifying who to follow based in proclivities of subject matter, based in follower profiles, based in the resonance of what this individual or entity tweets about. You should be encouraging your employees and consultants to tweet using your hashtags and your Twitter handles. You should be encouraging innovative use of social media rather than hierarchical displays of message management.

Strategic communications today are the opposite of zealously guarding what you own, which includes what you know and what you passionately care about.

Consider that the word strategy stemmed originally from the Greek, meaning to win. To win the engagement of audiences you are seeking with your messaging — to win buy-in for the issues that you are working to resolve or the outcomes that you are working to improve — is the goal of best-practice communications strategy.

Tired of thinking in silos? Sound intriguing? Email hello@contenthive.net. And Follow @SeanGibbons_ on Twitter.

Bowie’s Immaculate Parting

Of all of the things that have been written and said about David Bowie since he died last Sunday in New York, I think, until today and the revelation of the letter penned to David Bowie from a Dr. Mark Taubert, a palliative care doc in England, I got the most out of what my peers and friends have written. Bowie manifest that time in all our lives, individual to collective and back again — junior high to hip replacement — when Bowie the changeling came zooming as if hugging a meteor into our consciousness, never to leave it again.

The brilliant music writer Vivien Goldman penned this on Facebook:

Bye, bye David Bowie. Changing into a different sort of star. Sealing an immaculate artist’s life, in terms of never stopping, always growing, reaching. Always maintaining the quality control. Giving us the party favour of an album on his birthday, as we leave his presence. Flash on first hearing “Space Oddity” on a transistor radio while I was a mid-teen struggling with my hair in the bathroom on Finchley Road — a moment I never forgot, as that song seemed to open the windows of my life and send a thrill of possibilities through me, a sensation I never forgot.  . . . Shine on, thanks for falling here among us on our perplexed little planet.

Saralynne Lowrey Precht, one of my best friends and cohort at many Bowie album listening sessions, wrote this:

So many memories flashing through my mind. Hearing Space Oddity in the car on the way to Horace Mann Jr. High stopped at the light at 54th & El Cajon, Dad driving, my mind being blown. Becki and I singing Starman into the night sky. My Bowie scrapbook. The Man Who Fell to Earth opening on my birthday…sure it was a sign. Sneaking a peak at an X-mas present praying it was David Live (it was.) Un Chien Andalou pre-Thin White Duke concert (mind blown again)….Thank you David Bowie for your genius. Shine on starman.

Passings of those who formed up our sense of the possible tend to leave behind a lingering poignancy. Star trails. But it should not be forgotten that the person who struck so many as magus, also chose a way of passing that in the video Lazarus enables art again to perform its job of pulverizing taboos. If you haven’t seen it, I hope you’ll take four minutes to watch it here. And the letter from Dr. Mark Taubert which said that “your story became a way for us to communicate very openly about death, something many doctors and nurses struggle to introduce as a topic of conversation,” just reinforces that art is the threshold experience that you, Bowie, you especially, always danced on, finally tripping out the open door to a place that, for now, we can’t follow.




Unconscious Bias: Bringing Hidden Agendas to Consciousness

I recently interviewed a Stanford University neurobiologist, Dr. Jennifer Raymond, about unconscious bias for a segment on the KUNM-FM radio show, Women’s Focus.

Unconscious bias, also called implicit bias, is a very hot topic in the workplace today. It describes buried biases we don’t know that we have, which influence behavior as well as opinion and point-of-view. Implementing workplace safeguards to dispel or reduce unconscious bias is turning into a significant business. Silicon Valley venture capitalists have put $20 million in venture funding toward startups that are positioned to implement recruitment and hiring improvements that can reduce unconscious bias in the workplace and in hiring decisions.

In Dr. Raymond’s case, our ranging conversation traveled between what unconscious bias is, to the way that media begin very very early to perpetuate stereotypes. These stereotypes turn into single experiences that of themselves can alter the human brain and influence,  unconsciously, our senses of potential and whom we can become at work and in the world.  The actor Geena Davis authored an essay recently in Insights, a magazine of the management consulting firm McKinsey & Company. She observed that the ratio of male to female characters in film and TV shows remains 3:1 . Studies of how boys perceive female characters reveal that boys as young as three and four years old begin to look derisively at the female characters presented.

Doesn’t it seem almost unbelievable that media leads four-year-olds to internalize gender bias?

If stereotypes lead to codifying experiences, it is also true that neuroscience has shown that even a single experience can shape the psyche in a way that can lead to enduring lacks of confidence and even opting out of competitive work situations, Dr. Raymond explained.

What does this have to do with the work that businesses have to do to sell their products or services? It certainly may have to do with how people are perceived in sales presentations. It also may have plenty to do with the way a story should be told to prioritize authority in storytelling that in turn dispels biases toward who is speaking.

What Is Indie Philanthropy?

Ellen Berkovitch’s first segment aired on Women’s Focus on February 14, 2015. She interviewed Sadaf Rassoul Cameron, executive director of Kindle Project, about indie philanthropy and how young people of wealth have helped give a name and a forming principle to outside-the-box grantmaking methods. Please listen below.

Journalism versus “Brand Journalism”

In October 2014, Columbia Journalism Review published a story under the title, “Should journalism worry about content marketing?” (Link here.)

The article opened with an anecdote about a publication, The Daily Growl, that generates 10 posts daily and is the content arm of Nestlé Purina PetCare’s content marketing department. Where this news feed differentiates from, say, that of the Atlantic, lies in the fact that what is published is in the interests of Nestlé Purina PetCare’s content marketing. Journalists justifiably worry if the distinctions are clear to audiences. Audiences are widely portrayed as being fallible and even gullible consumers as apt to share a cute pet video that bears some implicit branding strategy as a cute pet video that just shows the way that, say, husky dogs in Japan mimic a baby learning to crawl.READ MORE

Curators’ Introduction for Unsettled Landscapes

Ellen was tapped to moderate the curators’ panel that opened Unsettled Landscapes: New Perspectives on Art of the Americas at SITE Santa Fe in July 2014.

The participants included: Irene Hofmann, Phillips director and chief curator of Santa Fe. Irene is director of the new biennial series, SITElines, that the exhibition titled Unsettled Landscapes launched. Janet Dees is curator of special projects of SITE and SITElines Center program director. The guest curators of Unsettled Landscapes were Candice Hopkins, who holds a master’s from the Center of Curatorial Studies at Bard and whose curatorial gigs have taken place at: National Gallery of Canada, the Western Front, the Banff Centre’s Walter Phillips Gallery and the Museum of Contemporary Native Art in Santa Fe. Lucia Sanroman is an independent curator and writer who was associate curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego from 2006-11. She was awarded the 2012 Warhol Foundation Curatorial Fellowship for Citizen Culture: Art and Architecture Shape Policy, an exhibit that took place at Santa Monica Museum from September 13-December 30th, 2014.

Questions included collaboration/”collective bargaining” by four individual curators on this new project; the scope of the “landscapes” they sought to define as unsettled; a new model deviating from a “pavilion” or country-to-country approach to biennials; and sensitivity to local conditions as they did their curatorial work.