Museum of International Folk Art – Santa Fe

Museum Hill just off Old Santa Fe Trail (can you get a better address than that?) …Wednesday April 17th 2019

There was an old woman who was married to a funeral director.  When asked had she always been married to an undertaker. ‘Oh no’, I’ve been married four times’, she replied. ‘Firstly, I was married to a banker for 20 years. Then there was a ringmaster.  Following him, and before my present husband, there was a preacher.  ‘Did you plan it that way’? ‘Oh no, but I guess it was a case of one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready and four, let’s go’.

… And let’s go is what we did, using our Culture Pass, at the Museum of International Folk Art. This experience proved to be a surprise, as we didn’t know what to expect. Keeping an open mind, we were directed to a BIG room, which comprised the permanent exhibition at the Museum. We were faced with a room full of figurines; dolls in a variety of dollhouses. We didn’t really get it at first, but how wrong this proved to be.

We decided to give things a ‘docent-go’, (we are not familiar with this term in Australia, a docent is the term used for volunteer guides).  Often we go for the audio-guide but thought that even better would be a decent docent; and contrary to most service arrangements in the U.S., there is no expectation of a tip.

What’s not to like about having a human walk and talk you through a museum or gallery.  There are no technical issues as happens with audio-guides and humans can answer your specific questions. We have not come across a bad one in the United States, quite the contrary. Guides at museums and art galleries are very enthusiastic, articulate, well recruited, trained and qualified. We’re sure somewhere in the joke above, there could have been a useful husband who was a National Parks Ranger (we love them too) or a docent.

Santa Fe 1

The docent introduced us to Alexander (Sando). Girard. Girard (May 24,1907 –December 31) was born in NY. His father was Italian and mother was an American. He lived his early life in Florence but returned to the States to settle and lived the later part of his life in Santa Fe. He was an architect who was also an interior, furniture, industrial and textile designer.

Santa Fe 2He and his wife, Susan were fanatical collectors. Throughout their lives they amassed a remarkable collection of artifacts consisting of folk art, popular art, toys, and textiles from around the world. The sheer size of the exhibition is a tribute to the collaboration between the collectors and the creators and the genius of Girard in designing and organizing the exhibits.  But what was foremost in their minds? Did they collect artifacts per se or did their imaginations see their use in completed art works.

This huge collection is certainly not big dollhouses.  It really is not just ‘kids stuff’. However, having witnessed the delight of a group of young children and adults viewing the exhibition we are sure this exhibition is both for young and old. It definitely appeals on different levels.

Santa Fe 3Girard’s work impress by their sheer magnitude and detail.  His training and profession made him a master of design, placement and colour.   His works comment on people, status, cultures, attitudes and much, more. They are vinaigrettes of life from around the world done with humour, whimsy, sacredness and seriousness.

When Girard came to live in Santa Fe and the Museum offered him a home for his works. He jumped at the offer. Maybe he couldn’t get his cars in the garage or maybe he was channeling his Marie Kondo.  Kondo encourages us not to discard things that give us joy.  We are sure that Alexander Girard got joy from his collection and lucky for us, it found a home at the Museum of International Art, Santa Fe, where it continues to give joy to others.

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