his coat that the guy on the right is a former. Indian scout .... household objects like coat hangers and irons and ... “which is pretty damn cool when you consider ...
The Gib Singleton Newsletter lead the Comanches to the whiskey and light out. And they didn’t always make it home.
“When you think of the Old West,”
“This all happened right around here,” he adds. “Santa Fe was one end of the main Comanchero trails. It started in the late 1700’s and it went on until after the Civil War. In fact, what finally did them in was that when the US Army came back west after the war, they took on the Comanches and the Comancheros sided with the tribes. That was where their loyalties were, but it a bad mistake, man.
Gib says, “there’s a tendency to think of the good guys. You know, rugged cowboys, noble Native warriors, brave lawmen, the cavalry coming over the hill. And, sure, all that stuff was there. But there was another side, too, which was the bad guys. The outlaws and desperados. And that’s what this piece is about.”
“I originally called it ‘Comancheros’,” he says. “That’s who these guys are, and they are not nice guys. In fact, they’re pretty bad dudes.” The Comancheros were traders who made their living as middlemen between the Plains tribes and Hispanic (and later, Anglo) settlers along the Rio Grande Valley. They got their name from trading with the Comanches throughout the “Comancheria”, an area that encompassed eastern New Mexico, northwestern Texas, most of Oklahoma, southwestern Kansas and southeastern Colorado.
return, the Comanche traded hides, jerky and livestock. Especially rustled horses and cattle. But the thing that made the Comancheros so dangerous was that they also traded whiskey and guns for slaves.
“When you look at the sculpture, you see they have a packhorse,” Gib says. “And that’s what’s under the tarp – whisky, guns and “They were mostly Hispanic,” Gib says. “New Mexicans. But there were white guys, ammunition. You put those in a Comanche’s too, and Natives. In fact, you can see from hands and you have a recipe for disaster.” his coat that the guy on the right is a former The Comancheros knew they were playing Indian scout for the US Army.” with fire, and there are stories about how To the locals, the Comancheros were not only they would trade their whiskey, but make respectable businessmen, but also the only sure not to actually have it with them. ones who could provide a lot of the things they “They’d hide it somewhere,” Gib says, “and needed. “They traded whatever they could,” only lead the Indians to it when everything Gib says. “The stuff of white civilization was was concluded and they had a two or three in big demand among the tribes. Tools, cloth, day head start with the herds and slaves. knives, flour, sugar, tobacco, beads . . .” In Then a couple guys on fast horses would
“The Army was willing to do business with these guys,” Gib says. A lot of those stolen horses and cattle – and rumor has it, even some of the slaves – went to the Army. But once the Comancheros openly sided with the enemy, the Army came down hard. “They whipped the Comanches and Kiowas pretty good, and herded the ones they didn’t kill onto reservations. That was the end of the trade, and the end of the Comancheros. “That’s the lesson here,” Gib says. “The world changed around these guys and they didn’t recognize it and change with it. You do that, man, and life will deal you out.”
One of the features that often distinguish
Gib’s sculptures is his use of “found objects” to add shape and texture to the pieces. We asked him to expand on that, and here’s what he told us. “Well, it’s kind of a tradition with bronze sculptors. We’re used to including these kinds of things because we’ve always used armatures and frames to give strength and shape to our clays and waxes. And it’s been fairly common to include objects to add contour and texture since Rodin’s day. “I actually got started incorporating found objects from a lack of other things. When you’re poor, you have to make do with what you have. I mean, look at my sculpture tools. I have a pocket knife I got when I was about five, and a broken hacksaw blade I made a handle for. Oh, and I guess if you want, you can count my heat lamp that keeps the wax soft, and the aluminum turkey roaster I keep the wax in. That’s it, man. That’s my whole toolbox. But I can put in anything anybody else does. “Over the years, I’ve used all kinds of found objects in my pieces. The first ‘Bowed Crucifix’ – the one the mold was taken from for Pope John Paul’s crosier – used pieces of branches I cut from the garden next to my foundry in Westport. I tied the Christ figure on to it with scraps of copper wire covered with leather thongs. ‘Tribute to Dogwood’ uses a piece of dogwood that my friend Jack Winston found in Jerusalem and brought back for me. “In ‘Wrath of God – Last Judgment’, God’s robe is a piece of towel dipped in wax. In ‘Call to Worship’ and ‘The Dove’, the texture comes from pieces of burlap sacks I cut up and dipped in wax and draped across the figures. Rodin used to do the same thing, except he had to dip his fabric in a slurry of plaster of Paris, then shape it and let it dry, and then coat it with clay. To get shapes I want, I’ve incorporated coffee cans, beer cans, metal
The Gib Singleton Newsletter Vo1. 2, Issue 2
the objects are so subtle the viewer might not recognize them in the painting, they create an energy in the piece that aligns itself with his faith and with his theory that all things can be redeemed. “I like that idea a lot.”
Can you find the beer cans and burlap in this sculpture? Gib Singleton, Santa Fe Trail, 23” x 62” x 28” bronze, edition of 25
scraps, cardboard, carved popsicle sticks, lumber scraps . . . “Some people kind of struggle with the idea of found objects in art, but that’s probably because of the way they came into the larger art world. You have to remember Marcel Duchamp blew everybody away with his ‘Fountain’ back in 1917. It was a urinal, signed with a made up name (R. Mutt) and turned on its back. “Then his friend, Man Ray, started using household objects like coat hangers and irons and egg beaters, and the next thing you know, the Dadaists are using them, and then the Surrealists. Remember Picasso’s ‘Bull Head’? It was a bicycle saddle and handlebars. And it was cool. Then Kurt Schwitters and ‘Merz’, and then the whole Conceptual art movement, and people like Sandy Calder and Robert Rauschenberg using found objects. “My friend Father Bill Moore, who I did an opening with in Santa Fe not too long ago, uses a lot of found objects in his mixed media canvases. He picks them up off the streets of Los Angeles or on his hikes out in the Mojave Desert. Father Bill says that even if sign up to receive an electronic version of the newsletter by visiting
If you’re in the Santa Fe area, please join us in the Singleton-Biss Museum & Galerie Züger on Friday, Feb. 24 for the Edible Art Tour. This event is an ARTsmart fundraiser to support arts in Santa Fe Public Schools. “These guys have raised like a million bucks over the past 15 years,” Gib says, “which is pretty damn cool when you consider that the state and school districts have been cutting arts funding pretty much that whole time. They use the money to buy art supplies and fund art projects, and they bring in visiting artists to teach, which is a great thing for the artists and the kids!” Over 40 galleries are participating this year, and each features a restaurant partner serving their own specialties. Raaga Fine Indian Dining will offer samples of South Asian delicacies in the Museum, while Dinner for Two will serve starters in the Gallery. For more info contact Galerie Züger (505) 984-5099 or the SingletonBiss Museum (505) 995-9713 or online at http://artfeast.com/visit/tickets/. www.gibsingleton.com