Untitled watercolor painting, attributed to Encarnacion Pena.
Presented as a gift to Eva by artist Olive Rush, who had moved to Santa Fe in 1920.
Acequia Madre House is home to a unique Collection that reflects the history of Santa Fe and New Mexico throughout the 20th Century. The house combines the historic home of the “Three Wise Women” and their Collections of art and craftwork from all over the world. These art collections were started with oil paintings by European and Euro-American artists.
The Acequia Madre House Collections document not only the artistic traditions of the time, but the wide network these ladies had and kept in written words, photographs, drawings, and paintings. A huge archive helps us to better understand these collections. A rare gift to Santa Fe, these rich and unique collections still await discovery as both irreplaceable treasures and an integral part of the cultural history of the region.
Eva Scott Fényes, who started the Collections, was an artist herself and as well as an avid book collector. A large number of early publications in the Collections deal with the American Southwest and especially Santa Fe and New Mexico. In addition, Eva added rare books to her library including a 1741 edition of Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quijote.
Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quijote from the Acequia Madre House Collections ©
Three drawings by Cheyenne and Kiowa artists from the 1870s that she collected start a three-life-long interest in the various cultures of the Southwest that Eva, her daughter, and her granddaughter researched and documented. This work was done partly together with members of various groups.
The Acequia Madre House Collections include about 80 drawings of Koshare (ritual “clowns” of the Pueblos) from different Pueblos and show the women’s connection with the Pueblos and friendship with artists, like Maria and Julian Martinez from San Ildefonso. A Koshare painting by Julian Martinez was the first piece that Leonora Scott Muse Curtin added to her collection.
Koshare painting by Julian Martinez
The Santa Fe of Eva Fényes’ day attracted artists from all over the world, just as it still does today. It is therefore not a surprise that the three ladies were friends with such artists and added their work to the Collections. One of the most surprising finds for a guest curator from Sweden was a whole collection of drawings and prints by famous Swedish artist Carl Oscar Borg who lived in California for many years and visited Arizona and New Mexico several times.
These works were not known in Sweden before.
“Hopi Medicine Man”. Watercolor painting by Swedish artist Carl Oscar Borg, 1929
The collecting continued throughout the 20th Century and resulted in a fine collection of modern pottery, with Acoma especially very well represented. Pottery by Maria Martinez can likewise be found. San Ildefonso is also represented by several artists.
Acoma pottery from the Acequia Madre House Collection
With the Paloheimo Foundation caring for the legacy of the Three Wise Women, moderate collecting and adding to the Collections continues until today and along the lines started by these three ladies. The newest addition is an acrylic painting by Navajo artist Roberta Begaye, who donated her work. Depicted in the painting is a blue hogan, a traditional Navajo home. The concept of “home” was of importance to the Three Wise Women.
Being at home at Acequia Madre House, these Collections will surely inspire generations to come that will add to them to be in turn discovered by those that follow them. The three ladies loved Santa Fe when they came here. Today they are part of it.
Hogan painting by Navajo artist Roberta Begaye, 2020
About Martin Schultz
Martin Schultz is the Curator of North and Central American Collections at the National Museum of World Cultures in Stockholm, Sweden, as well as serving as Curatorial Advisor to the Acequia Madre House collections. Martin Studied history, philosophy, religious studies, ancient American studies, sinology, historical ethnology, and prehistory & early history in Hannover, Bonn, and Frankfurt am Main. While studying he contributed to various ethnological exhibition projects, particularly the areas of material culture and the history of collecting. He has been recording the stock of numerous museums across Europe and North America since 1999. He has served as the director of ethnological collections in the Reiss-Engelhorm Museum of Mannheim, guest curator for the permanent North America exhibition at the Historical and Ethnological Museum of St.Gallen, and the Africa and North America curator at the Historical Museum of Bern.