Corporate donation leads to exhibition of Southwest art

A donation of Southwest art that bolstered the holdings of Kansas University's Museum of Anthropology is on display through mid-August at the museum.

"From Reservation to Corporate Office: A Donation of Southwest Art" contains more than 25 objects given to the museum by the Topeka-based Security Benefit Group of Companies.

"They collected the art and decorated their offices and meeting rooms with it," said Kim Taylor, exhibits coordinator at the museum. "For their 100th anniversary, they redecorated and donated the art to the museum."

J.H. Abrahams, the chairman and CEO of Security Benefit Group from 1975 to 1995, had a strong interest in Southwest art. With the assistance of Neta Pollom, who worked in the company's communications department, and Squash Blossom Gallery in Kansas City, he began collecting art in 1977 and continued amassing artworks over the next 15 years.

In 1992, the corporation decided to give its offices a new look and replaced the Southwest objects with historic photographs. In 1998, the objects were moved to the KU museum.

Taylor said she knew of no connection between Abrahams and KU or the reason why KU received the gift.

Among the artworks are:

� A Santa Clara wedding vase with a double spout. The groom's family drinks from one spout; the bride's relatives drink from the other; and the groom and bride drink from both. The vessel is then broken to signify that the marriage will last forever.

� A Sikyatki Revival-style storage vessel by Fannie Nampeyo. Thomas V. Keams excavated in the First Mesa area at the end of the 19th century and found pottery with squat-shaped designs, known as Sikyatki. He commissioned Hopi potters to make replicas, which became known as Sikyatki Revival.

� A Zuni fetish bowl by Dinah Gasper. The hunting bowl is decorated with eight wolf-shaped fetishes carved from stone and tied to the vessel with black leather. The color of the bowl's outer surface is created by a covering of crushed turquoise and other stones. Fetishes, which date to the pre-Columbian era, are used as talismans for hunting, diagnosing and treating illnesses, war, gambling and witchcraft.

� Navajo sand paintings. The paintings traditionally are made for healing ceremonies and then quickly destroyed. One of the sand paintings in the show depicts the creation story.

� An intricately woven rug by Minnie Yazzie, who lives in northern New Mexico. The rug is made from jewel-tone fibers.

� Ten scenic photos of the Southwest taken by Lawrence photographer Alain Deroulette.

The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays.


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