Reception: Friday, October 1 2021 5-7pm
Peyton Wright Gallery is pleased to announce Peter Miller: Coming Home, an exhibition of works by this forgotten figure of American Modernism who spent much of her career in New Mexico. The exhibition commences Friday, October 1 with an opening reception from 5-7pm, and concludes November 15, 2021.
The artist Peter Miller (1913-1996) was born Henrietta Myers. She changed her name to Peter shortly after concluding her studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1934, believing that she would be treated more fairly if the public thought her work was created by a man rather than a woman. Miller is today classified as an American Surrealist, a reputation that she earned for having shown in the early 1940s at the prestigious gallery of Julien Levy in New York, then considered the premiere showcase for Surrealist painting in the United States. Despite this affiliation, her worked shared little in common with the dream and fantasy world of European Surrealists, although reviewers of her exhibitions at the Julien Levy Gallery noted the unmistakable influence of the artists Joan Miró and Paul Klee.
These same reviewers observed that she was also influenced by sources in Native American art and culture, which today we know came from the fact that she divided her time between homes in Pennsylvania and New Mexico. She first came to Santa Fe as a child, but after her marriage in 1935 to Earle C. Miller, a fellow student at the Academy, she and her husband built a ranch in Española, about 25 miles north of Santa Fe (they purchased 85 acres, which allowed them to lease an additional five thousand acres from the Bureau of Land Management). From that point onward, they considered New Mexico their spiritual home. They were neighbors of the indigenous people of the Tewa Pueblo, whose crafts and religious beliefs fascinated her. The reliance of Native Americans upon the land and the animals who occupied it permeated her work for the remaining years of her career. Just as they believed that the creatures who surrounded them—birds, turtles, lizards, snakes—could serve as intermediaries in their communication with the gods of the underworld, Miller appropriated these same symbols in her paintings, along with abstract signs that she extrapolated from their pottery and petroglyphs.
Historically, the two most important paintings included in the present exhibition are Miller’s Five Ceremonial Dancers and Three Spirits, paintings that were both likely shown in her exhibitions at the Julien Levy Gallery. Stylistically, reviewers of these shows noticed their reliance upon the works of Miró, Klee and Picasso, but they also saw that their subjects were drawn from sources in Native American art and culture. This rapport existed because of Miller’s intimate familiarity with the customs, rituals and ceremonies of the Tewa, to which she was given unique access through of her friendship with Tilano Montoya, a Native American from the San Ildefonso Pueblo who was the companion of the writer Edith Warner, one of Peter Miller’s closest friends living in New Mexico at the time.
Until recently, Peter Miller has been a forgotten figure within the history of American modernism, a lacuna this exhibition and the book published as its accompanying catalogue, hope to rectify. This exposure will draw her paintings to the attention of a whole new generation of critics, curators, historians, and collectors, finally giving her the recognition and critical acclaim she and her work rightly deserve.
Reception: Friday, November 19 2021 3-7pm
Peyton Wright Gallery is pleased to announce a book signing, exhibition on November 19, 2021, from 3-7 PM to celebrate the launch of William Frej’s new book, Seasons of Ceremonies: Rites and Rituals in Guatemala and Mexico, published by the Museum of New Mexico Press. In addition to the book launch, Peyton Wright Gallery will host an exhibition of 23 compelling black and white photographic images from his new book. Mr. Frej will also give a talk on his work on Saturday, November 20 from 1-3pm. The exhibition concludes January 10, 2022
In Mesoamerican villages and towns, a calendar of rites and rituals takes place throughout the year. As documented by the photos in this book, there are beliefs and world views underlying these complex and profound activities, which are done as an essential way of creating connections to the natural forces of the universe. Ritual actors and natural objects are not just symbolic representations, they embody a force of life. Ceremonies such as the ones illustrated in Frej’s book, not only unite communities, and celebrate the seasons of the year, but they also help to ensure harmony and health now and for future generations. These are elaborate, multilayered affairs involving entire communities. At the most visible, public level, it is the traditional clothing, the dances, and the elaborate processions that grab your attention. But below the surface, these are carefully staged events with clearly defined roles and profound meanings.
In this book of photographs and in the images in this gallery exhibition, Frej’s photography, illuminates indigenous rites and rituals in compelling imagery. Starting with the early December celebrations of the Virgin Mary in Mexico’s Yucatán, the book chronicles feast days of patron saints in Chiapas, Mexico and Rabinal, Guatemala; the Carnival celebrations before Lent; Holy Week before Easter; and finally, the Day of the Dead in Oaxaca, Mexico. Thirteen ceremonies are chronicled. Three of these-the Masked Dance of Abraham and Isaac, in Yucatan, Mexico; the Puáaxku jitsé, in Santa Teresa, Nayarit, Mexico; and the Achí masked drama in Rabinal, in the highlands of Guatemala-are singular events unlike any others. This book, and the accompanying exhibition, is a captivating visual record of the rich, still-alive traditions in Guatemala and Mexico, conveyed through striking black and white photography.