As if the summer landscape of Central Pennsylvania is not enriching enough, the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art is offering something equally captivating to savor over the next several weeks.
Two collections highlighting some of the finest Southwestern art in the country are currently on display at the Altoona location.
When East Embraces West: The Collection of Barry Newborn includes Native American paintings and pottery from pueblos located around Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Newborn, the owner of Newborn Enterprises in Altoona and a SAMA board member, has been collecting Southwestern art for about 25 years. His passion for the treasured items began when Newborn traveled to conventions in Phoenix in the early 1990s.
“You can’t help but see a lot of the art that’s displayed there,” he mentioned. “There’s a lot of galleries and art displayed everywhere. I saw this beautiful art and wanted to start a small collection.”
Since then, that “small collection” has grown to include about ten paintings, about a half dozen wood carvings, and 15-20 pieces of pottery.
About 85 percent of Newborn’s collection is now on display at the museum, he estimated.
“My walls (at home) are bare now,” he laughed.
Newborn labels his collection as a mix of historic (pre-1925) and modern (post-1925).
One of his favorite paintings available for viewing at the museum is by Fritz Scholder, described by SAMA as a major influence for a generation of Native American artists.
Also included are works by contemporary pueblo artist Roxanne Swentzell, as well as woodworker Felipe Archuleta and painter Lawrence Lee.
Newborn has enjoyed his travels to Santa Fe and cited what he calls a “tremendous” arts festival there every August. He admits that not many local residents are collectors of Southwestern art.
“It’s just one of those things,” he explained. “It has just been a passion, and it’s something that my eye sees. Just being around it over the years has made me passionate about it. It’s just part of the history of the United States.”
When East Embraces West: The Collection of Barry Newborn will be displayed through September 8.
SAMA is currently featuring a second Southwestern art display – Sixty Years of Southwestern Art.
It includes 70 works from a private collection spanning from 1930-1990. SAMA classifies the exhibition, which runs through September 22, as a mix of Anglo, Indian, and Mexican cultures.
“SAMA-Altoona is delighted to dedicate our entire museum to artwork representing the Southwestern United States and the talented artists of the Southwest,” stated Barbara Hollander, Coordinator of the SAMA Altoona location. “The work of two dedicated collectors will be exhibited and we will have the chance to examine what it takes to assemble such a vast collection of beautiful objects of art.”
Newborn encourages art lovers to visit SAMA this summer and view the collections. For those who might be inspired to follow in his footsteps, Newborn offers some advice.
“Whatever you’re collecting, you have to buy from a notable, honest dealer, and I found that person, so it has been a good marriage,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot about it over the years and became fairly informed.”