Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Finding Common Bonds at 2009 Indian Market in Santa Fe

There are many reasons why people call New Mexico “The Land of Enchantment.” Just look around you and you can’t help but be impressed by the geography and natural beauty. Every time I head home towards the east in Albuquerque, I am moved by the grandeur of the Sandia Mountains. Driving from the west to the east at night along the Paseo del norte is one of my favorite pleasures because you can see the twinkling of the lights all the way up to where residential lines end and reservation land begins. Even when I feel unsettled or grumpy, those mountains bring me back to a centered peaceful place in my mind.

New Mexico also enchants people from around the World with its rich cultures and traditions. Perhaps one of the state’s most enduring traditions is the annual Indian Market that takes place on the Plaza in Santa Fe every August. The event brings together approximately 100,000 collectors and 1200 artists from 100 tribes, making it the World’s largest and most prestigious Native American arts show. It’s basically the Broadway Flea Market or the Super Bowl of Native American arts, which is why I was thrilled to be able to attend Indian Market for the first time this year.

My wonderful new friend Cypriana Toledo, a potter from the Jemez Pueblo, who creates pottery in the old style, using red clay and bright acrylics, met me at the Market during the early morning set-up on the Plaza. The night before, on the phone, she had mentioned that she wanted me to meet some of her artist friends. I thought to myself “That would be very nice.” But, when she made the rounds with me, and I had the opportunity to get to know the likes of well known potters such as Maxine Toya, Fannie Loretto, Kathleen Wall, Alfreda Fragua, and more, I felt like a Hollywood celebrity gawker. I’m still in a dream-like state and feel truly honored to have been personally introduced to them all and to be able to call them friends.

As a mask artist, it was particularly thrilling to spend some time sitting on the sidelines with Fannie Loretto, whose clay Koshari faces have renown throughout the Southwest and beyond. As I listened to her describe how she creates these wonderful pieces, I was reminded of my own creative process. As a matter of fact, in speaking with all of the artists with whom I had the pleasure of connecting, a common theme kept recurring in conversation—that of the clay talking to them and telling the artists what it wants to become. It was so inspiring to find a common bond with all of these ladies, who are so completely in touch with something greater than themselves, and have channeled those spiritual connections to bring the world such spectacularly beautiful objects made with the highest level of precision.

A couple of months ago, I was whole-heartedly moved to tears by the work of Kathleen Wall at the Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque. Wall, who is the daughter of Fannie Loretto, took time away from selling her incredible clay sculptures to talk to me about her work and the emotional journey of putting the Albuquerque exhibition together.

Jemez potter, Alfreda Fragua, who is Fannie Loretto's cousin, was a delight to hang out with. Her stone polishing is flawless, and I love the fact that, while she could command considerably higher prices for her work, she'd prefer to make sure that her art is affordable, so that all people can enjoy Native arts. What a beautiful soul she is!

I really appreciated getting to chat with Rebecca Lucario of Acoma Pueblo. She and her family have such a rich tradition of making pottery, and she was kind enough to talk about her own creative process. I look forward to seeing her again at the Acoma feast, which will take place on September 2.

Of course, it was a pleasure to see Joyce Ortiz again. I first met her at this summer’s Cochiti feast, and she is such a thoughtful artist and one of the loveliest people I've ever met. The sister of Virgil, and daughter of Seferina and Guadalupe Ortiz, Joyce was kind enough to talk on camera with me about her work as well.

Speaking of lovely, I had the honor of interviewing master Santa Clara Potter Jody Naranjo. I’ve seen her work in publications, but never up-close. It was a pleasure having the opportunity to handle her pieces and admire her stunning stone polishing work in person. Jody spoke to me in-depth about how she creates her magnificent works in clay.

In addition to all of the potters, including the very charming Margaret Garcia of Acoma, who made me fall in love with her colorful storytellers, I had the chance to meet Zuni carver Alan Lewis, who makes amazing Cottonwood corn maidens and sculptures. A major highlight was visiting with Yellowman, who is, perhaps, my favorite Native American painter.

Later in the day, as we sat in the shade of the Plaza confiding in one another, Cypriana, or “Pana” as she is known by many, told me she knew that “this Indian Market was going to be special.” Indeed, it was Pana, and I was honored to be a part of it! To all the artists who agreed to be part of my Indian Market video documentary, my humble thanks.

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