Friday, March 12, 2010

Heard @ The Heard 2010: Zuni Jewelry Artist Colin Coonsis Merges Tradition and High Style

I first met Zuni jewelry artist Colin Coonsis, now age 28, on a social level, but I admit that I am just now getting to know him. Professionally, what I do know about him is that he comes from a well known Zuni jewelry-making family and his work is both gorgeous and affordable—two adjectives that frequently don’t go hand in hand when talking about contemporary Native American jewelry.

The more I learn about Colin, whose work now resides in the Heard Museum’s permanent collection and sells in major galleries throughout the Southwest, the more I realize that this young, hip urbanite artist is really an old soul. He has, perhaps, even more respect for the past and where he comes from than for the present and where he is headed. I should also mention that Colin Coonsis will be BIG, especially if last weekend's Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market sales are any indication. Colin sold every piece that he brought to market this year!

While Coonsis is comfortably confident about his work, he also pays high homage to those that have gone before him—for instance, his father Harlan Coonsis, and most especially his mother Rolando Haloo, whom he credits with keeping him interested in creating jewelry. Coonsis, who has finally accepted the fact that he is a true artist in his own mind, is also extremely gracious when it comes to the talent he has been given. In the artist’s own words, his responsibility is to “fulfill a powerful legacy that has been preserved through many generations of Native American artists.”

Colin was more than willing to let me chat with him at the Heard show, and what I most appreciate about him, and was surprised to learn about him during our interview is that he is an artist who understands that he is a work in progress.   Charmingly vulnerable, Colin wholeheartedly acknowledges on camera that while he believes silverwork to be merely the canvas for his inlay work, he has much to learn in his journey to becoming a master craftsperson. In the meantime, we all will just have to sit back and enjoy the style and beauty that Coonsis currently brings to his work.

Watch my interview with Colin Coonis here. He is subject #3 in my 14-part series Heard @ The Heard 2010 featuring top Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market artists whom you are sure to love.  Tomorrow stay tuned for Cochiti and Santo Domingo Pueblo fashion designer Pilar Agoyo.

1 comment:

William & Susanne Waites said...

Hearing Colin describe "how long" it takes to create something, reminds me of my answer as a writer when someone asks me how long it took me to write something. My answer is 25 years.

I think Colin's answer should include all the years of tradition and mentoring he received from his father and mother. You go, Colin!!