Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Road to Indian Market 2010: Jewelry Designer and Painter Tony Abeyta

It seems that whatever artist Tony Abeyta touches turns to gold.   Abeyta, a Navajo artist, son of the late Navajo painter Ha-So-De (Narciso Abeyta), seems confidently grounded as it concerns his career, in spite of his lineage.  While seemingly relaxed, you get the sense that the wheels in his head are constantly turning and, no matter what else he's doing at that moment, he'd like to get back into the studio to create.  Perhaps that's why he is always challenging himself--experimenting with style and reinventing himself at every turn.  You have to ask the question, is there nothing that this wonderboy can't do?  I'm inclined to think there's not!

That's why when I read on Facebook a few months ago that he was chipping away at a new jewelry collection, I wasn't really surprised.  After all, Abeyta is one of the most innovative Native American artists of his generation.  I was really excited to see what he came up with and find out more about the collection, which he describes as Charles Loloma-esque without all the detailed inlay work. Lucky for me, I ran into him at an event at Santa Fe's Shiprock last month and he gave me the opportunity to pick his brain about it all, as well as find out what it's like for him as he gets ready for Indian Market season. 

"Market," as it is referred to by insiders, is an important time for Native artists, and Abeyta is no exception.  While he hasn't had a booth on Santa Fe's Plaza for some time (He is represented by Blue Rain Gallery), SWAIA Indian Market is one of the top three Native arts shows in the country, and collectors come from all over the world to buy the best of the best, including Abeyta's work.  Sales anywhere in Santa Fe can provide an artist with the lion's share of his or her annual income.

Abeyta told me that he had a huge learning curve, since he knew absolutely nothing about stones or silverwork before he began making the jewelry.  It's hard, though, to think of Abeyta as a novice, since he is only in his mid-40s and has already had such an illustrious career.  The artist consulted top designers Cody Sanderson and Michael Roanhorse to give pointers on practicality of design, to learn about dealing with stones and the techical side of silversmithing.  The collection, which includes belt buckles, cuffs and more, is sand cast. Attendees at Abeyta's opening at Blue Rain Gallery on August 20 will be treated to pieces that are eye-catching and incorporate traditional Navajo design elements and elements from his painted works.  Don't worry if you can't stop by Blue Rain Gallery next week to see the collection, because Uncle Paulie's World has a sneak peek as part of my "The Road to Indian Market 2010" series. Check out Tony Abeyta's interview HERE:

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