Every year around this time, I begin to look forward to returning to Santa Fe in mid-August. Not just because that is where I celebrate my birthday. Or because the 400-year-old adobe architecture contrasts beautifully against the sky so big and blue that seems to go on forever. Or because the baskets of chips and salsa keep coming. Or even because of the dry, high desert, piñon-infused air, which is such a nice break from humid East Coast summers for a curly-haired girl such as myself. I keep going back mostly because of Indian Market, the prestigious two-day art show hosted every August since 1922 by the Southwestern Association of Indian Arts (SWAIA). (In fact, my first visit was as a college junior in 1991 and I’ve been heading to Indian Market each year since 2007.)
To me, going to Indian Market represents the opportunity to see some of the most gifted Native artists working today. Hundreds and hundreds of Native artists of all ages -– representing over 100 tribes and working in all types of media – participate in this art market and its associated juried show. Around 100,000 people from all over the world flock to this relatively short event to meet the 1200 artists and buy Native American art from them directly at their booths. It is the largest and oldest Native art market, bar none.
The week leading up to the Market starts off a little slow, soon takes on a life of its own, rises to a 2-day crescendo, and ends with a swift drop-kick to the Albuquerque airport curb in your sorry catatonic state. This year, by Sunday night, I was unable to walk for one more minute, unable to eat even one more corn chip and definitely unable to catch up on my weeklong-neglected games of Words With Friends. I cried “uncle!”
It was an intense week that began when PEM Assistant Curator Maddie Kropa and I arrived in Santa Fe with a long list of meetings with Native American artists, fashion designers, collectors and curators in support of researching the exhibition I’m curating for 2015, NDN Style: Native Fashion Now! (working title, see an earlier blog post on the exhibition). As well, there were several lectures, fashion shows and dozens of gallery openings on the agenda. Not to mention, we were traveling with a fantastic group of trustees and overseers from PEM, led by Dan Monroe and Catherine Wygant (veterans of the Indian Market, having attended since the 1990s). Our extended group activities included visiting several museum exhibitions and private collections, receptions and the occasional acquisition in between a meal here and there. Maddie even made us a spreadsheet for the week because there was so much to schedule.
We viewed several private collections, looking for (and finding!) some contemporary Native fashion and accessories (including a spectacular beaded leather umbrella!) to borrow for the show- the parameters being that the items were made after 1950 and fit into the four thematic categories of street style, ready-made, haute and art-to-wear, and “tradish” (or, traditional).
We met with many artists whose work will be included in the exhibition, some of whom I already knew and others I met on the trip. We shared a meal with the foremost scholar of contemporary Native fashion, Dr. Jessica Metcalfe (Turtle Mountain Chippewa), owner of the Beyond Buckskin Boutique and razor-sharp blogger at Beyond Buckskin and artist Nicholas Galanin, whose line of anti-hipster-headdress men’s neckties will be represented in the exhibition.
Other highlights included meeting Patricia Michaels, the Taos Pueblo runner-up to Season 11 of Project Runway, having dinner with the award-winning bead artist and fashion designer Jamie Okuma and going to the Native American Clothing Contest.
And the hip hop fashion show.
Oh! And attending the Paul Frank Presents collection debut event at the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts. You know that cheeky, cartoon monkey named Julius who loves to show his face on brightly colored clothing and accessories everywhere, especially Target? Well, Julius got into some trouble last September (2012). Paul Frank Industries hosted the “Dream Catchin’” Indian-themed party during “Fashion’s Night Out” in Hollywood. Hopefully none of you were there dressed up like Julius: posing as an Indian, wearing a feather bonnet and neon war paint, and carrying fake mini tomahawks. Paul Frank Industries responded to some backlash with not only apologies for their cultural misappropriations, but they also invited four Native artists to collaborate with them for the Paul Frank Presents collection.
Consequently, Native designers Autumn Dawn Gomez, Louie Gong, Candice Halcro and Dustin Martin collaborated with Paul Frank Industries to produce limited edition tote bags, hand-beaded sunglasses, graphic t-shirts and Hama bead jewelry. So, yeah, we went to the bang-up opening reception and got to meet several of the artists involved in this precedent-setting project, as well as the scholars who drove change home to the fashion industry. It was, in two words…pretty fabulous.
Good thing I have a few months to rest up for the Summer 2014 trip to Santa Fe.