The crowd began to gather about an hour before the fashion show began, grabbing seats or jockeying for a space in the shade, all in the shadow of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. They were all ages, all shapes, all colors. Some wore chunky turquoise necklaces and bracelets. Others clutched the latest “it” bag. After a few announcements, a female DJ began spinning an unusual but nevertheless infectious tune that made it difficult to sit still – think EDM meets Pow Wow. Flagstaff resident Nakotah LaRance (Hopi/Tewa/Assiniboine/ Ohkay Owingeh), wearing jeans and a silk shirt, his hair tied back in a long black ponytail, strutted down the catwalk, grabbed a set of neon hoops and began to perform an energetic hoop dance unlike any other. The audience snapped photos and videos with their cellphones. They roared their approval. Minutes later, a young woman named Tazbah Rose Chavez (Nuumu/Diné) dressed in black lace had everyone in tears with a spoken-word performance of her poem titled Being. Models began to glide down the catwalk, wearing the latest clothing from Native American fashion designers. Some were stoic and willowy. One had recently competed in America’s Next Top Model. Another had a sleeping infant cradled against her chest. The soundtrack included everything from chill-out music to Rage Against the Machine.
This is the new face of the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts’ annual Santa Fe Indian Market.
From Past to Present
Santa Fe Indian Market began in 1922 as the Museum of New Mexico’s Indian Fair, which was started by a political action organization comprised of women seeking to protect the rights of New Mexico’s Native American population. In the beginning, the fair was part of the Santa Fe Fiesta celebration, but it steadily began to take on a life of its own. Its mission was to preserve and revive native arts and help buyers purchase authentic art at fair prices. Since 1959, the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts has been in charge of the market. This year, Santa Fe Indian Market celebrates its 95th year Aug. 20-21. More than 1,000 Native American artists from tribes across North America will fill Santa Fe’s historic plaza and the streets surrounding it. Collectors and curious tourists from around the world – more than 80,000 to be exact – will begin shopping at 5 a.m. on Saturday, two hours before the market officially begins. By noon, some of the artists will be mostly sold out. Native American musicians and performers will take turns at the Santa Fe Bandstand in the middle of the plaza while spontaneous dances will pop up around the square. The aforementioned (and not to be missed) Native Haute Couture Fashion Show happens at 1 p.m. at Cathedral Park. On Sunday, a fashion contest starts at 9 a.m. and lasts until noon.
Shoppers seeking vintage-style squash blossoms, katsina dolls carved from cottonwood branches, hand-coiled pottery and hand-woven rugs won’t be disappointed. But increasingly, the early-morning crowds are gathered around young artists creating contemporary, modern, even urban, art – the Pat Pruitts, Marla Allisons, Robert I. Mesas and Patrick Dean Hubbells of the art community. Buyers are perusing abstract paintings, digital photography and diamond jewelry. While these new artistic expressions might incorporate some traditional imagery, the work is not what you think of when you hear the term “Native American art.” And that’s exactly what the artists want.
The judges at Santa Fe Indian Market seem to want it, too. At last year’s event, it was some of the most modern art that was winning awards. There’s only one chance to see the award winners all in one place, and that’s during the Sneak Preview and General Preview, which take place on the eve of Market, 5:30-7:30 p.m., at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center (both previews are ticketed events). Serious collectors line up early to be the first to enter the preview and make notes about which artists they want to visit the next morning. (Note: Troy Sice, who was featured in Sedona Monthly’s September 2012 cover story, won best of class in the sculpture category for his fetish carvings in 2015.) Gallery owners flock to the event, too. Dave and Carol Watters, owners of Hoel’s Indian Shop in Oak Creek Canyon, were spotted at the event, shopping for new artists to represent.
Last year saw the debut of Indian Market: EDGE, also located at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center, on the Thursday night before Market. The contemporary and curated art show features artists who might not necessarily be at Market along with the galleries and organizations that represent them. Dallin Maybee (Northern Arapaho/Seneca), chief operating officer for SWAIA, spoke about the new initiative. “We wanted to shine a spotlight on contemporary artists with EDGE,” he told the crowd. “Indian Market is about community and family and accessibility to artists. We’re here to promote fine artists and contemporary artists alike.” Models stood on a platform in the center of the gallery-like space, showcasing everything from gowns to handbags created by contemporary Native American fashion designers. Sho Sho Esquiro (Kaska Dene/Cree) showed pieces from her Worth Our Weight in Gold collection, which was part of the J Autumn Fashion Show held under the Eiffel Tower in Paris in 2014. The walls of the space showcased abstract paintings, modern photography and sculptures, including one from Upton Ethelbah (Apache/Santa Clara Pueblo), who exhibits his work at Goldenstein Gallery in Sedona.
In the convention center courtyard, as the sun began to set, an installation of giant teepees acted as canvases for light projections while a DJ spun tunes and 20-somethings took to the dance floor. In another area of the courtyard, young artists stood at easels, creating street-inspired works using spray paint and stencils and tossing T-shirts to the crowd of onlookers. Teens and preteens competed in skateboarding and break-dancing competitions that lasted well into the night. It might have been EDGE’s first year, but it was already the place to be, especially for young artists and Santa Fe youth.