23 August 2011

2011 SWAIA Indian Market

First time market goer
Art can be distinguished from design, propaganda, decoration, or advertising by its polyvalence — it works simultaneously on many different levels. As an art event, Santa Fe Indian Market is certainly polyvalent. People from all perspectives encounter a dizzying range of art forms and walk away with a myriad of different conclusions. Unfortunately as an SWAIA artist I had to work or attempt to sleep, so missed out on some of the amazing extracurricular activities but got to check out Friday’s art openings, when it feels like the entire town has come alive.

Best of show: ash splint basket by Jeremy Frey (Passamaquoddy)
Passamaquoddy artist Jeremy Frey’s brown ash basket was fantastic and subverted many narratives about the direction Native art is heading.  The basket is a boldly graphic, abstract, nonobjective sculpture. The sweeping lines of its form are broken up by the fine porcupine points—the delicate curls of brown ash splints that embellish the basket’s exterior—creating an almost wavelike effect. The shadow play of their repeating forms call to mind the work of minimalist sculptor Donald Judd. The piece terminates with a lid capped by a circular splint ring featuring a dynamic pattern of chevrons. The pure aesthetics of the piece is complemented by its materiality — it’s constructed from Fraxinus nigra, also commonly known as the black ash, a tree used by Northeastern Woodland basket makers for centuries that is currently under dire threat of extinction from the invasive emerald ash borer. Harvesting and processing the ash splints is usually more labor intensive and takes longer than the actual weaving. Word of mouth says that Jeremy Frey is only the second artist to ever win Best of Show at both the Heard Market and SWAIA’s Indian Market in the same year, and this appears to be the first basket to ever win Best of Show. Baskets only gained their own classification last year.

Classification winners are as follows.
Best of sculpture: ceramic sculpture by Marcus Wall (Jemez)
  • Jeremy Frey (Passamaquoddy), basketry
  • Joyce Growing Thunder (Sioux-Assiniboine), beadwork and quillwork
  • Jamie Okuma (Luiseño-Shoshone-Bannock) for diverse arts
  • Chris Pruit (Laguna Pueblo) for jewelry
  • Bennie Klain (Navajo) for moving images
  • Dyani Reynolds-Whitehawk (Rosebud Lakota) for painter, drawings, graphics, and photography
  • Jody Naranjo (Santa Clara Pueblo) for pottery
  • Marcus Wall (Jemez Pueblo) for sculpture
  • Lynda Teller-Pete (Navajo) for textiles
  • Arthur Holmes Jr. (Hopi) for wooden carvings
  • Valerie Calabaza (Santo Domingo Pueblo) for youth.
Overall most of the artists I talked to did modestly well. The turnout was great with no major breaks of visitors, which is a huge relief after last year when the market felt like a ghost town after 10am Saturday. Many artists reported better sales on Sunday than Saturday. Perhaps the negative ions generated by all the rainfall contributed to an overall cheerfulness, but this market actually felt fun. It was great to visit with everyone and meet new curators and artists. I’m humbled by the generosity of my fellow artists. Innumerable academic papers study the sales at Indian Market; how many people write about the very active bartering, as well as sharing and gift giving?

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