Sunday, February 28, 2016

Lloyd Kiva New

Lloyd Kiva New (1916-2002) is not a name I was familiar with on the East Coast.  Yet, when he died in 2002 the New York Times devoted substantial space to his obituary.

In honor of the 100th anniversary of New’s birth there are currently 2 exhibitions in Santa Fe about his work with a third coming later this year.  They are at the Museum of Contemporary Native Art (MOCNA), ““Lloyd Kiva New: Art, Design, and Influence” and at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture (MIAC), “A New Century: The Life and Legacy of Cherokee Artist and Educator Lloyd “Kiva” New”.

Lloyd New was a Cherokee born in Oklahoma.  He was an artist, a designer and a teacher and graduated from the prestigious Chicago Art Institute in 1938, taught at the Phoenix Indian school for a while, then in 1941 enlisted in the Navy.  In 1946 he opened his own design studio and named it Kiva Studio.  He also included it in his name.  He built up a wealthy clientele and became known for his handbags, clothing and printed textiles throughout the 1950’s.  Here is an image of New with an IAIA student ca. 1965 from the IAIA archives.

Lloyd Kiva New in the textile printing studio with IAIA student
c. 1965, IAIA archives

It was as a teacher, however, that he had the greatest influence having started with Dr. George Boyce the Institute of American Indian Arts  (IAIA) in Santa Fe.  IAIA was founded in 1962 under the Kennedy administration first as a high school under the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  It became a Congressionally chartered two-year college in 1986 offering associate degrees in Studio Arts, Creative Writing and Museum Studies.  Today, it is full fledged college where you can get a BA & MA.  Some of the most important Native American artists and writers have gone there.  To name just a few, Dan Namingha, Fritz Scholder, David Bradley, Doug Hyde, Allan Houser, Charles Loloma,  and T.C. Cannon.

New was first Director of the Institute then President from 1965 to 1978 when he retired, only to go back in 1988 to guide the school through its separation from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  In 1989 when he was honored as a Santa Fe Living Treasure, he said about the school, “It should add to its vision--its goals, its objectives—an obligation to help every student who goes there to make a good living.”

The exhibition at MOCNA was curated by 3 different people for various aspects of the show they are Rose Marie Cutropia, Tatiana Lomahaftewa-Singer and Ryan S. Flahive. The MOCNA installation is dense with materials and immerses one in the artists work.  The extremely impressive main gallery has over 30 textiles designed by New’s students in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  There is also a computer device where one can design one’s own textile on a large screen.

Another section of the show is a mock-up of the Kiva Studio with small chests of drawers, which one can open and see images, clipping and some of the hardware that went on the shirts or handbags which surround you in the room.

The third part of the show is devoted to the watercolors.  His images of World War II are poignant indeed.  Unfortunately, I do not have any to illustrate but if you are in Santa Fe before July 31st you can go see them for yourselves.

The MIAC exhibition which is curated by Tony Chavarria, Curator of Ethnology, is sparser and simpler allowing one to focus more closely on the artist’s work.  Rather than bunching a group of handbags together they just show one or two in a case.  It is less razzle-dazzle and more contemplative.  This is a case of handbags photo taken by Jason Ordaz from the MOCNA exhibition while MIAC might show a single handbag with a scarf. Here is one photographed by Blair Clark.

My favorite piece in either show is at MIAC it is a shirt with horses that has buttons designed by Charles Loloma who is among the most widely known of Native American artists.  When my wife was curator of 20th century decorative arts at the Metropolitan museum in the early 1980’s we were invited to view a trunk show that Loloma was holding in a New York Fifth Avenue apartment.

Photo credit: Blair Clark

Photo credit: Blair Clark

These exhibitions are eye openers to Native Fashion a hot subject at the moment with a much acclaimed show at the Peabody Essex Museum called, “Native Fashion Now”.  The artists  themselves, however, do not want to be known as Native, but as designers, as well they should be.

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