Sunday, August 28, 2022

Indian Market Week in Santa Fe

For the first time in the over 30 years that we have attended Indian Market in Santa Fe on the first morning, we have never experienced rain. I guess there is always a first time. We went down anyway, and it did not look like it was empty. Maybe not quite as busy as normal but those who were set on acquiring works did not let a little rain deter them. When we went back on Sunday, many artists had already had great sales.


I was tempted to call this Missive “Crazy Week in Santa Fe”. Everyone has decided the pandemic is over, we know it is not but we can all feel safer now that most have been vaccinated.

There is so much going on that not only did we have to make choices as what to attend we also found that artists had to make choices as to where they wished to sell their works of art or ask a relative to sit in for them.

It is the 100th anniversary of Indian Market, and all the American Indian Institutions have used the excuse to promote their organizations. I wrote about the Hoop Dance Competition which kicked off the week for us. Then we were invited to a gala for the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) a public tribal land-grant college in Santa Fe, from where many important artists have graduated’ The event, with auction and paddle call, raised $834,000 for their scholarship fund from the packed La Fonda Hotel ballroom!

The Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian had a 3-day benefit sale of Jewelry, Katsinas, baskets and pots from which 30 were sold the first day.

On one of those days a number of well-known artists who were invited by the Wheelwright and were not interested in doing Indian Market had a sales show on the small plaza in front of the museum. While her parents attended the booth their daughter kept herself occupied.

The Ralph T. Coe Center for the Arts had a full day planned. We attended a panel discussion with 5 American Indian Artists. They were writers, editors and creative artists all being identified with more than one designation. The overall topic I would define as identity and how they define themselves. A major point expressed by all is that the Tribes have their own culture and their own language but that does not mean that they are not also full participants in today’s world. Since the ‘Native Americans’ refer to themselves as ‘Indians’, I asked which term they believed I should use in my Missives and the general reply was neither and they suggested I use the name of their Tribe or Pueblo. I replied that I write for an international audience and then one member suggested that I use a prescribed style sheet or use the term ‘American Indian’.

Regarding language I had asked at the IAIA gala, the Governor of the Acoma Pueblo whether the different languages of the Indians had common roots as in European languages and he said a number of pueblos had common roots in their language but others were totally different. I don’t speak Hopi but I had reason to buy their dictionary which comes in at just under 900 pages. Of the 574 Federally recognized Tribes. 23 are In New Mexico.

The day before Indian Market we went to an exhibition of many of the works that would be for sale at Indian Market and the prize winners, such as Best of Class, ie painting & photography, Sculpture & Katsinas, Bead Work etc. There is also one winner for Best of Show. Here is the pot made by Russel Sanchez (San Ildefonso Pueblo) that received this award. He called the Pot “100 Years in the Making!”. It contains about 400 pieces of Turquoise and Hematite beads inlaid by the artist.

Of course, there was a luncheon connected to that.

Finally, the cold and wet first day of Market we were invited by IAIA to an outdoor luncheon to publicize a relatively new American Indian organization called The Forge Project in upstate New York. The New York Times sums it up as follows: “The Forge Project, based in the Hudson Valley, is Becky Gochman’s initiative to raise the profile of the artists and find homes for their work in collections and museums.”

To sum up the past week, with the addition of a couple of non-American Indian events, I am exhausted but looking forward to next year!

Sunday, August 21, 2022

The Hoop Dance and the Lightning Boy Foundation

The hoop dance is a traditional Native American dance that the medicine men used in healing ceremonies. A number of tribes lay claim to its origin and suffice it to say that it has been an important part of the Native American culture for centuries. In the 1930’s, Tony White Cloud, from the Jemez Pueblo, is credited with being the founder of the modern hoop dance which we see today. He began using multiple hoops in a stylized version of the dance.

In Native culture the hoop has sacred symbolism representing the circle of life. Traditionally the hoop was made with willow and bois d’arc and that is still used but more often replaced with reed and plastic hose or pvc decorated with tape and paint. Pvc is preferred for durability when travelling.

The dance is done to drum accompaniment . Here is Steve LaRance Co-Founder of the Lightning Boy Foundation at the Library of Congress in 2016 explaining the drum beat.

The Lightning Boy Foundation is a Nonprofit organization that offers hoop dance instruction to tribe or pueblo registered youth. Its mission is “nurturing and building confidence and integrity through culture and Artistic expression”. Students as young as 2 years old are eligible. At the moment their youngest is 3 and the oldest is 17. Several graduates of the program (college age) have returned as instructors. For more information, please visit:

The personal histories that lead to this effort are described on the Foundation website: “The Lighting Boy Foundation was established in honor of Valentino 'Tzigiwhaeno' Rivera, “a boy who couldn't stop dancing”. Valentino participated in traditional pueblo dances, traditional hoop dancing, hip hop and break dancing. He was the son of George Rivera (former Governor of Pojoaque Pueblo) and Felicia Rosacker-Rivera. Sadly at the age of 8 Valentino was in a car accident and subsequently died. The following year, 2017, the Foundation was named in his honor, 'Tzigiwhaeno' means 'lightning' in his Tewa language. It was co-founded by his mother, Felicia Rosacker-Rivera, and mentor/spokesman/artist Steve LaRance (Hopi, Assiniboine) with Nakotah LaRance, Steve’s son, as master instructor. Sad to say, in 2020 Nakotah died in a mountain climbing accident at the age of 30. He was not only a nine-time winner at the World Championship of Hoop Dance, he also performed internationally with the Cirque du Soleil.” Here is a clip of one of Nakotah’s dances from 2016. It is 6 minutes so if you do not have time now save it til later. It is well worth watching him working with 5 hoops for the finale.

Last weekend we watched the final rounds of a two-day championship competition in honor of Nakotah organized by the Foundation and hosted by the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. There were 4 divisions: Tiny Tots Division, 2- 5 year old’s who all get prizes to encourage them to continue their good work, Youth Division 6-12, Teen Division and Collegiate division. In announcing the event, Steve LaRance made mention of hoop dancers as old as 82 though they were not participating in the competition! The judges rated the dancers on Precision, Timing and Rhythm, Showmanship, Creativity and Originality and Speed.

Here are just 18 seconds of Foundation’s young students on the Santa Fe Plaza a couple of years ago.

Needless, to say it is so great to see the superhuman efforts that little ones go to. At every performance there are always small children behind the on lookers practicing and tiny tots trying to pick up a hoop the way the big kids do. Sometimes they look uncertain of what to do with the hoop but they are clearly determined to learn!

Though I understand that this all belongs to a culture which is not mine, I so wish that every child could be introduced to this beautiful dance and learn the discipline that this training can give. It would be invaluable for a lifetime.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Esports & The Arts

When we bought a television and sound bar awhile back, we were asked if we wanted it for gaming and thought, why would we? I did not understand the importance gaming has in this new world. Graduating from board games and maybe tic-tac-toe on a scrap of paper we graduated to Pong which started in 1972. Then we were aware of the kids having computer games but did not participate ourselves. Keeping up is not so easy as you get older, but learning is what keeps me going.

I had never heard of the word Esports even though it has been around for years, until, I read an article in the July/August issue of Wired Magazine by Brendan I. Koerner. To my great surprise I learned that colleges have Esports teams. I happened to reach my son, Danny, driving my granddaughter, Lucy, to her college, Ohio State University (OSU). I asked him if he had ever heard of Esports teams, and he had not but Lucy piped up that they have one at OSU!

Koerner writes about Madison Marquer who was hired by Laramie County Community College (LCCC) a small college but the only institution of higher learning in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It has just 2,800 full time students, as opposed to over 65,000 at Lucy’s OSU. Richard Walsh an instructor in LCCC’s information-technology program seeing how important gaming was to the students set out to convince the administration how an Esport program could bring in more students and boost the brand to make the school more attractive to applicants. In his interview as a coach for the program Marquer made the case to the administration to show that an Esports team would give students the discipline and purpose to go on to richer lives. He also had to demonstrate how Esports actually was a sport by showing how dexterity, hand eye coordination and quick thinking were necessary to excel.

In an article in Hyperallergic by Jasmine Liu she passes on a quote from Oscar Wilde’s 1889 essay The Decay of Lying: “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life,” Here is one of several images shown in the article

From there it is not so far-fetched how art is linked in so many ways to other activities of life.

What might be the connection between Esports and arts education? The National Endowment for the Arts reports that more than 175 million adults engage with the arts through electronic media. Put that together with the benefits claimed for Esports:

-Improved hand-eye coordination.
-Improved attention & visual acuity.
-Improved basic visual processing and executive function.
-Problem solving & strategy skill development.
-71% of parents report gaming having net positive effects for children.
-Boosts self-confidence and player socialization.

All qualities that a good artist or art historian, for that matter, need to succeed.

Academy of Art University, founded in San Francisco in 1929, currently has around 8,000 students and they started an Esports program in 2016. They write, “Students from all areas of study at Academy of Art are given the opportunity to use their career skills in the Esports Studio Classes. Game Development, Communications, Music and Sound Design, Illustration, and many other majors all come together to produce live Esports productions and events, both online and in-person."

The world renowned Getty Museum has used Egames not only to attract visitors but also to make their visitor experience more engaging. In a collaboration with the University of Southern California (USC) in 2015, a group from their program created games to enhance the Museum experience. One such game, called “Switch” asks players to hunt through the galleries with their smartphones to break a magic spell that is switching details in the paintings. Remain in the Getty at home with egames on line that test your memory for what you saw. In this article a curator at the Getty brings the gamer a link to true art history.

In 2020 the Markets Insider published a press release announcing the world’s first-ever ‘Visioning Esports in Art’ Exhibition. Note to self: Keep Up!

Sunday, August 7, 2022

“Grounded in Clay” A Tradition

You can learn a subject, but it is far more difficult to understand a culture.

The exhibition “Grounded in Clay: The Spirit of Pueblo Pottery” at the New Mexico Museum of Indian Arts and Culture undertakes the challenge.

About 35 years ago we walked into The Museum of Northern Arizona and there we “discovered” the art of the Native Americans in the Southwest. Something about it just captured our soul. Having lived and worked in a very Eurocentric world my wife and I had to bring ourselves into that culture in order to try to understand a totally different mindset. So began a journey that continues to live with us.

The exhibition consists of about 100 pottery objects selected from almost 4,000 in the Indian Arts Research Center (IARC), which is part of the School for Advanced Research here in Santa Fe, with the addition of 24 pots from the the outstanding collection in the Vilcek Foundation in New York. The exhibition was organized by Elysia Poon, IARC Director, Rick Kinsel, President of the Vilcek Foundation and Acoma Pueblo Governor, Brian Vallo, a former IARC director. The three pots I am illustrating were selected from the Foundation by them respectively.

Originating here in Santa Fe the exhibition celebrates the hundredth anniversary of the Indian Pottery Fund which became the IARC at the School of Advanced Research. Around 60 members of 21 tribal communities including New Mexico’s 19 Pueblos, known as the Pueblo Pottery Collective, responded to the invitation to select and discuss works from the collections.

The Ceramic Vault at the IARC

The art of the potter has been a strong tradition in the Pueblos from time immemorial and continues to the present day. Lonnie Vigil, NambĂ© Pueblo created this monumental pot in 1995. It is 25 5/8 x 28 3/8 inches He had worked in finance in Washington D.C. before returning to the Pueblo to focus on his pottery. The quote is by Nora Naranjo Morse, KHA’p’o Wingeh/Santa Clara.

The show spans from the 11th century to into the 21st. Here you have a couple of the early pieces from the exhibition. Please do not skip the caption and the quote above. These demonstrate the universally deep meaning of these pieces to Pueblo people.

Some, like like Patrick Cruz, from Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo found pots in the SAR collection made by their ancestors. Cruz wrote about a piece by his great-grandmother, Gregorita Cruz : “I have made pots using Gregorita’s polishing stone and I feel a close-lived family connection to her in ways that photographs and other mementos could never provide.”

The cultural message that these pots live to tell a story of life and history, serving as a link between the generations is expressed in the installation where the pots are surrounded with quotes from the 60 curators and their reponses to the pieces. The interaction is brought to life in the film that accompanies the exhibition.

We were privileged to attend the Community Opening for the show with the curators and their families. After Pueblo prayers and a view of the exhibition there was a feast with great stews and enchiladas as well as other Native foods catered by a family from the Jemez/Laguna Pueblo. We were also treated to a Pueblo dance group. The evening ended with a traditional “Throw”. Large laundry baskets were brought out filled with Chips, Oreos, Krispy treats etc. etc. etc., as well as a few small stuffed animals for the kids, that were thrown onto the tables to be take home.

Next day I wrote to my children:“Last night was incredible. We were concerned about how one could make a bunch of pots interesting and understandable to those unacquainted with the material and culture they came from. We were delighted that the exhibition is enlightening, and the catalog is superb.”

It is hard to explain but for this Anglo “Grounded in Clay” and its community celebration managed to convey the spiritual aspect I have experienced of Native American culture.

The exhibition will end at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture on May 28, 2023, travel on to the Metropolitan Museum in New York in July 2023. followed by the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, and later to the St. Louis Art Museum.  Other institutions around the country are still in discussions with SAR.