Even if curator Nina Sanders (Apsáalooke) hadn’t approached SFR with a possible feature idea shortly after she returned from a rather impressive stint at the Field Museum in Chicago, we probably would have wanted to cover the 11 Indigenous artists contained herein.
In a photo shoot produced by Sanders and executed by photograher Garret Vreeland, a veritable who’s-who of young talent shines, and the shot is not solely impresive for its volume, but that every artist contained therein managed to be in one place at one time while maintaining disparate practices.
In Sanders’ words, they came together to “celebrate and rep their connection and commitment to Native art and Indian Market, each with prodigious talent, a legacy to draw from and protect and a community of Native people to support them.”
As Santa Fe gears up for what would have been the 100th year of the Southwestern Association for American Indian Arts’ Indian Market (COVID-19 put the kibosh on last year’s 99th, so consider this year a do-over), it’s important to look to the future while we’re maintaining local traditions—especially when it comes to Indigenous art. As I’ve said in the pages of SFR before, if you’re not keeping an eye on Native creators, you’re missing out on one of the most vital and enjoyable pieces of the broader international arts puzzle.
“In a time when our young people are faced with the insurmountable task of protecting the land and water, with bringing justice to Indigenous women and children and defending our cultures, we are forced to ask if they are up to the challenge,” Sanders says of these 11 artists. “I believe we are in good hands.”
Hollis Chitto, Ko’chani (Indian Market Booth: LIN E 740)
Mississippi Choctaw, Laguna/ Isleta Pueblo
Hollis Chitto is an accomplished Santa Fe-based artist who works primarily in contemporary beadwork. “My interest in art began at an early age,” Chitto says. “I’m told my grandmother was a beadworker. Although she died when I was very young, many people believe her talent was passed down to me. But I first started doing quillwork. I taught myself by looking at illustrations in a French Canadian book, and experimenting with beads and quills that my mom had used to try to teach herself this skill. The two art forms’ techniques are actually related: the two-needle band in quillwork is similar to the beadwork’s lazy stitch. People often say that beadwork takes patience, but I don’t see it that way. It’s like coloring to me; I see the designs and colors become reality in my hands. I never think of beadwork or quillwork as craft, but as fine art.”
On Instagram: @hchitto
Hollis Chitto made this bag for US Sec. of the Interior Deb Haaland. True story. (Courtesy The Artist/)
Peshawn Bread (she/they, them) is a screenwriter, director and creative director from the Penatuku (sugar eater) and Yapuruka (root eater) bands of the Comanche tribe. Her writing focuses on Indigenous women, sexuality, and humorous experiences. In the winter of 2015, she was introduced and welcomed as one of Sundance Institute’s Full Circle Kellogg Fellows. Bread was also a 2015–2016 recipient of the 4th World Indigenous Media Lab Fellowship supported by the Seattle International Film Festival and in partnership with Longhouse Media, Sundance and documentary funding outfit ITVS. Bread also attended the Sundance Screenwriters Lab, hosted by Joan Tewksbury. Throughout the years, she has worked on many sets, from Drunktown’s Finest to Mud (Hast?’ishnii). In 2019, she had the honor of receiving Sundance’s Native Filmmakers Lab Fellowship, where she had the opportunity to workshop her script, The Daily Life of Mistress Red, a mockumentary short film about a Native dominatrix for hire who whips apologies out of white supremacists. It is currently in post production. After graduating from the Academy of Art’s screenwriting program in 2020, Bread has worked with Amazon Studios and is creating new film works while serving as creative director for clothing and textiles brand Teton Trade Cloth
On Instagram: @the.pbread
Charine Pilar Gonzales, Turquoise Flower
San Ildefonso Pueblo Tewa
Charine Gonzales is a Tewa filmmaker whose work supports the growing visibility of Native peoples through many forms of media, especially visual storytelling. She’s a 2021 graduate from the Institute of American Indian Arts, where she studied cinematic arts and technology. Gonzales is lead editor for Native Lens, a crowdsourced series by Rocky Mountain PBS and KSUT Tribal Radio. She is a 2021 Native Lab Artist in Residence through Sundance Institute’s Indigenous Program, a current Artist in Business Leadership Fellow through First Peoples Fund and was selected to participate as a Jackson Wild Media Lab Fellow. Gonzales earned an English Communication BA from Fort Lewis College in 2017. Her favorite foods are red chile and oven bread.
On Instagram: @charinepilarpovi
Indian Market Booth: LIN W 756
Cochiti/Taos/Santa Ana Tewa
Santiago Romero was born at the Santa Fe Indian Hospital but grew up in the heart of Los Angeles. After graduating high school, he attended Dartmouth College and received a bachelor’s degree in environmental science. Currently, he is a working ceramic sculptor, painter and active cultural participant. Romero strives to integrate his education and experience into all of his work by incorporating different techniques, both traditional and contemporary, as well as themes of science, Pueblo iconography and human nature. He has won several awards for contemporary ceramic sculpture from SWAIA, including second place in sculpture. He is currently represented by Faust Gallery in Scottsdale and resides in Phoenix.
On Instagram: @santiago_romero_art
Rainbow masks created by Santiago Romero. (Courtesy the Artist/)
Cree LaRance is an award-winning Native American jeweler living in Santa Fe. He is an enrolled member of Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, however his roots also include Hopi, Navajo and Assiniboine. LaRance is the son of renowned Native American artists Steve “Wikviya” LaRance and Marian “Kaawaadeh” Denipah. He works in silver and gold, turquoise, coral and multiple other precious stones. His art is heavily influenced by his Native American culture, religion, family and way of life. Cree’s work employs modern and classical approaches in jewelry making that creates an ever evolving style continuously rooted in a legacy.
On Instagram: @creelarance
Jo Povi Romero
Pojoaque/Cochiti/Santa Clara/Ohkay Owingeh
Jo Povi Thung Romero was raised in Pojoaque Pueblo along the Northern Rio Grande. She is also from Cochiti, Santa Clara, and Ohkay Owingeh and currently resides in Santa Fe. Her name in Tewa means “Cactus Flower Basket,” and was passed down from her great-grandmother. Romero was raised in the studio painting alongside her father, Mateo Romero, and learning traditional pottery techniques from her mother, Melissa Talachy, and grandparents Joe and Thelma Talachy. Romero graduated from Dartmouth College with a major in sculpture and photography and a minor in anthropology. Her main sculpture mediums include clay (traditional and commercial), plaster and metal. Her photography is medium-format black and white film, and she specializes in multiple exposures stacked in the camera. Primarily photographing women, Romero aims to capture their complexity and strength, and her work further explores her identity as a Native queer woman, as well as influences from ancient Mimbres pottery designs, Indigenous mythology, pop culture and comic books. Through her work, she aims to transform the widespread lack of knowledge the public has of modern Native American people, our history and our traditional knowledge. Her work has been displayed at the Black Family Visual Arts Center, Barrows Rotunda Gallery, Jaffe-Friede Gallery and Nearburg Gallery. Recent projects include the SWAIA Drum Auction for Missing Murdered Indigenous Women and participation in the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture’s Mural Project led by the Living Legends recipients Diego and Mateo Romero. For the past two years, she has been working for photographer Cara Romero (Chemehuevi) and recently began studying under Cochiti potter Diego Romero. She is planning on pursuing her Master of Fine Arts in fall 2022 in Italy.
“Fangy Boi” by Jo Povi Romero. (Courtesy The Artist/)
Ashley Browning, Yellow Butterfly
Pueblo of Pojoaque/Pueblo of Santa Clara
Ashley Browning is from the pueblos of Pojoaque and Santa Clara, in what is currently known as New Mexico. She received a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree in film and digital media from the University of New Mexico with a concentration on production. During her time studying at UNM, she honed her graphic design and photography skills and explored different types of digital media, such as screenwriting, sound mixing, cinematography and 3D animation. Not long after graduating, Browning was selected to participate in the Full Circle Fellowship with the Indigenous Program with the Sundance Institute. Since completing her fellowship, she has worked on a variety of productions in roles that range from production assistant to sound mixer. Browning supports other local Indigenous filmmakers, such as Shaadiin Tome, Peshawn Bread, and Charine Gonzales. Browning was introduced to the art by her grandmother, Lu Ann Tafoya. Tafoya creates traditional Santa Clara deep-carved, red and black pottery, and Browning continues the family legacy through her mentorship and expertise. Ashley’s family has been part of the Southwest Association for Indian Arts since its inception in 1922. During her first experience at the market, in 2013, she entered the painting, drawing and photography divisions, winning two first-place ribbons for her “Paper Doll” and “Juxtaposition” pieces. Since then, she has entered the competition every year, taking home numerous awards for her contemporary and traditional pieces. The highest award she received was a “Best of Division” for her piece titled “NDN iPhone,” a photo that puts an Indigenous spin on the contemporary iPhone layout. Collaborating with her mother, Michele Tapia Browning, the two created an Indigenous board game titled “NDN-OPOLY” which has since been featured in local and national museums and in several publications. While pursuing her film and art career, she works in the marketing department for the Pueblo of Pojoaque’s Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino. Find Ashley’s work at Pathways Native Arts Festival August 20-22 Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino.
On Instagram: @ybutterfly2
Ashley Browning works in various media, as well as traditional drawing and painting styles. (Courtesy The Artist/)
Edwin Allen Felter, Wiyeh Than (Two Suns)
Nambe Pueblo Tewa
Edwin Felter is a singer, songwriter, educator and engineer who was born in Nambe Pueblo, where he continues to live and work. Felter’s love for music was born from and continues to grow through traditional songs and his cultural environment. Felter explores multiple genres, with hip-hop and rap at the forefront and the source of his inspiration coming from artists such as Elvis, David Lee Roth, Lil Wayne and Andre 3000. Felter intends to continue to maximize his own understanding and experience in sound and style, and encourages other young artists to do the same. A large part of Felter’s time is dedicated to the Lightning Boy Foundation, a nonprofit organization in Northern New Mexico that provides traditional hoop dance instruction and other dance programming to youth ages 2 and up. The organization’s mission is dedicated to nurturing and building confidence and integrity through culture and artistic expression. Edwin is the singer for the group and travels with them as they tour. In addition to his music and work for the community, Edwin has a Bachelor’s of Engineering in electromechanical engineering and enjoys teaching STEAM workshops and concepts throughout New Mexico Public Schools as a member of the NNMC Mentor Collective at Northern New Mexico College.
On Instagram: @edmiyster
Kaa Folwell, Kaa Ojegi (Frost on the Leaves)
Khapo Owingeh (Santa Clara Pueblo Tewa)
Kaa Folwell received her bachelor’s -degree in studio arts from the Institute of American Indian Art in 2018 and explores her creativity and heritage through mostly contemporary Pueblo pottery—though her practice is not limited only to those things. During her senior show titled Bridgework, she created a series of turquoise and silver teeth grillz that represent the fluency and journey of relearning the Tewa language. During Folwell’s creative process, she utilizes both traditional methods to build while incorporating contemporary design. Her work is often accompanied by Pueblo and graffiti-inspired iconography. Folwell comes from a prominent artist family in New Mexico: She is the daughter of contemporary Pueblo potter Polly-Rose Folwell, niece of Susan Folwell and granddaughter of the legendary Jody Folwell, one of the first contemporary Pueblo potters. Kaa grew up in Santa Clara Pueblo, where she strengthened her cultural ties and developed her love for art. “Art was never considered a hobby in my family and is a part of daily life,” she says. “It’s almost another family member. Being able to use ancient techniques to build contemporary pottery is in essence exactly what its intended purpose is, to be a vessel that sustains life.”
On Instagram: @xxkaaxx
Pottery is just one of Kaa Folwell’s artistic pursuits. (Courtesy The Artist/)
Jacob Shije, Kaa Tsire (American Goldfinch)
Tribe: Kha’p’o Owingeh (Santa Clara Pueblo Tewa)
There is blissful energy emerging in the music industry, and Jacob Shije is quickly becoming known for his empathy, guitar prowess and singer-songwriter performances. Shije embarked as a solo artist in 2019, inspired by artists like John Mayer, The Beatles and Ritchie Valens. Like clay from his homelands of Santa Clara Pueblo, he molds music into something rhythmically groovy and sonically vivid with vintage textures like an old soul. Shije is supporting his debut single “Hide the Heartbreak” with a series of club shows across the Southwest, is currently performing with the Levi Platero Band and is an endorsed artist with Delaney Guitars.
On Instagram: @jacobshije
Del Curfman, Baatchilish (He Will Live a Fortunate Life), Xuhkaalaxche (Ties-in-a-Bundle) Clan
Indian Market Booth: LIN W 756
Born in 1993, Del Curfman grew up in the divides between his Apsáalooke (Crow Tribe of Montana) heritage and the greater Western/Montanan/non-Native culture, forever influencing him and his artwork. A graduate and alumni of the Institute of American Indian Arts and emerging artist, his work has found significance as a reminder that American Indian culture and traditions have not faded into history or obscurity. His artwork is a conduit for cross-cultural dialogue. Through time, space and movement, his paintings transgress the boundaries and limits of American Indian stereotypes, and his work has been featured internationally, at the Field Museum of Chicago and the Neubauer, as well as in local and national publications and galleries in New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and Bristol, England. Curfman is now based in Santa Fe, where he remains concentrated on creating socially aware, community-engaged artwork.
On Instagram: @crow_colors_studio
Breathtaking work from painter Del Curfman. (Courtesy The Artist/)
Hands-on With the Coe: 6 pm Thursday, Aug. 19 Free The Coe Center 1590 B Pacheco St., (505) 983-6372
Axle Contemporary: 5 pm Friday, Aug. 20 Railyard Shade Structure Free. 544 S Guadalupe St. axleart.com
Vital Spaces: 10 am-6 pm Saturday, Aug. 21 Free 220 Otero St., vitalspaces.org
Pathways Native Arts Festival: 9 am-5 pm Friday, Aug. 20 and Saturday, Aug. 21. 9 am-3 pm Sunday, Aug. 22. Free Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino 20 Buffalo Thunder Trail, poehcenter.org
99th Annual Indian Market: 8 am-5 pm Saturday, Aug. 21 and Sunday, Aug. 22 $15-$35 Santa Fe Plaza, 100 Old Santa Fe Trail. swaia.org