Art in R w New Di­rec­tions, an ex­hi­bi­tion of works by Dan, Arlo, and Michael Nam­ingha

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A sprawl­ing paint­ing — al­most 10 feet across — in rosy pink and cerulean by Dan Nam­ingha hangs at the Buf­falo Thun­der Re­sort and Casino; a South­west­ern land­scape pho­to­graph by Michael Nam­ingha, over­laid with the words Mañana Time, adorns a wall of the Com­pound’s chic bar; tucked among the cacti and flow­er­ing trees of the Santa Fe Botan­i­cal Gar­den is Arlo Nam­ingha’s nearly life-size bronze fe­male fig­ure, her curved, loosely ab­stracted body glow­ing with a deep brown patina. There’s no get­ting around it: The Nam­ing­has are a ubiq­ui­tous part of New Mexico’s vis­ual-arts land­scape, and the nexus of their em­pire is Ni­man Fine Art, the el­e­gant, 25-year-old gallery on down­town Santa Fe’s Lin­coln Av­enue. Though the gallery shows work by emerg­ing artists, for the most part, it acts as a show­room for Dan and his two sons, Arlo and Michael. The gallery’s latest ex­hi­bi­tion, New

Di­rec­tions, ef­fects an im­pres­sive and var­ied look at the Nam­ing­has’ new works in a range of media.

The three Nam­ing­has can trace their lin­eage back to Tewa-Hopi pot­ter Nam­peyo (circa 1865-1942), whose prac­tice of blend­ing tra­di­tional in­dige­nous de­signs with in­no­va­tive el­e­ments rev­o­lu­tion­ized Hopi pot­tery as we know it — and made her a hugely col­lected and ad­mired artist. Nam­peyo was born in the Ari­zona Tewa vil­lage of Hano, near Sikyátki, an an­cient city that thrived un­til it was aban­doned around 1500. Nearly four hun­dred years later, in 1895, it was ex­ca­vated by rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Smith­so­nian In­sti­tute, re­veal­ing thou­sands of ar­ti­facts and pot­tery sherds — and piquing the in­ter­est of Nam­peyo, who vis­ited the site and was inspired to in­cor­po­rate an­cient tech­niques, pat­terns, and fig­ures into the pot­tery prac­tice her grand­mother taught her. This drive to blend mod­ern and an­ces­tral styles con­tin­ues to in­spire the Nam­ingha fam­ily. For decades, Dan says he has in­cor­po­rated Nam­peyo de­signs into his paint­ings. “What I love about her work,” ex­plained Dan, “is the fact that she ex­per­i­mented with [Sikyátki] pot sherds, elab­o­rat­ing on old de­signs to take her own work fur­ther.” Dan’s latest paint­ings in­clude both fig­u­ra­tive and ab­stracted styles, re­sult­ing in far-reach­ing and mus­cu­lar se­ries that act as tes­ta­ment to an artist who is as mul­ti­fac­eted as he is pro­lific. His acrylic on can­vas Sol­stice #19

con­tains cir­cu­lar mazes, jagged lines and squig­gles set against a pal­ette of earthy, el­e­men­tal col­ors. A cen­tral square of fuzzy yel­low-gray, dom­i­nated by a bril­liant golden orb, is sur­rounded by sym­bols and shapes in com­ple­men­tary shades of or­ange, pale blue, and black. It feels tal­is­manic, mys­te­ri­ous — bor­dered by bands of gold, turquoise, and blue. Moun­tain Dusk #1, with its rad­i­cal, Cream­si­cle-or­ange sky and gen­tly slop­ing, moun­tain­ous hori­zon, is a loosely fig­u­ra­tive land­scape. A snake-like streak of clouds un­du­lates above the moun­tains — a strangely har­mo­nious coun­ter­part to jagged streaks of pale yel­low and whis­pery peach be­low. Its haunting, rich con­trasts and un­pre­dictable, wildly col­ored skies are un­mis­tak­ably South­west­ern.

Arlo has said that his tac­tile, mul­ti­part stone sculp­tures are inspired at least in part by pot­tery sherds — ref­er­enc­ing not just Nam­peyo, but also his grand­mother Dex­tra Quot­skuyva Nam­peyo (born in 1928), a ce­ram­i­cist who in­ter­prets an­cient mo­tifs through a mod­ern lens. Arlo’s sculp­ture ranges from starkly nonob­jec­tive to mys­ti­cally sym­bolic, and his most re­cent works con­tain mul­ti­ple parts that can be ar­ranged ac­cord­ing to the viewer’s whim. In Shift #1, four beige, ever-so-slightly-slanted stones are al­most uni­formly smooth to the touch, save a rough patch on one side: gen­tly tex­tured strips that act as a sort of Vel­cro, which cre­ates just enough fric­tion so two pieces can be “joined” in a va­ri­ety of pos­si­ble ar­range­ments. This means the four in­di­vid­ual pieces of stone can be ma­nip­u­lated into a solid rec­tan­gu­lar unit; a set of two ver­ti­cally ori­ented col­umns; or even a henge-like row, af­ford­ing a mar­velously tac­tile ex­pe­ri­ence, and also prod­ding the viewer to ex­am­ine the in­ter­play be­tween neg­a­tive and pos­i­tive space. Arlo said that his art­work “re­flects my back­ground and cul­ture, but also my ex­pe­ri­ences. How­ever min­i­mal, my work of­ten re­lates to my Tewa and Hopi cul­ture.”

Arlo’s younger brother Michael ini­tially stud­ied ar­chi­tec­ture at Par­sons School of De­sign in New York, be­fore mov­ing into fash­ion de­sign, and ul­ti­mately re­turn­ing to Santa Fe to fo­cus on vis­ual art. In sev­eral of his new pho­to­graphs, bright bands of light rest­lessly zip across the cir­cu­lar sur­face of the com­po­si­tion. In other pieces, Michael uses text in a straight­for­wardly graphic way. In YES, a bold white sans-serif ver­sion of that word is turned side­ways and in­ward onto a per­fect re­flec­tion of it­self. In­trigu­ingly, these ul­tra-mod­ern-look­ing works were in fact inspired by Nam­peyo. “I was at the Metropoli­tan Mu­seum of Art re­cently and saw one of her large pieces of pot­tery on dis­play,” Michael said, “but hang­ing next to it was a paint­ing of Christ by Salvador Dalí. I loved that jux­ta­po­si­tion be­tween the two pieces. I re­turned home and be­gan to play with new word pair­ings.”

What’s it like to be part of this bound­lessly cre­ative fam­ily? Ac­cord­ing to Arlo, “Hav­ing our own gallery space al­lows each of us to ex­plore our own in­di­vid­ual ideas, and each time we cre­ate a new body of work, it seems to work well to­gether.” Michael agreed, adding, “Vis­ually, we all use the land­scape; Arlo in­ter­prets it in stone, wood, and bronze, and my dad uses land­scape in his paint­ings. I see land­scape in my pho­to­graphs, some­times de­pict­ing our cul­tural land­scape with text-based, so­cial com­men­tary pieces.” What­ever the in­spi­ra­tion, it’s safe to say that the in­no­va­tive, re­fined art­works of Dan, Arlo, and Michael Nam­ingha suc­ceed in myr­iad ways, joined al­chem­i­cally and time­lessly as a uni­fied, yet ut­terly in­di­vid­u­al­ized set of ideas. — Iris McLis­ter

Left, Arlo Nam­ingha: Shift #1, In­di­ana lime­stone, 2015 Right, top, Michael Nam­ingha: YES, 2015; right, bot­tom,

NO, 2015, archival pig­ment print on pa­per Op­po­site page, Dan Nam­ingha: Moun­tain Dusk #1, 2015, acrylic on can­vas

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