Maketh the Man

Pasatiempo - - FRONT PAGE - Paul Wei­de­man I The New Mex­i­can

Who would have t hought this young farm kid would be­come a suc­cess­ful fash­ion de­signer, in­clud­ing for Miss Ari­zona, who wore one of his dresses at t he Miss Amer­ica pageant in 1956?” Cu­ra­tor Tony Chavar­ria was talk­ing about the sub­ject of his ex­hi­bi­tion A New Cen­tury: The Life and Legacy of Chero­kee Artist and Ed­u­ca­tor Lloyd Kiva New. On dis­play at the Mu­seum of In­dian Arts & Cul­ture are New-de­signed leather hand­bags and daz­zlingly printed cloth­ing, as well as sketches, wa­ter­color stud­ies, archival doc­u­ments, and pho­to­graphs. Many of the items tell the story not of the fash­ion de­signer but of an im­pas­sioned ed­u­ca­tor, as New switched ca­reers in his early for­ties, at the height of suc­cess in the world of fash­ion in­no­va­tion.

A New Cen­tury is the se­cond of three ex­hi­bi­tions staged around the 100th an­niver­sary of New’s birth. The first was Lloyd Kiva New: Art, De­sign, and In­flu­ence, which opened at the Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Na­tive Art on Jan. 22. It fea­tures New fash­ions, his paint­ings from his per­sonal col­lec­tion, tex­tiles cre­ated by New’s stu­dents at the In­sti­tute of Amer­i­can In­dian Arts (IAIA), and an in­ter­pre­tive re­pro­duc­tion of his 1950s Scotts­dale show­room. The third show is Find­ing a Con­tem­po­rary Voice: The Legacy of Lloyd Kiva New and IAIA, open­ing May 20 at the New Mex­ico Mu­seum of Art. It show­cases art­work by for­mer and cur­rent IAIA alumni and fac­ulty, among them T.C. Cannon, Neil Par­sons, Fritz Scholder, Hul­leah J, Ts­inhnahjin­nie, Will Wil­son, and Me­lanie Yazzie.

The open­ing of A New Cen­tury on Sun­day, Feb. 14, in­cludes a panel dis­cus­sion with New’s widow, Ay­sen New, artist Dan Nam­ingha, and ed­u­ca­tor and his­to­rian Dave War­ren. Ay­sen New fa­cil­i­tated Chavar­ria’s re­search for A New Cen­tury with ac­cess to the mem­oirs of her hus­band, who died in Santa Fe in 2002. (IAIA plans to pub­lish the mem­oirs this year with the ti­tle The Sound of Drums.) Lloyd New was born in 1916 to a Chero­kee mother and a Scot­tish-Ir­ish father. “His jour­ney is sim­i­lar to that of the Chero­kee peo­ple,” Chavar­ria told Pasatiempo. “They had this mas­sive dis­lo­ca­tion that im­pacted the en­tire cul­ture, all of th­ese peo­ple hav­ing to move from the Caroli­nas to Ok­la­homa, an en­tirely new land. That led to loss

of cul­ture and an im­pact on lan­guage: They de­vel­oped a new syl­labary — ba­si­cally they adapted in or­der to sur­vive and ul­ti­mately thrive. In essence, thhat’s also what Lloyd did.”

New was raised on a hard­scrab­ble farm on his mother’s In­dian-land al­lot­ment in Tim­ber Hill, Ok­la­homa. The first seven years of his life were definned by the sea­sons and chores, as welll as by an im­pulse to do art. “His mot her sub­tly en­cour­aged him. He wou­uld gather clay from the river­banks aand make lit­tle fig­urines and she wou­uld bake them in the oven.” His artis­tic in­ter­est sashayed into fash­ion af­terr he re­lo­cated to Tulsa to live with his older sis­ter, Nancy. The move was made to give the boy ac­cess to a bet­ter education, and while he was there, herh love of fine clothes rubbed off on him.

An im­por­tant next step in his ca­reer, en­rolling in the Art In­sti­tute of Chicago, was pos­si­ble be­cause his mother told him to aim high. “If he wanted to go to an art school, ap­ply to the best ones,” Chavar­ria said. Af­ter the young man se­cured fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance from the Bureau of In­dian Affairs (BIA) of­fice in Ok­mul­gee, Ok­la­homa, he found him­self in the big city. At one point, doubts and anx­i­eties — in­clud­ing his girl­friend back home mar­ry­ing an­other man — made him con­sider drop­ping out. That didn’t hap­pen, with the help of some harsh coun­sel­ing from the head of the in­sti­tute’s art education depart­ment, and he ended up grad­u­at­ing with a de­gree in art education in 1938.

New’s next move was to Ari­zona, where he was em­ployed at reser­va­tion schools teach­ing art. “While he was there, he saw what he per­ceived as a strong de­cline in Na­tive arts. In that re­gion, you had the clas­sic bas­ket-mak­ers, the Apache and the Pai groups — the Yava­pai and Hava­su­pai and Wala­pai — and the tra­di­tion was in steep de­cline. And the way stu­dents were be­ing taught art was more like craft and not some­thing they could make a liv­ing at.”

He was try­ing to come up with a strat­egy to do some­thing about this sit­u­a­tion, but was in­ter­rupted by World War II. One dra­matic ar­ti­fact pre­sented in

A New Cen­tury is a wa­ter­color sketch New made in Fe­bru­ary 1945. Act­ing within his U.S. Navy mil­i­tary oc­cu­pa­tional spe­cialty as an artist, he made sketches from the deck of his at­tack trans­port craft, the USS

San­born, in­clud­ing one show­ing the Amer­i­can in­va­sion of Iwo Jima.

Af­ter the war, he started work­ing in leather and set up a bou­tique in Scotts­dale. In this pe­riod, a bene­fac­tor sug­gested he needed a brand and he be­came Lloyd Kiva New. His line of leather hand­bags was so suc­cess­ful that the term “Kiva bags” ap­peared in the na­tional press. “They were in­spired by Navajo medicine pouches, and he melded that with a handbag de­sign of his own cre­ation,” Chavar­ria said. “They were enor­mously pop­u­lar with the well-heeled of Scotts­dale and else­where. They were evoca­tive of the area but weren’t spe­cific enough that they could only be used in that area, like a fringe jacket.”

The Navajo pouches were an in­spi­ra­tion, but New was al­ways care­ful about com­mer­cial­iz­ing ob­jects of spe­cial im­port to tribes. “He hired lo­cal artists to help him with his de­signs, and one of the prom­i­nent ones was Charles Loloma. If any­one would know about those bound­aries, it would be him. He was a tra­di­tional Hopi, and he knew what was ap­pro­pri­ate and what was not.” New also moved into de­sign­ing gar­ments. Af­ter his first shop burned, he opened the Kiva Craft Cen­ter in Scotts­dale in 1954. This was a retail space for his fash­ion de­signs and for works by other ar­ti­sans and de­sign­ers. Two of the first were Charles and Otel­lie Loloma, who opened a pot­tery stu­dio there. In 1960 and 1961, New and Charles Loloma teamed up to di­rect ac­tiv­i­ties at a Rock­e­feller Foun­da­tion-spon­sored en­deavor, the South­west In­dian Art Pro­ject at the Univer­sity of Ari­zona. It was in the fol­low­ing year that New walked away from his fash­ion busi­ness and moved to Santa Fe to be­come the first art di­rec­tor at the In­sti­tute of Amer­i­can In­dian Arts.

“There was an As­so­ci­a­tion on Amer­i­can In­dian Affairs, and the mem­bers were con­cerned about the state of Na­tive art and cul­ture — they wrote a let­ter to the BIA that some­thing had to be donne,” MIAC di­rec­tor Della War­rior said. “The peo­ple were mak­ing [ob­jects] morre like trin­kets, and there was a real need to nur­ture and grow the arts. So the Depart­ment of the In­te­rior set up the IAIA as a high school pro­gram at Santa Fe In­dian School. They hired Dr. Ge­orge Boyce and he hired New and he brought in the Lolo­mas and Fritz Scholder and Al­lan Houser, all of the artists he had worked with.” New was pro­pelled by a de­sire not only to res­cue Na­tive art from its tra­jec­tory into ba­nal­ity but also to help Na­tive stu­dents who wanted to be artists. “And he said not ev­ery­body cann be a fine artist, but they could get in­too culi­nary arts or per­form­ing arts,” War­rrior said. “He wanted to es­tab­lish thatt there are many ways a stu­dent can makke a liv­ing.”

His idea that art could be tran­for­ma­tional for Na­tive peo­ple was quoted by Wal­ter Richard West Jr. — di­rec­tor of the Smithsonian In­sti­tu­tion’s Na­tional Mu­seum of the Amer­i­can In­dian in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. — in a New York Times obit­u­ary. The Chero­kee ed­u­ca­tor “lib­er­ated Na­tive artists,” West said. “He felt that the tra­di­tion should serve as the ba­sis for con­tem­po­rary Na­tive artists to flex their imag­i­na­tion and cre­ativ­ity.”

New went on to serve as IAIA di­rec­tor from 1967 un­til he re­tired in 1978. In the new mil­len­nium, he was in­volved in the es­tab­lish­ment of the Na­tional Mu­seum of the Amer­i­can In­dian and two years be­fore his death, he was pre­sented with an hon­orary doc­tor­ate by the Art In­sti­tute of Chicago.

“When I look at Lloyd New and his con­tri­bu­tion, what’s so im­por­tant is when you look at In­dian art to­day,” War­rior said. “By Sun­day dur­ing In­dian Mar­ket I’m just kind of over­whelmed by the beauty of it all, and what was Na­tive art like 50 years ago? It wasn’t flour­ish­ing like it is now; it was dy­ing. When I was at IAIA dur­ing the hard times in the late 1990s, to try to keep the school open, I in­ter­viewed alumni and al­most ev­ery one of them said at­tend­ing the in­sti­tute was a life-chang­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and that they didn’t know what they would have be­come if they didn’t study there. The school has played a tremen­dous role in the evo­lu­tion of In­dian art but Lloyd re­ally shaped and molded what that cur­ricu­lum was and he gave of his in­ner self to those stu­dents.”

Lloyd Kiva New in his stu­dio, circa 1954 Top to bot­tom, fash­ions by Lloyd Kiva New, pho­tos Kitty Leaken; op­po­site page, var­i­ous fab­ric de­signs by New; all im­ages cour­tesy Mu­seum of In­dian Arts & Cul­ture

Lloyd Kiva New: Wa­ter­color sketch of 1945 in­va­sion of Iwo Jima; below, back, “Kiva” bag, front, Or­lando Dugi bag, pho­tos Kitty Leaken

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