In bloom

An over­view of We Are the Seeds

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO -

We’re Na­tive women and we have a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive. We wanted to cre­ate a show that was in­ti­mate, that was man­age­able and warm and invit­ing. — Tail­inh Agoyo

Indige­nous artists from across North Amer­ica con­vene in Santa Fe’s Rai­l­yard Park for We Are the Seeds: Art + Cul­ture + Fun, which runs Thurs­day through Satur­day, Aug. 17 to 19. This is We Are the Seeds’ in­au­gu­ral year, and an­tic­i­pa­tion for the new mar­ket and fam­i­lyfriendly fes­ti­val is high. Tchin, a sil­ver­smith of Nar­ra­gansett and Black­foot her­itage, is trav­el­ing to New Mex­ico from New Jersey for the event. He may well make the last leg of the jour­ney by city bus. “Last time I was in Santa Fe I heard peo­ple say­ing that Rai­l­yard Park was hard to get to,” he said. “But I was look­ing it up on­line. The #2 Cer­ril­los route stops right at the park — at Paseo de Peralta and Guadalupe streets.”

Tchin’s daugh­ter Tail­inh Agoyo is co-direc­tor of We Are the Seeds, along­side Paula Mira­bal (Taos Pue­blo). To­gether they have co­or­di­nated an art sale for about 100 artists from the United States and Canada as well as as­sorted demon­stra­tions, work­shops, and en­ter­tain­ment. Agoyo and Mira­bal have im­pres­sive ex­pe­ri­ence pro­duc­ing Na­tive art shows. Both worked for SWAIA Santa Fe In­dian Mar­ket be­fore leav­ing to work on the Indige­nous Fine Art Mar­ket (IFAM), which was held in Rai­l­yard Park from 2014 through 2016. They left that or­ga­ni­za­tion prior to the 2016 fes­ti­val in Santa Fe, run­ning an East Coast ver­sion of IFAM at the Mashan­tucket Pe­quot Mu­seum & Re­search Cen­ter in Con­necti­cut in May 2016. (IFAM hosts an in­door show­case at the Inn and Spa at Loretto on Satur­day and Sun­day, Aug. 18 and 19.) Agoyo and Mira­bal put Seeds to­gether at the re­quest of the Rai­l­yard Cor­po­ra­tion, which wanted to con­tinue host­ing a mar­ket for indige­nous artists and had con­fi­dence in the pair’s abil­ity to con­ceive a new show in less than one cal­en­dar year.

“I’m an artist; my fa­ther is an artist; I grew up in the art world. It was a lot to take on, and when they called last Au­gust, Paula and I re­ally had to think it over. But this is who I am,” Agoyo said. “Nine or ten months later, it’s all come to­gether. Do­ing the show it­self wasn’t a chal­lenge. The chal­lenge was to cre­ate a vi­able or­ga­ni­za­tion that is sus­tain­able and makes sense for us.” They have es­tab­lished a non­profit to sup­port the fes­ti­val, We Are the Seeds of Cul­tureTrust. The fes­ti­val is sup­ported by Cul­tureTrust Greater Philadel­phia, a char­i­ta­ble trust sup­port­ing di­verse cul­tural prac­tices in the Philadel­phia re­gion, where Agoyo now lives. Agoyo and Mira­bal’s vi­sion for the art show em­pha­sizes the role of el­ders and women in art-mak­ing tra­di­tions and is wel­com­ing of con­tem­po­rary art, street styles, and forms of cre­ative ex­pres­sion that col­lec­tors might not find at other In­dian art mar­kets.

“We’re Na­tive women and we have a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive. We wanted to cre­ate a show that was in­ti­mate, that was man­age­able and warm and invit­ing. Peo­ple will have the time and space to in­ter­act with the artists, re­ally learn about who they are and where they’re from, what their story is. We want Seeds to grow or­gan­i­cally. We’re start­ing off slow so we can nur­ture it into what it’s sup­posed to be,” Agoyo said.

We Are the Seeds be­gins on Wed­nes­day, Aug. 16, with a sun­set party in the park with DJ Brian Frejo. Mu­si­cal acts ap­pear on the Seeds stage through­out the fes­ti­val; per­form­ers in­clude Jen­nifer El­iz­a­beth

Kreis­berg, who sang at the Women’s March in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., in Jan­uary. With her son, Wakinyan Red­shirt, Kreis­berg leads a youth mu­sic work­shop on Satur­day, Aug. 19. Three bronze sculp­tures by famed Chir­ic­ahua Apache artist Al­lan Houser —

Anasazi, Em­brace, and Corn­grinder — will be un­veiled on Thurs­day, Aug. 17. The works, along with the sculp­tural in­stal­la­tion El­e­ment, by Tony Lee, Al­lan Houser’s as­sis­tant sculp­tor, are on dis­play as part of the Rai­l­yard Art Pro­ject un­til Fe­bru­ary 2018.

The Seeds art mar­ket in­cludes a pro­gram called Honor Women Art Share. Bas­ket weaver Sally Black (Diné), rug weaver Leona Bia (Diné), and pot­ter Brenda Hill (Tus­carora/Choctaw), join painter and doll maker Dawn Spears (Nar­ra­gansett/Choctaw) and painter J. Ni­cole Hat­field (Co­manche and Kiowa) in pre­sent­ing on­go­ing demon­stra­tions of their work at their booths. Spears, who is Hill’s sis­ter, will demon­strate how to cre­ate cus­tom-painted Con­verse Chuck Tay­lor All-Stars. Spears also leads youth art work­shops in shoe paint­ing on Thurs­day, Friday, and Satur­day.

“I am al­ways look­ing for ways to wear our art, dif­fer­ent ways for us to show our ex­pres­sion,” Spears said. She in­sisted that even chil­dren who do not con­sider them­selves cre­ative should come draw on shoes with her. She lives in Rhode Is­land and heads the North­east Indige­nous Arts Al­liance. She worked with Agoyo and Mira­bal on IFAM East and is pro­duc­ing the 2018 In­dian Mar­ket for the Abbe Mu­seum in Bar Har­bor, Maine. She grew up in an artis­tic house­hold and learned to draw at an early age. “I al­ways had a sketch­book,” she said. Her mother kept her stocked with art sup­plies, even af­ter she got mar­ried and moved away.

Though her cus­tom shoes are grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity, Spears is prob­a­bly best known for her corn-husk dolls. She got into mak­ing dolls when she was about twenty years old. “My mother was a pot­ter but she did what­ever kind of art she felt like at any given mo­ment, so you never knew what was go­ing to be her next thing. She told me to fo­cus on one thing and not dab­ble like she did, so I started mak­ing dolls and that’s one thing that I’ve con­tin­ued right along. I love mak­ing them. Some­times it will take me a year to make a doll and then it’s re­ally hard for me to part with it be­cause it be­comes a part of me. I made a doll for a friend’s daugh­ter and that doll came with me when I was work­ing. I took it all over — I think I even took it to Peru. When I fi­nally gave it to the per­son it was in­tended for, I told her that this doll has trav­eled.”

Seeds marks the first oc­ca­sion when Spears will be in Santa Fe with her sis­ter. She is ex­cited to be a part of the Honor Women pro­gram with Hill and ex­cited about the Seeds fes­ti­val in gen­eral, be­cause it gives her the op­por­tu­nity to show in Santa Fe, where indige­nous art is of­ten de­fined by what col­lec­tors see at SWAIA In­dian Mar­ket. “I don’t feel like I could ever get into SWAIA be­cause I’m not do­ing any­thing that fits un­der that um­brella,” she said. “Seeds gives some­one like me an op­por­tu­nity. The dif­fer­ence with Seeds is that this is Na­tive artists and Na­tive peo­ple pro­duc­ing the event in­stead of col­lec­tors, so it’s a whole dif­fer­ent frame­work.”

Seeds also high­lights the im­por­tance and con­tri­bu­tions of legacy artists — el­ders who have been par­tic­i­pat­ing in In­dian art mar­kets for decades and who have de­pended on these sales to sup­port their fam­i­lies. “They are our foun­da­tion,” Mira­bal said. “The things they made that they con­sid­ered util­i­tar­ian are part of the art world now, and they’ve been go­ing to Mar­ket since the trains first came to New Mex­ico. This is our way of hon­or­ing the older artists who have been part of the art world for all these many years.”

Legacy artists in­clude Tchin and Sally Black as well as Te­suque Pue­blo pot­ter, writer, and artist Bea Du­ran; sis­ter pot­ters Carmel Lewis Haskaya and Dolores Lewis Gar­cia from Acoma Pue­blo; and Acoma Pue­blo pot­ter Sharon Lewis, as well as her son Eric Lewis and grand­daugh­ter Te­hya Davis. “It is Na­tive Amer­i­can tra­di­tion to take care of our el­ders who took care of us in our youth,” said Tchin, who is sev­en­ty­one. “Even if we’ve moved on in terms of de­sign or in terms of our cul­tural ideas, we still need to re­spect and honor the peo­ple who came be­fore us. Just be­cause we’re old doesn’t mean we don’t have more to con­trib­ute and more to think about. As artists, we want to show our work and make a liv­ing — it doesn’t mat­ter if it’s SWAIA or Seeds or the Hous­ton art show. These art shows might be dif­fer­ent in their philoso­phies, but they are all plat­forms for us to get to­gether and show and sell our work.”

Tchin’s jew­elry de­signs are based on tra­di­tional sto­ries, “what peo­ple call leg­ends and myths,” he said. “I call them lessons be­cause they teach us so much. I base my work on that kind of stuff, and when I show you a piece of my jew­elry, I ex­plain it to you. I tell you the rea­son why I made it, what it rep­re­sents.” He wor­ries that younger artists do not al­ways un­der­stand the im­por­tance of sym­bol­ism and the ideas of the past. “It might be beau­ti­ful, but what does it mean? The el­ders un­der­stand the past; we un­der­stand what peo­ple have told us.”

At thirty-four, J. Ni­cole Hat­field is the youngest artist in­cluded in the Honor Women pro­gram. The self-taught painter from Apache, Ok­la­homa, has pre­vi­ously showed her work at IFAM. “When I found out about Seeds — that it was women form­ing that — I thought that was even bet­ter,” she said. “I’m so ex­cited to meet new peo­ple and see all the artists. I’d rather go look at their work all day than be at my booth.”

Hat­field started paint­ing when she was fif­teen. “I strug­gled with de­pres­sion and sui­cide, and so that was my way of get­ting all of those emo­tions out and be­ing able to heal my­self. Paint­ing is ther­a­peu­tic.” She works full-time to sup­port her fam­ily and she com­mits equal time to her art­work, so if she is at home, she is most likely in her stu­dio. Hat­field’s large, bold work is in­spired by the faces of tribal women from the past. Though she has dab­bled in print­mak­ing and other medi­ums, she finds it hard to tear her­self away from paint­ing long enough to de­vote time to other pur­suits. The only ad­di­tional dis­ci­pline she pines for is sil­ver­smithing, in­spired by her mem­o­ries of her grand­mother’s large col­lec­tion of sil­ver and turquoise jew­elry. The women in her fam­ily tended to­ward tex­tiles and bead­work, and though she is the only one who be­came part of the fine-art world, she said, her un­cles and cousins are all cre­ative and tal­ented as well. Be­cause paint­ing helped her so much when she was a teenager, Hat­field tries to in­spire younger artists by show­ing them a mod­ern aes­thetic through demon­stra­tions and work­shops.

“I want to keep art tra­di­tions alive,” she said. “I am at­tracted to graf­fiti and street styles, and those are the styles kids are at­tracted to. Some­times I try to in­cor­po­rate words in the Co­manche and Kiowa lan­guages into my pieces. I orig­i­nally did that so that I could learn and re­mem­ber a word, but it went from there to want­ing to en­cour­age the youth to learn a lan­guage.”

Paula Mira­bal

Tail­inh Agoyo

Dawn Spears Tchin J. Ni­cole Hat­field

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