some of ways. Even traditional works are contemporary in their vitality, vibrancy, use of color, texture and line.
And while the market celebrates the traditional, innovation also is on display. Every year brings “new artists and new interpretations alongside forms that go back generations,” says Dallin Maybee, CEO of the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts, the nonprofit that runs Indian Market.
Among the most popular recent additions is a fashion show, this year featuring Taos Pueblo’s Patricia Michaels, who demonstrated on “Project Runway” that Native design can be very much fashion forward. (Her works will be showing at Paris World Fashion Week at the Louvre in November.) “Native fashion is the original haute couture,” Maybee says. “Every piece is one of a kind and done by hand.”
For her part, Michaels says it took decades for her work to be accepted at the Santa Fe market. After years of knocking at the door, she staged a guerilla fashion show featuring flowered parasols made of tree branches, wrought iron, flower petals and elegant fabrics. She asked her models to pray as they paraded across the central plaza with their parasols. “I wanted to bring prayer to the market,” she says of her 2009 protest. “Pray for inspiration,” she told them, “for creativity, empowerment, female energy and pray for acceptance.”
Those prayers apparently were answered, because the following year she was invited to do another show, and today the annual fashion show is a market highlight. The $10 ticket for admission is one of the weekend’s best bargains. Also new to the event is IM:EDGE, a venue for contemporary works by Native artists, including digital art.
For first time visitors, it helps to know the market’s routines. Artists selected for the market may enter their best works in a juried competition. Judging takes place on Friday morning of market weekend with awards in 11 categories. Winning entries are announced at a luncheon that day and remain on display at Santa Fe’s convention center through Friday evening.
“Preview night is a great way to see the upper echelons of each classification and medium,” Maybee says. In fact it may be the only way, because museum curators and serious collectors are in line before dawn to snap up ribboned pieces when booth sales officially begin on the plaza at 7 a.m. on Saturday.
As for collecting, anyone can do it. “As you move around the market, you will hopefully find art forms in a variety of price points,” Maybee says. “Definitely collect what you like, what makes you happy enough to want to welcome the piece into your home where you can enjoy it for years to come.”
In the week preceding the market, a host of related events take place across the city. Concerts, dances, films, preview parties and panel discussions with artists and activists, gallery receptions and special museum exhibits are all part of the mix. Many events are free, but ticketed programs tend to sell out quickly.
Artists come from 230 U.S. and First Nation tribes. Joining the luminaries from New Mexico’s 19 pueblos are Kaska and Cree from the Yukon, Ingalik-athabascan from Alaska, Luiseno and Shoshone from California, Chippewa and Ottawa from the Great Lakes, Seneca from New York, Passamaquoddy from Maine and more.
“Nowhere else in the U.S. or Canada can you see so many nations in one place at one time,” Maybee says.
Marguerite Moritz is a writer and filmmaker who lives in Boulder.