Music and art, southwest style

Story & Photos By Sandra Hale Schulman
Santa Fe, New Mexico (NFIC) 9-08

Santa Fe Indian Market 2008

Best of show: Sheldon Harvey, Paintin

The classiest, largest, and most stylish Indian market in the world, this year’s Santa Fe Indian Market was as hot as a Hatch green chile. It was pretty cool too, if you happened to get caught in the sudden hail storm that ended the market early on Sunday afternoon.

Bring together 1,200 artists from about 100 tribes who show their work in over 600 booths and you get an estimated 100,000 visitors to Santa Fe from all over the world. Buyers, collectors and gallery owners come to Indian Market to take advantage of the opportunity to buy directly from the artists. For many visitors, this is a rare opportunity to meet the artists and learn about contemporary Indian arts and cultures. First class quality is the hallmark of the Santa Fe Indian Market.

Yes the art is incredible, and more than any one person could possibly absorb in two days. But many other events in and around town vie for equal billing. The 14th Annual Native Roots & Rhythms had some serious star power this year with headliner Buffy Sainte Marie showcasing songs from her upcoming album “Running for the Drum,” produced by Chris Birkett (producer of her critically acclaimed 1992 and 1996 “Best of” albums). Sessions for this latest project commenced in 2006 in Buffy’s home studio in Hawaii and partly in France.

Another significant CD release due in 2008 is a 2 CD set that digitally debuts Buffy’s three obscure studio albums that she recorded for ABC Records and MCA Records between 1974 and 1976 (after departing her long-time label Vanguard Records). The CD re-issue of the songs from these lushly orchestrated and emotive albums will act as the missing jigsaw piece to Buffy’s back catalogue. The new CD set is titled “Buffy/Changing Woman/Sweet America: The Mid-1970s Recordings.”

Buffy Sainte Marie
Buffy played a too short, electrifying set with backing vocal help from Sony and Jennifer of Ulali. Her trademark vibrato set the audiences hair on end, and her outspoken political and spiritual beliefs shone through.

While many artists come from out of town, Santa Fe is home to some of the best. Stan Natchez is a longtime favorite, his eye-popping colorful canvases and beaded objects hang daily in his sweeping second floor studio gallery located right around the corner from the Contemporary Art Museum and gorgeous church. A star-studded reception Saturday afternoon brought out dozens of locals and visitors.

Natchez, an artist with high intellect and sardonic wit, is a former art history teacher and magazine editor who delights in entertaining and challenging his audiences.

“You see this Pepsi bottle cap?” Stan asks, gesturing to the Warholesque painting behind him. “I’m painting the life I live in. Just because we’re Indian, it doesn’t mean we don’t drink Pepsi or have MTV at home. We’re modern. Everybody thinks we live in tipis, but we don’t live in the old times. [In this painting] the Pepsi bottle cap represents the world we live in, and the Indian on the horse represents Native culture. It’s really important to keep our culture, because we live in a time of X-box and Nintendo, so it’s easy sometimes to forget that you’re Indian.”

Another common theme is the dollar bill, which is printed on his business card.  “Well,” Natchez explains, “when I paint the dollar bill, I’m saying that the dollar bill is a symbol of the world we live in. When you go to the store, what do you need to buy something? You need money, right? In the 1700s and 1800s Indians painted on deerskin, buffalo or elk hides. And if you wanted something, hides were your money. So the modern-day hide is the dollar bill.”

Natchez took a circuitous route to successful, full-time artist. His dad, an intellectual, authored a book on the connections between Jungian and Native American symbolism. Growing up in the Valley, Natchez was a self-described “creative” student who didn’t always stay between the lines at San Fernando High School. He went on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He then taught humanities at the Orme School, an Arizona college preparatory school on a 26,000-acre working ranch, for 10 years. Later, he served as an editor at Native Peoples magazine. All along, he painted, but it was his other education that gave him the spiritual voice that would launch his art career to the next level.

Keith Secola (far left) and Gary Farmer (far right) performing at this years Santa Fe Indian Market.
“In the white man’s world, if you want to get education, you go to college,” Natchez says. “In the Indian way, if you want to get knowledge, you go through ceremonies. I am a California Indian and all our ceremonies are gone. But I was fortunate enough to travel throughout the United States and meet people who lived in tribes that had ceremonies and invited me in.”

Inspired by Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and other Pop artists, his paintings pulsate with the power of color and familiar objects. The artist often starts his canvases with artifacts of American culture that either directly or indirectly reflect Indians: an 1866 Harper’s Weekly cover depicting Native Americans; broken treaties between the U.S. government and tribes; buffalo herds. Then he includes figures such as Native Americans, mission priests and cowboys. Intricate “stars and stripes” beadwork add texture and visceral interest.

More music muscled it’s way into the Market Saturday night as The Seminole Tribe of Florida held a private show in the basement of popular dive bar Evangelos. Heating up the low ceiling joint were Grammy winner Bill Miller, who sang some wonderful covers like the Rolling Stones “Wild Horses,” and had jaws dropping at his frenetic guitar work and wailing country/folk/Indian voice. Backing Miller were Micki Free, Shea, and Jon Brant.

Next up were longtime friends Keith Secola and Gary Farmer. Secola was really “on” and had the place in hysterics as he riffed on The Frybread Refirmation Act that sent Indians on the Trail of Grease. Big man Farmer wailed on his tiny harmonica, smiling and chanting the whole set.

 Bill Miller

Invited guests included handsome actor Michael Horse who stuck to the back of the bar all night, the ubiquitous Wes Studi, and Michael Smith, head honcho of the American Indian Film Institute in San Francisco who told us of his plans to honor the late, great Floyd Westerman at his annual film festival in November.

Sunday found the Seminoles in a generous mood, giving away an electric guitar and a weekend stay at their Hollywood, FL, casino hotel during a presentation at the Hilton Hotel.

Art lovers wandered out into the Plaza for one last look for art bargains, but a vicious hail storm chased everyone away early. Maybe even the spirits had visual overload.

The Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA) is proud to announce the Best of Classification and Best of Show Awards. The 2008 awards are as follows:



Best of show: Sheldon Harvey, Painting

Best of Classification:

I. Jewelry: Rebecca Begay

II. Pottery: Linda Tafoya-Sanchez

III. Painting: Sheldon Harvey

IV. Wooden Pueblo Carving:

Robert Albert

V. Sculpture: Sheldon Harvey

VI. Textiles & Basketry:

Mona Laughing

VII. Diverse Arts: Jamie Okuma

VIII. Quillwork & Beadwork:

Juanita Growing Thunder

IX. Youth: Trent Lee