Celebrated as the largest and most prestigious inter-tribal fine art market in the world, the Santa Fe Indian Market – with over 1,000 of the best Native artists, craftspersons, and designers – has come and gone.
But the beauty and artistry remains in our hearts and minds. In celebration of those great Native artisans, here are eight great artists from the Indian Market you should know about.
Kim Seyesnem Obrzut (Hopi)
Obrzut casts matriarchal values in bronze. Her bronze sculptures of Hopi women have no eyes, noses, mouths or ears in their representation of the graceful female form casted in the lost-wax method. “While my work is very contemporary, it is also steeped in spiritual and symbolic content. The forms, the design, were never planned. All of it is original; it was given to me.”
Vanessa Paukeigope Jennings (Kiowa/Apache/Gila River Pima)
Jennings, one of the few artists who still brain-tans her own hides, is generally recognized as the last cradleboard maker among her Kiowa people. The National Endowment for the Arts awarded her the National Heritage Fellowship in 1989 – a lifetime honor presented to master folk and traditional artists, and the United States’ highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. That automatically qualified her as a Living National Treasure. .
Autumn Borts-Medlock (Santa Clara Pueblo)
Autumn Borts-Medlock has won numerous awards for her pottery at Santa Fe Indian Market, and her work is in the permanent collections of the Denver Art Museum and the Heard Museum in Phoenix. All of her pieces are characterized by intricate carving, beautiful polish, and multi-colored slips that give her work unique dimension. “Pottery ties me to an ancient tradition,” she says.
Cody Sanderson (Navajo)
Sanderson’s award-winning silver jewelry frequently involves hand-fabricating techniques such as bending, forging, casting, and stamping. He says he loves the challenge of doing something different. Sanderson says he is inspired by his surroundings, and uses traditional Navajo techniques to create an aesthetic that is contemporary yet authentic.
Gilbert “Eagle” Herrera (Cochiti Pueblo)
Gilbert “Eagle” Herrera is a fourth-generation drum maker who learned the art from his father at age 10. He is sensitive to the tradition carried on by the elders of the tribe. The careful selection from fallen aspen trees above 9,000 feet in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico provides the raw material for his drums and wood sculptures. He and his father also teach the process of drum making.
Arthur Menchego (Santa Ana Pueblo)
Menchego’s signature paintings feature strong figures in their traditional regalia. His work includes oil paintings on linen, watercolors and pencil drawings. He has spent his whole life at Tamaya (Santa Ana Pueblo), and his birth name is “Ka Whe Tewa,” which translates to “where there is snow.” Another important theme in his detailed artwork is the alliance between man and wildlife, with emphasis on the eagle and the bear.
Cliff Fragua (Jemez Pueblo)
Fragua is a master sculptor who has learned the secret of stone through his cultural and ancestral teachings. His work shows a deep understanding of the inherent spirituality of the stone. His rendition of Pueblo legend Po’pay was chosen to represent the State of New Mexico in the Statuary Hall in Washington D.C. in 2005.
Adrian Nasafotie (Hopi)
Adrian Nasafotie, a kachina-themed woodcarver, was awarded Best of Show at this year’s Santa Fe Indian Market. His winning piece is a complex and colorful hand painted carving of an eagle dancer with other figures on the base. For 25 years, he has been carving wooden kachinas that feature cultural and spiritual elements of the Hopi tribe. “The eagle in Hopi culture is ruler of the skies and represents strength and power,” he says.