It was hot. It was crowded. It was eventful. It was the granddaddy of local arts festivals, the 92nd annual Indian Market. “It was great, and it exceeded all my expectations,” John Torres-Nez, Southwestern Association for Indian Arts’ COO, tells SFR about his first experience at the helm.
Torres-Nez says Saturday and Sunday were “equally steady,” and though he won’t have a close estimation of the total number of visitors until an upcoming debriefing with the city’s fire marshal, by SWAIA’s own estimate, close to 150,000 people flooded the festival.
Sprawling 14 downtown city blocks, the market was filled with collectors admiring and purchasing traditional and contemporary wares from over 1,100 artists. Regarding the latter style, many artists—like Cochiti Pueblo potter Mary Ortiz and her rendition of Godzilla—shone. Arapaho/Seneca mixed-media artist Dallin Maybee brought it home with some SpongeBob-influenced tribal drums, and Kiowa/Choctaw painter Steven Paul Judd stood out with poppy riffs on his own childhood memories.
“Growing up, I never really got to see Natives in pop culture, but I was just like other kids—I liked pop culture stuff,” Judd says. “As I got older, I also started getting nostalgic for toys/TV shows/movies/comics from my childhood; so I would paint them with a Native twist to them.”
LEGO men, superheroes and Star Wars characters all fleck Judd’s work. Recently, he started receiving emails from females asking for their piece of the artistic pie as well, and so pieces like “PowWow Bear” were born.
“Since a lot of the stuff I made are also enjoyed by kids, I wanted to make sure I made some things that would speak to women/girls as well,” he says. “So I started thinking about things that my sister liked when we were kids, and Care Bears were one of the first things that came to mind.”
Equally colorful and poignant is Shonto Begay’s work.
“I live in this day of changes without and within all-abouts,” the Navajo artist says. “I cannot remove myself into a world cloistered in black-and-white photos of what used to be.”
His way of mediating the historic with the modern? Etch-A-Sketch art.
“Modern culture and its effects are everywhere, and I walk among it and call it mine, just as the pains of manifest destiny and the joy of my stewardship of the Earth is mine to own,” he affirms.
He considers the mechanical drawing toy his “original laptop,” and though it might be perceived as simplistic, he refers to the instruments as his “latter-day healing mandala, sandpaintings of the great nightways, blessingways and the enemyways.”