Santa Fe's Native American art market is cultural feast

Sun Aug 21, 2011 4:07pm EDT
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By Zelie Pollon

Santa Fe, New Mexico (Reuters) - Diego Romero, from New Mexico's Cochiti pueblo, spent months building pieces of pottery, melding traditional Native American art with his love of comic books to create a contemporary look at Indian culture.

Standing by his booth on a packed Santa Fe street, his thin, black hair tied in a braid down his back, and wearing shorts and sneakers, he showed a single shallow bowl with golden trim surrounding a painted image of corn dancers. A second bowl, an "historical piece" depicting the hanging of Native Americans by the conquering Spaniards, sold for $6,000 hours after it went on sale at the Santa Fe Indian market.

Romero said his highly sought after artwork chronicles time, history and human nature, integrating images of alcoholism, domestic abuse and exploitation of native culture, depicted like Greek mythical narratives embedded in clay.

"They're narratives of the human condition. We've all been in the bar with a broken heart, or broken down on the highway of life," he said.

The 47-year-old Berkeley-educated artist is one of more than 1,100 Native American artists gathered this weekend in Santa Fe for the largest Native arts market in the world. Produced by the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA), and considered the largest cultural event in the southwest, it brings together artists representing 100 U.S. Federally recognized tribes.

The event easily draws 100,000 visitors to Santa Fe's main square, including collectors, gallery owners, buyers and browsers from around the world, said Mark Trujillo, Indian Tourism program director for New Mexico.

First established in 1922 by the Museum of New Mexico as part of the Santa Fe Fiesta celebration, styles of artwork now include a range of jewelry, pottery, sculpture, baskets, paintings, wooden Kachina dolls, beadwork and more.

The emphasis is on quality and authenticity, said Association officials, citing its mission of bringing "Native arts to the world by inspiring artistic excellence, fostering education, and creating meaningful partnerships."   Continued...