Heard @ The Heard 2010: Veronica Poblano Zuni Artist Keeping to Tradition with Boldness and Contemporary Style

“When you are an artist, you create from your mind…and that’s how we do…everything that I create is one of a kind.”—Zuni artist, Veronica Poblano
To discriminating Native American jewelry collectors, the name Veronica Poblano is synonymous with bold style, impeccable quality and master craftsmanship. The artist, a native of Zuni Pueblo in New Mexico, is the daughter of late legendary Zuni fetish carver and jewelry maker Leo Poblano. While Veronica was always privy to her father’s discussions about jewelry-making, she learned basic lapidary work from her mother, and is a self-taught jewelry designer as well as a table sculpture and fetish carver. Veronica is the matriarch of a family in which every member is a star in his or her own right—from son Dylan Poblano, to daughter and son-in-law Jovanna Poblano and Daniel Chattin.
I first met Veronica and her son Dylan at Andrews Pueblo Pottery and Art Gallery back in February. They had just returned from a showing of their work at an event at the Bryant Park Hotel Loft during the prestigious New York Fashion Week. I was impressed at how down-to-earth and open both she and Dylan were. We made plans in advance for me to come by their booth at the 2010 Heard Museum Guild’s Indian Fair and Market to speak with Veronica about her family’s rich artisan history, her work as a contemporary Native American artist and how she has passed that ability and interest down to her children.
This was, perhaps, one of my favorite interviews that I did at the Heard Museum because Veronica felt comfortable enough to truly speak candidly about her father, her views on art, and her family’s legacy. Whether you are a fan of Zuni jewelry or fetishes, or both, please check out my video interview with Veronica Poblano HERE.

Heard @ The Heard 2010: New Takes on Old Designs with Zuni Fetish Carver and Sculptor Troy Sice

Over the last year, I have spent a great deal of time getting to know the people at Andrews Pueblo Pottery and Art Gallery in Old Town in Albuquerque. Not only have they taught me a lot about Native American pottery, they have instructed me on the basics of many other forms of Native art, including Zuni fetishes.
Whether you refer to Zuni animal and corn maiden figures as “fetishes,” which points to their religious connotation in the Zuni belief system, or you prefer to call them “carvings,” more along the lines of contemporary Native art, what is true is that they are beautiful, full of wonderful energy and are a testament to the skill level of their creators. Some collectors prefer highly detailed and realistic carvings, while others choose their more simplistic counterparts. It is believed that the less a fetish’s natural material has been altered in the creation of it, the more likely it is to hold its power or grow in intensity.
One of the most well-known Zuni fetish carvers these days is Troy Sice. His skill-level in carving elk antler into marvelous works is unparalleled. His style, brings an ancient Zuni tradition forward to the present, and he is making it all his own. Of course, Sice has been influenced by some tremendous carvers in his family, including his grandfather George H. Chee and his half-bother Colvin Peina, as well as his uncles Ramie and Miguel Haloo.  In the 1970s, Ramie and Miguel first created standing bears made of deer antler.  Sice has taken this old design and spruced it up with varied facial expressions, and the addition of inlaid turqoise and coral to depict necklaces.  While Sice is currently learning silversmithing to be able to incorporate his carving work into jewelry, his singing and dancing bear and corn maiden sculptures, as well as his Nativity scenes, have become favorites of collectors around the world…and mine too!
Troy was gracious enough to let me interview him during a quiet moment at his table at the 2010 Heard Museum Guild’s Indian Fair and Market. Get to know Troy HERE.

Heard @ The Heard 2010: Dominique Toya Making Jemez Pueblo Pottery Anything But Ordinary

“Now, I’m to the point where every pot has to be perfect, or else it’s not presentable.”–Dominique Toya, Jemez Pueblo potter
It’s hard not to like Jemez Pueblo pottery. I have more of it than from any other pueblo in New Mexico, mostly because it finds me, but also because I find they give me a lot of joy, just like all my Jemez “extended family” and friends do. Jemez is home to many potters, who work in a variety of styles, and are constantly creating their own new style. They are masters at finding something that will appeal to the collector. Fortunately for all collectors—from the wealthy seasoned ones, to the budget-conscious novice– there is a price point for everyone!
Dominique Toya, who has been creating pottery since the age of 5 is a master potter. Her goal is to ensure that her own work gets better every day. Of course it doesn’t hurt that Dominique comes from a family of some of the best pueblo potters, including her mother, Maxine Toya, aunt, Laura Gachupin and grandmother, Marie Romero.
Dominique, who won “Best of Class” for her swirl vase at the 2009 SWAIA Indian Market, is credited with bringing her unique micaceous slip swirl pots to the forefront of the Jemez pottery tradition. Collectors have been taking notice, and prices for these works are steadily rising.  Dominique owes her inspiration to create the swirl pots to veteran Santa Clara potter Nancy Youngblood. Some try to imitate Dominique’s pots, but when you have had the opportunity to handle one and see the skill and detail that goes into one, you will immediately be able to identify the real McCoy.
Just prior to the Heard Museum Guild’s Indian Fair and Market this year, I ran into Dominique at Andrews Pueblo Pottery and Art Gallery, who showed me pictures of the unfinished pot that she and Santa Clara potter Jody Naranjo were collaborating on for the show’s judging. Initially, the vessel, which is a very large swirl vase, was going to contain circles on all sides featuring the faces of famous potters. I was told by both artists that the Jemez clay was too soft for the faces to be effectively carved into the pot, which the two later titled “Double Insanity.” The two are hoping to collaborate on another similar idea utilizing Santa Clara clay, which will give the sgraffito work more clarity.
In the meantime, “Double Insanity” made its way to the judging table at the Heard. And while it didn’t win an award, it is quite interesting, and most importantly, represents the first collaboration of Toya and Naranjo, who have been friends for many years.  They are currently in talks about working on a couple of projects together.
I had the chance to speak with Dominique on camera about the joint work at the 2010 Heard Museum Guild’s Indian Fair and Market. Check out what she had to say HERE.

Heard @ The Heard 2010: Getting the Inside Scoop on Seriagraph-Making with Coast Salish Artist Peter Boome

I have been an artist since I could pick up a Crayon and draw on the wall…I can’t remember ever not creating.”— Peter Boome, Coast Salish artist

Get me near Northwest Coast First Peoples’ art and I immediately become excited. Forget that I’m from the Northwest and forget that it was the first type of indigenous art that made me realize there was art outside of the performing world. First, it was the masks that attracted me, then it was sculpture, and then I became interested in handmade Northwest Coast jewelry.  In the last couple of years, I have been enjoying seriagraphs, which are hand-done screen prints. While the drama and the detailed work of the Northwest Coast tribal mask appealed to my senses, these beautiful hand-printed pieces are equally labor-intensive to create and dramatic.
Upon arriving in the Southwest, in an effort to learn more about my environs, I refocused my eye more on art of the pueblos in the Albuquerque and Santa Fe region. Having lived in New York between stints in the Pacific Northwest and now New Mexico, it never occurred to me that these two distinct art worlds would be so interconnected. It has been wonderful to go to SWAIA Indian Market and the Heard Museum Guild’s Indian Fair and Market and feel like I’m home by meeting Northwest Coast and Alaskan artists.
Peter Boome, currently a resident of University Place, Washington, is a member of the Upper Skagit Tribe and works in the Coast Salish style. Now a law student and a father of four, Boome focuses most of his time these days on his seriagraphs rather than on carving. There are many Northwest Coast artists working with seriagraphs, but, in my opinion, Boome creates some of the most beautiful Northwest Coast images I have ever seen.
With the rising costs involved with making and selling original art, Boome and his wife Lois formed their company (Araquin, also the name of their son) with the idea of creating high-quality art in larger numbers that people could actually afford.
Boome uses a hand-drawn stencil and then layers colors to create the desired effect for his seriagraphs. The artist stays true to his culture by depicting only images derived from his region, but if he hears a particular story that appeals to him, he is likely to tell it in his own way through art.
Peter Boome was kind enough to let me shoot some images and talk briefly to me about his work at the 2010 Heard Museum Guild’s Indian Fair and Market. Watch the video HERE.

Heard @ The Heard 2010: Darryl Growing Thunder & Chris Pappan–Two Perspectives on Ledger Art

With my arrival to New Mexico came my awareness of Native American ledger art.  I have to admit that as a fan of jewelry and pottery, my eyes had not quite been opened to really “seeing” ledger art.  To me, it seemed nothing more than color pencil drawings on lined paper–the kind I remembered from my time working as an office temp in “the old days.” 
A trip to Santa Fe last November changed all that.  The same day I covered the opening of Zuni visual artist Silvester Hustito’s new gallery Fire God on Santa Fe’s historic plaza, was the same day that I visited a well known gallery on Canyon Road that was home to a variety of ledger art pieces.  As a newbie to Native American art collecting, that trip made all the difference in the world in terms of educating my art palette and helping me to appreciate ledger art in a new way.  Lucky for me the gallery director was kind enough to explain to me that ledger art, in spite of its contemporary look, actually goes back to the beginning of the 20th Century.  To be honest, I couldn’t tell the difference between the early pieces and the newer ones.
The director and I also talked about the fact that she prefers when today’s ledger artists depict modern themes–the ones who opt to portray Indians on bicycles and cars instead of chiefs hunting buffalo and more traditional images.  One of her favorite things to do, she said, is to tease artists by asking them “When did you last hunt a buffalo?”  Pretty hilarious!
That said, there are many traditionalists out there and they stand firm to keeping history alive.  I like both the traditional and the contemporary.  They both provide glimpses into the Native American experience–the emotions, and that sharp, dry Native American wit–and they honor their people as they were and how they have become.
The Fire God opening was the first time I had seen contemporary ledger art by Chicago-resident Chris Pappan.  I was absolutely blown away by his talent and perspective.  Pappan takes the stance that he is ushering ledger art into a new era.  What is fascinating is that Pappan stumbled upon the idea of creating ledger art because he found ledger pads in an office supply closet.
Darryl Growing Thunder, who hails from the Fort Peck Assiniboine/Sioux reservation in Montana, has a different perspective on Native American ledger art.  The son of  bead artist Joyce Growing Thunder and Jim Fogarty, a painter known for his Western and American Indian-themed works, Darryl developed more of an appreciation for traditional images. You can see this in his pieces, and Growing Thunder makes no apologies for it.  While he appreciates all styles of ledger art, his work is very “old school”, and he stands firm in his commitment to keep people aware of the legacy of ledger art.   I first experienced his work on a visit to one of my favorite galleries in Albuquerque, Wright’s Indian Art. He has a wonderful eye for color, and his impeccable attention to detail shows his loyalty to traditional style.

So what was Uncle Paulie supposed to do when both artists were in attendance at the 2010 Heard Museum Guild’s Indian Fair and Market?  Interview them, of course!  They both contributed vital and distinct information on the history of ledger art in their interviews.  As I was talking to both of them, I realized how marvelous it would be to “pit them” against each other, so to speak, to create one comprehensive video testament to how varied ledger art can be.  I hope you find THIS VIDEO as informative as I did.

Heard @ The Heard 2010: ‘Golden Child’ Taos Jewelry Artisan Maria Samora

“My designs appeal to the senses and come to life on the body.” –Maria Samora, Taos jewelry designer
Before Maria Samora took the Native American jewelry world by storm, she was preoccupied that her pieces were not Native enough, at least not in the traditional sense.  Lucky for her, they weren’t because her own sense of style and design is what has made this thirty-four year-old  the success that she is.  Her designs have been called new and refreshing, and it’s no surprise since Samora herself exudes something all her own–a humble star quality–which is why people are drawn to her and her work. 
A SWAIA Indian Market veteran, showing since 2005, Samora was blessed in 2009 by having her jewelry selected to be featured on the Indian Market poster.   In all of Indian Market’s eighty-eight years, she was the third woman and the first jewelry designer to be graced with the honor.  It has also made her 18k gold seashell-inspired jewelry more than iconic and highly sought out by Native American jewelry collectors and fashionistas alike. 
The daughter of an Anglo hippie mother and a father from Taos Pueblo (he was one of the tribe’s spiritual leaders) Samora grew up with a perspective that was varied.  She also grew up with a huge appreciation for the natural world around her, which is highly reflected in the works that she creates. 
Samora has worked closely with her mentor G. Phil Poirier, since her college days.  She met him when she enrolled in one of his workshops at the Taos Institute of Arts.  Ten years later, Samora and Poirier still share a studio.
The artist is a very good friend of two of my dear friends–one from Santa Fe and the other from Jemez.  Both insisted that I stop by Maria’s booth to check out her work and interview her for Uncle Paulie’s World. Of course I did and HERE’s the result.
Maria’s warm and welcoming energy made it easy to talk to her and understand just how much this exquisite artisan loves what she does.  We do, too!  Thanks for sharing, Maria.

Heard @ The Heard 2010: Nocona Burgess Pop Artist or Contemporary Traditionalist?

“…I had no choice but to pursue art. It was in my blood.” –Comanche artist Nocona Burgess
My impression of Nocona Burgess, a Comanche artist, originally from Lawton, Oklahoma, is that he is extremely likeable, confident, a genuine family man and an artist who is passionate about the work that he creates. A big fan of his work well before I came to New Mexico (I had to live vicariously through magazine pictures while I was in NYC!), it was a true pleasure to finally meet him at the 2010 Heard Museum Guild’s Indian Fair and Market in Phoenix.  I have been eyeing a smaller work at Traders Collection in Santa Fe for some time now, so to get to see the larger ones in person was even more impressive.
Everything in Burgess’s past was a sign that he should be an artist—especially the fact that he comes from a family full of artists. Much of his childhood was spent traveling, learning about art and growing up around many famous artists. He also comes from a line of Comanche chiefs that includes his father, artist Ronald Burgess, and goes back all the way to his great-great grandfather Quanah Parker.
After years of art study, Burgess began to doubt that an art career would be lucrative for him. After years working in management at a casino, he decided he wanted more. He returned to his native Oklahoma, after living in numerous cities, and enrolled again in art school. He reconnected with his people there as well. After meeting his wife, they moved to Santa Fe, and the career he knows today began to take shape. One show led to another and the successful ride as a known contemporary Native artist began.
Burgess is quick to let people know that while his work may be perceived as “pop art,” that’s not how he sees it. He doesn’t wake up in the morning and decide to paint “some pop art today,” as he says. His art is influenced by the nature around him, and that is what he paints. He loves traditional Indian art– something that he is very familiar with, but the enjoyment in creating comes from taking those traditional images and making them his own, which includes humanizing his subjects.  This brings the work closer to the artist and into a sphere of relevancy for him. A musician and an Indian flute player, Burgess loves to branch out and work with new subject matter as he recently did with his, now iconic, “Folsom Prison Blues” period painting of Johnny Cash entitled Johnny that he did for Giacobbe-Fritz Fine Art’s 11” x 11” x 11” show.
Check out the interview I did with him at the Heard show HERE, in which he talks about his recent paintings that are inspired by Greek mythology. He says he is always reading and thinking about ways to bring what he learns to his work. This is one smart guy!

Heard @ The Heard 2010: Catching Up With "The Dangerous One" Phillip John Charette Alaskan Native Artist

“I seek to express the spiritual strength and power of my culture – historic and traditional – in relation to today’s rapidly changing multicultural society.” –Phillip John Charette, Alaskan Native Artist

The past merges with the present to create who we are and the experiences that we have. I am a firm believer that those journeys are planned well in advance of our human birth and each adventure is one more step to us becoming more complete than we have ever been at that moment.
In the belief system of the the Yupiit Nation, which is located on the edge of the Kuskokwin River in Southwestern Alaska, the past, too, is intertwined with the present making people who they are.
In the case of Phillip John Charette or “Aarnaquq” ( “the one that is dangerous”), a French Canadian and Yupiit artist, he is also linked to his past via his great-great-grandfather– the man who gave him his indigenous namesake and who lives within him. It is that concept that Charette incorporates throughout his work, which is seeded in traditional Yup’ik cosmology. Like most contemporary Native American work, Charette draws upon the past and adds his own unique spin that both honors his ancestors and speaks volumes about the world that we live in today.
A mixed media artist, Charette utilizes a variety of materials including clay, wood, driftwood, glass and glass beads, metal, stone, rawhide, porcelain, feathers, quills, shells, bones, paint, and found objects. Whereas many of the artist’s masks are made of clay, traditional Yup’ik masks would have been made out of wood and then stained with clay. In Charette’s words, his contemporary works possess a “wood and organic look.”
It seems that I’m talking a great deal about serendipity this week. I don’t mean to appear to take a Pollyanna approach to it all, but running into Charette at the 2010 Heard Museum Guild’s Indian Fair and Market was indeed serendipitous, mostly because his art is some of the most exciting and thoughtful I have seen in my life. As a matter of fact, it was after viewing his work, which was indelibly burned into my mind, I became determined to improve upon my own mask work.
About three years ago, while on vacation in Seattle from New York City for a family visit, my mother and I popped into the Stonington Gallery to see what was new. As I made made my way to the rear of the gallery, which specializes in Northwest Coast and Inuit art, I stopped in my tracks at the sight of Charette’s piece Other Ways of Seeing. As a mask maker, I was enthralled by the size and the drama of the work. I must admit that often when I look at art, I get so wrapped up in my excitement, I forget to read the piece’s title or even inquire about who the artist is. Such was the case that day. I left the Stonington completely intoxicated by the beauty of his work. I should also mention that, ironically, our paths had also crossed at the opening night party of Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation 2 at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York in 2005, and yet we still missed meeting one another.
Things started to come full circle when a few weeks before the Heard show, I was flipping through the Santa Fean magazine Indian Market edition and saw a blurb regarding Charette’s selection as a SWAIA fellow. For some reason, I made the emotional connection to the art, but the name and face did not register.
Finally the circle became complete when I ended up attending the 2010 Heard Museum Guild’s Indian Fair and Market on March 6 and 7. I was on my way to visit my friend Sheldon Harvey’s booth. Suddenly, I looked up and saw some very familiar pieces. It was Charette’s masks! I was so excited I could barely contain myself. Hugely influenced by the indigenous art of the Northwestern coast of Canada and the United States in my own work, once again the Universe brought to me another extraordinary interaction. All in due time, I say!
Isn’t it ironic that Charette had brought along that iconic piece Other Ways of Seeing to the Heard? Now, I was able to see the piece through the eyes of the artist…and you can, too, by clicking HERE.
Charette currently makes his home in Baker City in the Eastern part of Oregon. A Harvard graduate, he is also a playwright.

Heard @ The Heard 2010: Kewa Potter Thomas Tenorio Bringing Innovation One Coil at a Time

“The Santo Domingo pottery…the Kewa, I should say, is ready to be taken to another level…and I believe I am gonna do it.”  –Thomas Tenorio, Kewa potter
It’s no secret to those who know me that before I came to New Mexico eleven months ago, I knew next to nothing about Native American pottery. My collection consisted of a 1920s Hopi vase that belonged to my mother’s great aunt and a contemporary Jemez pot that I picked up at an antique store in the Pacific Northwest. Ironically, it is a pot by a veteran potter whom I am now proud to call a friend. That has been the cycle of my experience in the Southwest—I hear a name, say to myself “I should meet him or her!” especially if I love their work.  And, as an arts advocate, it’s a sure bet that if I see someone’s work and I love it, I’m bound to talk about.
Actually, that’s how Uncle Paulie’s World began three years ago. Lately, I’ve found myself yapping about a lot of artists, so, nearly a year later, I’m finally being blessed with the opportunity to meet all the people I wanted to meet. My philosophy has been, let the Universe take care of arranging the meeting, and voila! they come into my life. I guess serendipity is really on my side. And out of it all has come some extraordinary friendships.

With all this serendipity flitting through my life, it was no surprise that I would eventually meet Kewa (formerly Santo Domingo Pueblo) potter Thomas Tenorio.  Did you know that Thomas does not come from a family with a long history of pottery making?  Self-taught, his popularity at SWAIA Indian Market has been growing in the last few years.   He has also taken what he’s learned and instructed other pueblo members and his children how to create works in the traditional way.
This past August, I passed his Indian Market booth, which was mobbed by appreciative collectors, and decided I would put off introducing myself until a more appropriate time. I remember saying “I’m sure we’ll meet soon, anyway.” “Soon” took longer than I imagined, but flash-forward to two-and-a-half weeks ago when I was having lunch at Andrews Pueblo Pottery and Art Gallery in Albuquerque’s Old Town. Thomas Tenorio was out on one more wholesaling trip just prior to the Heard Museum Guild’s Indian Fair and Market the following week. One of the gallery associates introduced us and it was nice to connect in a more informal and less chaotic way than at Market.

A huge Santo Domingo pottery fan, I was first introduced to it when I hit Albuquerque’s flea market at the fairgrounds last summer. A Santo Domingo husband, wife and daughter were selling a variety of items from the back of their pickup, including some small, traditional pots. They were nice, but my eyes were drawn to a beautiful three inch-wide pot made out of red clay and delicately painted with intricate patterns on all sides. I picked it up and looked at the bottom to find that it was signed and dated “1989 Thomas Tenorio.” I remembered hearing or reading the name Tenorio in one of my books, so I asked the price. “Fifteen dollars,” they told me. I wasn’t so green that I didn’t know this was a bargain on so many levels. And that is how this lovely Thomas Tenorio pot made it into my collection, which has grown to contain more than fifty pots of various sizes.

During our first meeting, we agreed that I would interview Thomas at his Heard show table. Possessing a great sense of humor, it is obvious that he has led an interesting life and is an artist very comfortable in his own shoes.  That’s why I decided to post my interview without any edits. It was conducive to showing his true personality and it was a lot of fun for both of us. His hilarious cousin and cartoonist Ricardo Cate, who was sitting at his side, set the tone from the beginning.  It was Nudge. Nudge. Wink.Wink. Giggle. Giggle. from the outset. 
Hindsight, as you watch my interview with him HERE, notice how Thomas emphatically refers to the Santo Domingo Pueblo “Kewa” name change that was officially announced just a few days after the Heard show. Also, Thomas talks about how he will be introducing some stylistically new and interesting work at Indian Market this coming August.  The artist is very confident that he will take the Kewa pottery to the next level. We look forward to market, which is sure to be an exciting weekend for his collectors.

Heard @ The Heard 2010: Distinctively Fashionable Native Designer Pilar Agoyo

“ I mainly work in vinyl, a little bit of leather as well, but…for some reason, it’s a lot of vinyl.”—Pilar Agoyo, Native fashion designer

Pilar Agoyo is one of my favorite new artists. My background is in fashion PR, and it is always easy for me to appreciate someone with a unique vision.
While I have heard her name uttered several times from friends we have in common, Pilar and I met for the first time last weekend at the 2010 Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend last month’s successful fashion show “Thunder Run” in which she participated at Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino.  I was thrilled, however, when I found out Pilar was showing her designs at the Heard. My friends who know and have worked with her love and respect her. Native American jewelry collectors might also know her because she is the wife of master silversmith Cody Sanderson.
Pilar’s fashions have been called many things—“cutting edge”, “goth”, “punk”, “chic”, “elegant” and even “risqué”. Based on the pieces I saw at the Heard show, I would even add to that a little “retro.”  However you label her style, the fact remains clear that Pilar is cool, calm, collected, well-spoken and adorable, in my opinion. She is very approachable and I was excited that she was willing to talk to me about her designs on camera.
Perhaps my favorite thing about Pilar is that she costume designs for film. She shared that many of her collections come to her as a result of working on a particular project. This is inevitable, since films, especially period pieces, require such attention to detail.  These images fill a designer’s mind and are hard to let go of. The day we spoke, Pilar was showing a dress that was made of a wool plaid embellished with vinyl leaves—very cool!
Remarkably, Pilar chooses not to use the traditional clothing pattern, rather, she cuts and lets a piece become whatever it may. She is also known for her unconventionality when it comes to her materials of choice. In addition to utilizing a hodge podge of textiles including silk and velvet, Pilar makes pieces her own with everyday items such as newspapers, masking tape, hangers and more. Green before it was hip to be green, Pilar explains that she embraced this design philosophy while still in college. Aren’t we glad she did!
Get to know Pilar by watching my video interview with her on the closing day of the 2010 Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market here.