Heard @ the Heard 2011: Iconic Artist Benjamin Harjo, Jr. Shows His "Layers" in Berlin Gallery Group Show Opening 4/15

What I find fun about going to art shows is that there is always an opportunity to connect with artists who are new to my art lexicon–I’m constantly learning and I love it!  What’s more amazing is that many of these artists have had lifelong, high-profile careers, and when you first meet them, you’d never know.  Some are as humble as they day they entered the marketplace.  That’s always refreshing.
One such artist is Benjamin Harjo, Jr.  Having spent almost a half of a century training and working as a master of pen and ink, a painter and block print maker, Harjo is one of the most recognizable and respected artists working in Native American fine art.  His work has graced posters, is housed in museums, and exists in private collections all over the world.  None of this, however, has gone to his head. Harjo understands the ebbs and flows of the art world and “the abuse” that artists take when it comes to selling their work.  Luckily, he has cultivated a loyal group of friends and regular collectors who find inspiration in his art and want to see him flourish.  Whereas, many visual artists don’t attend “booth” shows such as the Heard Museum Guild’s Indian Fair and Market, Harjo consistently participates in them. The season runs from March to November, so he is always busy.  That’s when he’s not working on a commission.  He contends that some years the shows will be good for him, and other years it will be good for other artists. It’s just the way things are.
Tonight, Benjamin Harjo, Jr. opens in a group show at the Heard Museum’s Berlin Gallery entitled Layers: Sarah Sense + Frank Buffalo Hyde + Benjamin Harjo, Jr While his counterparts in the show are considerably younger, they are also edgy and hip.  The inclusion of his work is a testament to the agelessness of Harjo’s paintings and drawings.  The exhibition, which runs through May 16, highlights works by the three artists that “reveal the layering of either ideas or processes to create their own unique vision, the end result multi-layered works that explore new territories of definition.” 
Ironically, and completely unaware of the upcoming exhibition at the Heard’s Berlin Gallery, I had the opportunity to interview Harjo last month for my “Heard @ the Heard 2011” series at the 53rd Annual Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market.  So, it makes complete sense that things come full circle and I end my series with this iconic master artist, who talked to me about his award-winning Heard submission piece as well as his influences, on the day of his opening! 
Watch the video interview with Benjamin Harjo, Jr. HERE:

Heard @ the Heard 2011: Haida-Tlingit Basketry by Gianna Willard & Diane Douglas-Willard

Since my family lives in the Pacific Northwest, my first exposure to indigenous art was that of the Northwest Coast.  It was in Seattle and Vancouver, B.C. that I fell in love with the easily-recongnizable symbology of red and black button blankets and the phenomenal mask work that incorporates cedar, alderwood, horsehair, abalone shell and more. 

Of late, I have been very interested in learning about basketry in general, so when I met Gianna Willard and Diane Douglas-Willard of Ketchikan, Alaska, I was so excited.  Not only are they lovely and open people, but their work is some of the finest you will find.  Gianna (Haida-Tlingit), who is Diane’s daughter, has only been making cedar bark hats for a year, but the workmanship shows a lifetime exposure to basket making.   The 53rd Annual Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market was Gianna’s first Native American art show ever.   She was a little nervous to do an interview at first, but she jumped right in and did a fabulous job!
Diane Douglas-Willard is a Haida basket maker, who was born in Bellingham, Washington.  Diane, who has taken “First Place” and “Best in Division” at SWAIA Indian Market in Santa Fe,  incorporates traditional basketry with contemporary designs.  She utlizes both yellow and red cedar bark in addition to wax linen to achieve her unique style of work. 
Both mother and daughter took the time from selling at the Heard show to talk to me about their work and the painstaking process of getting materials ready to weave their museum-quality pieces.

Watch my video interview with Gianna Willard and Diane Douglas-Willard HERE:

Heard @ the Heard 2011: Marla Allison & Paintings Born of Two Worlds

“I paint and create for Laguna’s history to be great and remembered.  I paint because I was passed down a gift from my grandfathers…” –Marla Allison

 Every once-in-a-while I meet an artist with whom I feel very connected.  When that happens, I usually go around telling people that that’s my “favorite new artist.”  It usually has to do with a combination of elements–obviously their talent, but also their spirit and willingness to be open and share information about their lives with me.

Visual artist, Marla Allison, who hails from Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico, is one of those people.  From the minute I met her for the first time at the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market’s “Best of Show” gala in Phoenix, I was taken with her.  Her gentle voice and sincere interest in others is particularly alluring.  The following day, when I had the opportunity to see her work, I was even more excited to get to know her.
Marla Allison’s story is a very unique one.  She has been participating in the Heard show for the last five years and has been represented by the Berlin Gallery, affiliated with the Heard Museum.  But, it was last year that she was approached by Blue Rain Gallery in Santa Fe about having her as one of their artists. It was all very casual, but has had anything but a casual effect on her work and career.  Afterall, Blue Rain is, dare I say, the Holy Grail of art galleries for a growing Native American artist. 
Both Laguna and Anglo, Allison walks in two worlds, like many of her artistic contemporaries.  Her influences are all around her and she makes ample use of them, whether it’s interpreting in paint the work of Laguna master photographer Lee Marmon, depicting scenes from her Laguna homeland, or creating representational work that tells the story of the two worlds in which she lives.  
Marla spoke freely to me about her artistic influences and gives some clear ideas of what it is like to be an artist participating in the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market. Watch my interview with Marla Allison HERE: