Wright’s Indian Art Celebrates 106 Years with New Location and Mother’s Day Grand Opening Celebration

There are some places that give you fond memories, and you carry them with you no matter where you go. Wright’s Indian Art in Albuquerque, New Mexico is one of those places.  When I first moved to New Mexico, I popped in to have a look at all the gorgeous Native American jewelry by Steve LaRance, Marian Denipah, Roland Brady, Dylan Poblano, Steve Yellowhorse,  Lyndon Tsosie, Althea Cajero and many more.  I was immediately charmed by salespeople Elizabethand Joan, who warmly greeted me, made me feel welcome and suggested incredible things for me to try on.  I was also wonderully overwhelmed by the number of larger pieces by Jemez artists Kathleen Wall, Joe Cajero, and Swirl Pots by Dominique Toya.   Wright’s is also a place to meet artists and develop a rapport with them. Some of my most treasured and lasting friendships with artists started at Wright’s!
Tufa cast and turquoise corn and spider web
cuff by Dino Garcia (Kewa Pueblo)

Everything in shop is high-quality, and there is a variety that fits every budget–from fetishes to pots, to paintings and everything in between.  Wright’s makes collecting Native art fun and affordable, and they stay on the cutting edge of what’s happening in the Native art world.  After all, they has always offered the best in Native American art since it began as a trading post on the Navajo reservation over one-hundred years ago.  Wright’s Indian Art is an institution in the Southwest and has celebrated many milestones.   
Swirl pots by Dominique Toya of Jemez Pueblo

Now, Mr. B and the gang–the people who love to sit down with you and talk art, life and jewelry–are marking a new milestone. Wright’s Indian Art is celebrating its 106th Anniversary with a BIG move to a new location in Albuquerque at 2677 Louisiana Blvd N.E.  (View Map) as well as a BIG PARTY!

Stop by the new gallery for a  Grand Opening Celebration on May 11 and 12 (Mother’s Day Weekend…did someone say “I want jewelry?!) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  It will be a who’s who of Native artists coming out to show their dedication to and support of the gallery.  


Wright’s Indian Art, which is the oldest continuously operating Indian art gallery in Albuquerque, will carry the same art, represent the same artists and offer the same warm, wonderful customer service, but now in a more streamlined gallery with an even better online presence.  It’s reassuring to know I can still have that traditional Wright’s Indian Art experience in-person and get my fix online when I’m not in town. Here’s to another 100 years, Mr. B!!!

A “Here’s What’s Happening” for the Grand Opening Celebration:

Meet and deal directly with a variety of award-winning Native artists. The event will be held outdoors all weekend long.

by a Native medicine man

Handmade pieces by award-winning artists, local products, gift cards, and more. All proceeds to benefit First Nations Community Healthsource, providing crucial health and social services to the urban Native community.

Everyone who makes a purchase will eligible to win valuable prizes.

Southwest Zuni Connection
Carl and Irene Clark will personally exhibit and discuss their world-renowned micro-mosaic jewelry

Maxine & Dominque Toya (Pottery)
Alice Yazzie (Pastel art)

Double Flute performed by Adrian Wall, and more.

Nakota LaRance, prize-winning hoop dancer and former Cirque du Soleil performer will dazzle us on Sunday.

Featuring designer Penny Singer and surprise guests.


For more information about the gallery or the Grand Opening call 505-266-0120 or visit Wright’s Indian Art of Facebook or at www.wrightsgallery.com.


‘War Baby/Love Child’ Exploring the Mixed-Race Asian American Experience Opens at DePaul University Art Museum

Art is “messy and complicated, just like life and issues of race,” says visual artist and art professor Laura Kina.  Kina has teamed up with San Francisco State Asian American Studies professor Wei Ming Dariotis for the literary/art combo War Baby/ Love Child: Mixed Race Asian American Art.  While the book, published by the University of Washington, came out back in December, an exciting new exhibit opens today at Chicago’s DePaul University that extends the publication’s discourse into something tangible, yet not a total mirrored image of its literary counterpart.


War Baby/Love Child can be a difficult book to fully understand since cultural dynamics and history are very complex, especially if you know nothing about the mixed-heritage Asian experience in the United States.  Nonetheless, it is an opportunity to open your eyes to a whole new world. My multiculturalism lexicon includes Latinos and Native Americans.  I willingly admit I knew very little about the subject until I made contact with artist and activist Louie Gong, who is of Native American (Nooksack), Chinese, and Anglo descent.  Both he and Debra Yepa-Pappan(Jemez and Korean), an artist who’s part of my New Mexico circle of friends, piqued my interest in the subject of mixed race by their involvement in the project.
Live Long and Prosper (Spock was a Half-Breed)
by Debra Yepa-Pappan (Korean/Jemez Pueblo)

The book is a perfect example of the chicken coming before the egg.  In 2008, its two editors met at a multiracial movement retreat in San Francisco.  The timing was perfect.  President Obama had been elected and the “post-racial rhetoric was also at a peek,” as Laura Kina says.

“The mainstream media and even many voices within academia were saying we were supposed to be beyond race but of course that didn’t match up with many of our lived realities. We knew race still mattered.”

What resulted from the meeting was a collaboration that yielded a proposal for an art exhibition broaching the subject of the mixed-race Asian American experience from the perspective of  the artist.  Kina is of  Okinawan (Hawaii) and Spanish-Basque/French, English, Scotch-Irish, and Dutch, while Dariotis’ family is from the south, Tennessee and Texas, and California.


Some of the book was inspired by Kina’s curiosity about how other mixed race Asians Americans across the U.S.were navigating issues of identity in a contemporary art world that had been dominated by a post-racial discourse.  She knew what was happening in her studio, but was interested to know what others’ work looked like.   It was meant as a vehicle to become knowledgeable about the “mixed experience and history beyond the Asian/white discourse and beyond an ‘exceptional’ identity politics. What is our history?”

What makes the book engaging is the fact that it is split up into a series of Q & A’s with 19 emerging, mid-career, and established mixed race/mixed heritage Asian American artists.  Kina and Dariotis intersperse artwork that supports the narrative.  In addition to the interviews, the editors have included wonderful scholarly essays exploring such topics as Vietnamese Amerasians, Korean transracial adoptions, and multiethnic Hawai‘i. As an increasingly ethnically ambiguous Asian American generation is coming of age in an era of “optional identity,” this collection brings together first-person perspectives and a wider scholarly context to shed light on changing Asian American cultures. Ultimately, the goal of the project was to map and contextualize the artists’ individual narratives against larger transnational histories. After all, “it’s not just some accident that all of our parents happened to meet,” says Kina.


“WarBaby/Love Child” the art exhibition opens tonight at the DePaul University Art Museum.  Why an art exhibit?  “Art is a great tool for telling stories,” Kina says. 

“Sometimes we just see a fractured scene or glimpse into a larger world or we might see multiple times and spaces collapsed into a single image. Art can transcend language, speak to the spirit, the soul, affect…the possibilities are really endless.”

Kina hopes that all people leave the exhibition understanding that they own this history as well.    

“I think too often we want to put histories in neat boxes… maybe we are lazy or just not so interested in things that we think don’t pertain to ourselves. So, if there is one take-away, I hope the ‘average person’ can walk away with a more complicated understanding that all this border crossing and mixing it up we are talking about is not a peripheral history, but rather an important lens through which to view U.S. history, contemporary art…,”  Kina notes.  She is hopeful it lends itself to expanding what is “Asian-American history.”

“War Baby/Love Child” the art exhibition opens tonight at the DePaul University Art Museum with a reception and members preview from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. with a public opening from 6 p.m. to  8 p.m.  The show will be on exhibition through June 30, 2013 before traveling to Seattle’s Wing Luke Museum of the Asian PacificAmerican Experience from August 9th through January 19, 2014.

In Bellingham, Washington, the book is available at Village Books in Fairhaven.

You can also get it on Amazon.com.

Sharing Traditions: Interviews from the 2013 Weavers Teaching Weavers

Last month, I was invited to attend and observe at the 2013 Weavers Teaching Weavers conference. There is something very special about Native American textile and basket weavers.  It was apparent at every turn when I walked into the longhouse at Northwest Indian College on the Lummi Reservation the week before last.   I especially love weavers because they are usually brilliant of mind, have a great sense of humor, and are meticulous when it comes to their work. It is fun to see how they break down the wefts and the warps for their eager pupils, some of whom are accomplished weavers in their own right.  

Puyallup textile weaver Misty Kalama at her loom
at 2013 Weavers Teaching Weavers
(Photo: Paul Niemi)

Weavers also have beautiful hearts.   Husband and wife textile weaving team of Misty Kalama of Puyallupand her husband Kendall Archer of Skokomish (the nephew of famed weaver Bruce Miller) have a gentleness and eagerness to teach people the art of Coast Salish weaving.   Over the two days, they taught people how to weave traditional regalia in smaller form to fit dolls.  Their students? Six year-olds to elders.  The adults were rewarded by feeling the satisfaction of completing a challenge and tapping into the spirituality that one feels during the weaving process  The youngsters…well, they received dolls upon finishing their pieces.  There is a fine line between getting kids to take on the past and moving traditions forward.  It is necessary to meet them half-way with toys.  After all, they have yet to arrive at a mature moment in time when they understand the importance of weaving traditions like a master does.

Puyallup weaver Sharon Reed shows
off one of her creations-in-progress
(Photo: Paul Niemi)

In the basket making realm of the Weavers Teaching Weavers conference, you never know who you are going to see.   This year was like the “Hollywood” of basket weaving…at least for me.  I saw old friends, made new ones and came away with a better understanding of how they learned their art (which isn’t an art at all, but a way of life!) and the time involved to bring such beautiful pieces to market.
(L to R) Haida basket weavers Diane Douglas-Willard,
Dolly Garza, and Lisa Telford with Paul Niemi
(Photo: Copyright 2013 Uncle Paulie’s World)
This video features conversations with master weavers such as Lisa Telford (Haida), Bill James (Lummi), and Karen Reed (Puyallup) with wonderful photos of others.  Get to know the teachers of the 2013 Weavers Teaching Weavers HERE:

Exploring Northwest Native Basketry of the Past with Renowned Weavers of the Present

Example of cedar clothing at
the Syre Education Center
Once in a lifetime opportunities come along…well, only once in a lifetime.  Yesterday, I had the opportunity to explore the Syre Education Center(pronounced SIGH-ree) in Bellingham, Washington with well known Haida-Tlingit basket weavers Diane Douglas-Willard (a Bellinghamnative), who now lives in Ketchikan, and DollyGarza of Skidegate, Haida Gwaai, British Columbia.  
The Center, which is part of the Whatcom Museum, houses beautiful  historic and contemporary Northwest woodcarvings, weavings as well as basketry.   Both ladies were in town for the Weavers Teaching Weavers conference at Northwest Indian Collegelast week, and the basketry was of particular interest to us all.  
Alaskan Native artifacts including finger masks
at the Syre Education Center


The collection contains almost perfectly preserved examples of baskets from the Yup’ik, Tlingit, Haida and Salish tribes.   Diane and Dolly were looking to the past to inspire designs for their contemporary work. I tagged along to see and learn more.
Excellent examples of
Tlingit basketry at the Syre Education Center

The Syre Education Centerused to be open to the public. Because of budget cuts in recent years, the facility is now only available for school groups and by appointment for researchers.  Having the opportunity to explore the collection was a treat, and it was even more special being able to experience it with such talented, knowledgeable friends.  Here are a couple of images to give a glimpse into this fantastic collection in the City of Subdued Excitement!
[**PLEASE stay tuned for my upcoming blog on the Weavers Teaching Weavers conference that took place last week.  I will have audio interviews with some of Indian Country’s finest and most famous artists, combined with images of the weavers and the event to put you right in the thick of it!]

Thoughtful, Beautiful Acting Gives New Life to Fugard’s "Master Harold and the Boys" in Fremont

G. Valmont Thomas and James Lindsay in
West of Lenin’s production of
Master Harold and the Boys
(Photo: John Ulman)

If you’re in Seattle during the month of April, be sure to check out Master Harold and the Boys at West of Lenin in the city’s Fremont district.   

The 1982 Tony Award-winning “Best Play” was written by acclaimed South African playwright Athol Fugard, and is considered to be his most personal one. Much of the plot mirrors his own life growing up in apartheid-ridden 1950s South Africa.   It is a story of a boy learning to be a man amidst his own family’s trials and secrets, and incorporates the themes of injustice, racism, friendship, and reconciliation.  The importance of overcoming the “principle of perpetual disappointment” that life seems to bring people rings true.
As a child growing up during the decades when Fugard was rising to fame in the United States, I was familiar with his name. I had read enough to know the thematic content of  his work, but, beyond that, I had never read or seen any of his plays.  That’s something I now regret.   
It is seldom one has the chance to see a work that gives the feeling of being filled up full, but that is what this production of Master Harold and the Boys did for me.  It never ceases to amaze me how life always brings us just the right experiences we need exactly when we need them.   
At first, the former TalkinBroadway.com theatre reviewer in me wanted to write a full critique of the show.  Then, I decided it was better to tell people to go see the play and experience it without much background and foreknowledge of what was to come.  There is something to be said for scrapping preconceived notions and going in with an open mind and heart.   
Keith Warren and G. Valmont Thomas
as “Willie” and “Sam” in
Master Harold and the Boys at
Fremont’s West of Lenin.
(Photo: John Ulman)
What I must say, however, is that Director M. Burke Walker has assembled a stellar cast led by G. Valmont Thomas as “Sam,” Kevin Warren as “Willie,” and South African-born actor James Lindsay as 17 year-old “Hally.”    Many actors have brilliant moments in a play–fleeting clarity of motivations and actions.  For the entire 90-minute, intermission-free production, I never once doubted the capacity of the actors to keep me engaged and hanging on every word, as if they were saying them for the first time.   
Hopefully, audience members will leave the theatre wanting to change like I did–to see others in a better light; To defend freedom, but most of all, forgive others for their imperfections and “work-in-progressness.”  The one thing we all share is a hope that we and the ones we love are capable of changing.   
Master Harold and the Boys runs through April 21 at West of Lenin.  For more information visit www.westoflenin.com.
Watch a video interview with South African actor James Lindsay HERE: