"Collecting Memories…Not Just Art" Recap of 2013 SWAIA Indian Market

Well, 2013 SWAIA Indian Market Week is over.  It’s easy for me to get sad and go into withdrawal because I miss my artist friends already.  That’s okay because I know I will see them all soon enough and have the opportunity to attend parties with them, give and receive hugs,and see some of the best fine art around. I’m also looking forward to getting to know all the new friends just a little bit better the next time around.
Painting by Jodi Webster
Photo: The Artist

Bronze sculpture by Holly Wilson
Photo: Paul Niemi

For me, one of the standout artists this year was Jodi Webster, a master self-taught Ho-Chunk/Potawatomi artist working mostly in graphite.  It was her first Santa Fe Indian Market.  She’s easy-going, down-to-earth and bursting with talent that isn’t limited by one style.  In addition to my ongoing love affair with the brilliant and thoughtfully commentative basketry of contemporary Cherokee artist Shan Goshorn, I am adding the bronze sculpture and mixed media work of Delaware/Cherokee Holly Wilson to my all-time fave list.  Mixing traditional Native lore with children, masks and the slightly odd, her work is exciting, out of the ordinary, and seems to be setting the Native art world on fire. This, too,  was her first SWAIA Indian Market.  She also had an additional opening at Blue Rain Gallery near the Santa Fe Plaza, so I have no doubt the New Mexico skies will see her star rise very soon.  I also enjoyed seeing the colorful and abstract paintings by Patrick Dean Hubbell of the Diné Nation (Navajo).

Shan Goshorn and her award-winning
Cherokee basketry woven from paper splints with
archival quality printed images

One of the beautiful art-filled
rooms at
Lone Dog Noisecat

If you have the opportunity, be sure to stop by Ed Archie Noisecat’s new gallery Lone Dog Noisecat just off Canyon Road.  He offers work by Northwest Coast artist, Inuit sculptures, paintings by some of Santa Fe’s “cool” royalty, in addition to his own pieces. There’s lots to see, and I think it is one of the best contemporary Native galleries in the City Different.


From tunes by Shelley Morningsong and dancing by Fabian Fontenelle to poetry readings by Laguna Pueblo potter and poet Max Early, to fashions by Orlando Dugi, Dorothy Grant, and Penny Singer , there were so many special things to see, hear and experience this year at Santa Fe Indian Market.

Stormtrooper hand-beaded cuff by Diné artist Craig Kelly


Here is my compilation video of moving and still images from the 2013 SWAIA Indian Market.  It was truly an amazing time.  While I collected some art, I collected even more friendships. I look forward to watching them grow!

SWAIA Indian Market: Adding to Your Collection…One Friend at a Time

Hoop Dancer Tony Duncan at SWAIA Indian Market
Photo: Paul Niemi (2011)
When some of us were kids (long before Facebook), our best friends or classmates would move away to new cities.  It was always a sad event.  While they left behind their phone numbers so you could call on a birthday to “catch up,” you knew that once a few months had passed, you would make new friends and move on. Besides, those long-distance calls weren’t really in the family budget! It was always a possibility that you would never see your friends again, and that was a reality we all accepted.  High school and college beckoned us, and people came in and out of our lives.  Then, all of a sudden, we were in the adult world. People became busier, and it seemed harder to make those amazing close relationships you used to have.  Social media has now revolutionized how we stay in touch, how we communicate and how we connect, but it’s not the same as real face-to-face communication with open-hearted people who treat you with the respect of a bygone era. 

Speaking of social media, SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market has done a tremendous job at connecting the world with Native American art, film, music, fashion and culture through social media.  While I love to stay connected via the Internet with many people, for me, one of the best things about Market is so basic, so natural, and so wonderful–The friendships that are made and endure year after year at Indian Market.  Unlike the days when childhood classmates once moved away never to be heard from again, Santa Fe Indian Market Week is always the time when people come “home.”  You always know they’ll be there each August. It’s a crossroads of sorts on Santa Fe’s Historic Plaza, where hospitality reigns, inevitable hugs happen, old friendships grow stronger and new ones are kindled.

That’s why SWAIA Indian Market is a unique family. The art has changed, some faces have come, gone and been replaced by eager new ones, but old fashioned values still play out amongst the white booths dotting Santa Fe’s downtown corridor.  And for the spectator, when you’re there, you’re treated like part of the family. You’re welcomed with the intent that you will look,  really see and learn about Native culture (There’s so much to learn!). Who knows?  You may want to buy! That  purchase of an artist’s work might just lead to more purchases, year after year, and result in lifelong friendships.

Sgraffito and Stone-polished Handcoiled
Jemez Pueblo Pot by Alfreda Fragua
Photo: Alfreda Fragua

Being an advocate for Native American art is my passion, and I LOVE introducing contemporary Native American art to those who may know nothing about it. It’s even better when I can change someone’s perception of what Native American art is.  The landscape (pardon the pun!) is vast when it comes to the kinds of pieces you’ll see at Santa Fe Indian Market.  The truth is, just like Native arts and crafts have changed over history due to contact with new peoples and new materials, so is contemporary Native American art evolving all the time. Formal art education inspires some artists to take Native art where it’s never gone before.  Artists also experiment with forms and mediums each year to test their artistic mettle.  Submissions for Indian Market award judging get bigger and bolder every year, and it’s exciting to see.

So if you’re attending SWAIA Indian Market Week for the first time, what do you need to know?

1)  Always feel free to ask questions.  While many collectors typically “want a piece” of an artist at his or her booth, they are there to talk about their work, their culture and, most importantly, to sell.
2) Most artists understand that touching and feeling impacts someone’s intent to buy.  Most will let you handle smaller items, but be sure to ask permission first.  Many people will invite you to do so from the get-go, but awaiting or asking permission shows respect.  The same is true if you want to snap a photograph.
3) Buy what you like!  You have to live with it, so make sure you love it.  There are original works of art by more than 1,100 top Native American artists from the United States and Canada available for purchase. Prices range from about $10 on up.
4) If something is out of your budget, don’t worry.  Many artists are generational, so you’ll likely be able to find pieces by other “lesser-known” artists for a fraction of the price of works by more famous artists.  Buying pieces by young children is a great way to start a collection and become familiar with work by all family members.
5) Come to SWAIA Indian Market Week with an open mind and open heart.  Indian Market is a great learning opportunity for both children and adults.  These artists live all around us in a contemporary world, and Market is a wonderful place to discover our commonalities.  Of course, come hungry because you’re also going to want to eat Indian tacos and fry bread that vendors will be selling on the Plaza!
This Friday, August 16, I’ll be on KASA Fox 2’s “New Mexico Style” talking about collecting memories at Indian Market.   Check out my last year’s appearance on buying affordable art at Indian Market HERE:


Happy Indian Market Week!

Leary Firefighter Foundation Hosts "Burn" Documentary Benefit Screenings in Tacoma

In 2003, I nearly died in a house fire in Queens, New York.   I lived in New York City during September 11, 2001 and was amazed at the courage of members of the FDNY, but my personal experience with the department gave me a true appreciation for the work firefighters do.  After all, what would we do if they weren’t around to save lives? Thanks to their swiftness, I got out of the house and didn’t choke to death. Watching a finely oiled machine in action is the best PR for a fire department.  Watch them work, and their dedication is clear.  Talk to them, and you realize they have hearts equaling the size of  the passion they have for the job they do.


It was, of course, an honor when the producers of the Tribeca Film Festival Audience Award-winning Burn contacted me to get the word out on Uncle Paulie’s World about a screening of the film in Washington State. Executive producer Denis Leary had been doing the late night talk show circuit to promote the film a while back, and it was definitely something I wanted to see and write about.  I don’t want to lessen the impact of the film by giving too many details away.  What I will say is that whoever watches it will be changed for life.  You will reexamine your priorities and want to remind yourself every day to say “thank you” to those around us who give of themselves for the greater good.


Burn is a documentary that follows the lives of members of the Detroit Fire Department throughout an entire year. Their experiences aren’t easy, and their department isn’t a normal one. Racial tensions and a lack of jobs changed the face of the city, lowering the city’s population from 1.8 million people to around half.  That exodus has left behind 80,000 abandoned structures that are essentially fire traps, though the majority of the 30 daily structure fires are caused by arson. That’s nearly triple the number of structure fires in Los Angeles–a city of 4 million people.  The fires are indicative of a larger social problem. The majority of  departmental funds are spent to pay the firefighters their modest salaries. Repairs and the purchase of reliable equipment goes to the wayside.


Throughout it all, the firefighters love what they do and enjoy coming to work each day.  For a firefighter, there is nothing like the adrenaline of entering a burning building, taking care of business, and saving lives.   They put themselves in dangerous situations every day, selflessly, but still manage to maintain a sense of humor about it all.
It was no joke to many of them when a new executive fire commissioner came to Detroit  and suggested that firefighters ignore the flames and let some of the structures completely burn to the ground. This seemed like the only way to level the battleground and clean up the city.  Since many unknown transients lived in the structures, the idea seemed absurd, especially to firefighters who are in the business of saving lives.

Burn is an eye-opening film about real people–real lives–and they graciously let filmmakers Tom Putnam and Brenna Sanchez into their community to give an in-depth glimpse into the triumphs and tragedies that take place in inner city Detroit. Putnam and Sanchez shot nearly 1,000 hours of footage and interviews to tell a shockingly true, and in its own way, beautiful, well-rounded story.


The film is full of selfless guys whose stories are compelling and varied. Many grew up in the communities where they live and work.  And one thing connects them all–a love for the job and the city they see dwindling away, one fire at a time.


Tacoma, Washingtonis a town riddled with its own social and economic problems.  It, too, has a brave fire fighting community. The Leary Firefighters Foundation will be hosting special May benefit screenings of Burn in Tacoma.  The showings will take place at the Grand Cinema  at 2 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. on May 21, as well as at 6:45 p.m. on May 22.  Tickets are $15, and a portion of the proceeds will go to the Leary Firefighters Foundation to purchase new equipment for firefighters.   The Grand Cinema is located at 606 S. Fawcett Avenuein Tacoma. For more information and to watch a trailer of Burnvisit  http://detroitfirefilm.org.

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:

Color and Light at SAM Take Up Permanent Residence Downtown Seattle

A rendering of Mirror, an LED permanent art
installation at the Seattle Art Museum that
was just unveiled
(Photo: Courtesy SAM)

The next time you’re in Seattle, you can take in one of the city’s newest examples of permanent public art that is sure to become a Downtown Seattle icon. It’s called Mirror, and the piece had its unveiling this weekend at the Seattle Art Museum. Created by L.A. and New York-based artist Doug Aitken, the piece was commissioned by the late collector Bagley Wright and his wife Jinny. Mirror is a giant LED screen that wraps around the Northwest façade of the building.
According to the SeattleArt Museum, the installation, Mirror has a main component that “is a glass-covered horizontal band of projected images which dissolve into narrow columns of light that run up and down the façade in a dynamic configuration. The work is conceived as a ‘mirror’ in an expanded sense: the artist will create a video archive of footage shot in the Pacific Northwest that reflects the Seattleregion and is responsive to its surroundings. “
Aitken has utilized a computer program that will make continuous visual sequence changes to the LED. The installation’s computer is designed “to be responsive to changes in the environment around SAM such as weather, light, special events and traffic, giving the impression that the entire building is alive with motion.”
Mirror will essentially become a living part of the cityscape and reflect the city rhythms surrounding it. For more information, visit www.seattleartmuseum.org.
Watch a video on Wired.com HERE:


The 55th Annual Heard Show Features Strong Women and a Touch of the Northwest

Booth Relief Signs Await
Volunteers at the 2013
Heard Show in Phoenix, Arizona
(Photo: Paul Niemi)

This month we celebrated International Women’s Day, and President Obama reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act that stands to protect all women, including Native American women, from domestic abuse.  Now, their abusers can now be arrested and prosecuted on tribal lands.

Paul Niemi wearing a vest by Doralee Sanchez
of the Lummi Nation with Charlene HolyBear
and her beaded fedora and bracelet
(Photo: Paul Niemi)

It’s clear that strong Native women abound in our country, and nowhere is that clear than at the annual Heard Museum Guild’s Indian Fair and Market that takes place every March in Phoenix, Arizona.   This year was the 55th season of the highly competitive Native American art show that juries in just 750 artists from thousands of applicants around the country.


I had the opportunity with my radio job at KGMI News Talk 790 in Bellingham, Washington to head south and interview a handful of artists who attend the Heard every year.   From mask carvers to painters and basket weavers, the beauty of Pacific Northwest Native art is well-represented at the show.

Traditional Tsimshian basketry and
Salish-Style woven clothing by
Loa Ryan
(Photo: Paul Niemi)

This year, I interviewed legendary Tsimshian basket weaver Loa Ryan. While she hails from Metlakatla, British Columbia, she now makes her home in Bremerton, Washington.  Many artists focus on bringing traditional Native art forward and merging it with contemporary ideas, but Loa is wonderfully focused on reviving the basketry of her ancestors and educating others on weaving techniques and her people’s history.

Santa Clara artist Rose B. Simpson
holds a line drawing reminiscent
of her edgy porcelain sculptures
(Photo: Paul Niemi)

Rose B. Simpson is from Santa Clara Pueblo, New Mexico. The edgy, unapologetic artist is the daughter of famed sculptor Roxanne Swentzell and the step daughter of Diego Romero of Cochiti Pueblo.  Both have influenced her work.  Her mother gave her an understanding that it’s okay to be experimental with art, and Diego gave her a love of comic books, which gave her an appreciation for the power and the precision of lines just so she could learn how to interrupt them in her ceramic sculpture and line drawing work.
Animal skin and silk dress along
with skin cuffs and beaded Chilkat
clutch by Shaax’ Saani
(Photo: Paul Niemi)
Shaax’ Saani attended her first Heard show this year and won a blue ribbon in Diverse Arts with her seal skin slouchy bag with wolf fur and abalone shell accents.   She is an animal skin sewer, fashion and accessories designer who makes incredibly gorgeous organic, high-fashion pieces out of traditional materials like seal skin, otter skin, bone, claws and the like.  She is also an amazing bead artist.  As part of her design company Indigenous Princess, she also introduces modern-day elements like sequins and metallic leathers to her work to shake things up and make things “cool” beautiful.
All of these women art smart, strong, and beautiful, were my interview subjects at the Heard Museum Guild’s Indian Fair and Market this year.  Listen to the audio of my radio segment as you see images from the show in a video HERE: