Southwestern artists connected to the Earth

Posted 10/23/10

Ten nationally recognized traditional artists from the Southwest are displaying their works through Jan. 11, 2011, in an exhibit called “From the …

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Southwestern artists connected to the Earth


Ten nationally recognized traditional artists from the Southwest are displaying their works through Jan. 11, 2011, in an exhibit called “From the Earth” at the Museo de Las Americas in the Santa Fe Arts District.

Each individual draws materials, processes and disciplines from his or her surroundings, honoring ancient connections to the Earth, with the belief that everything on Earth is a gift, nothing is truly owned and all is to be honored.

Some are teachers as well as artists. They follow traditions set by ancestors.

Epie Archuleta, who lives in Colorado’s San Luis Valley, spoke about her life (she is over 90) as the daughter and granddaughter of weavers. She is a NEA Heritage Fellow (a lifetime honor) and her internationally recognized and collected work is exhibited in the Smithsonian Museum.

A large, colorful blanket, Chimayo style, which she just completed, is included in the Museo exhibit. This petite woman, who has an honorary doctorate, says she has taught 200 people to weave, especially in the San Luis Valley. “Some learn, some don’t.” Her daughter Norma Medina is among them. “We weave every day,” she said.

“I have been weaving all my life. Mom and Dad were weavers and our family of six girls and three boys worked the farm. We never bought anything… Dad (one of 20 kids in his family, all weavers) was a teacher when we kids were small. We never disobeyed out parents.

“The little ones would make bobbins (while older family members operated looms).”

When she first went to school, she didn’t know English — “ I just sat quietly.” She stopped school at eighth grade — didn’t feel she needed more to be a weaver. So although she has the doctorate, they wouldn’t let her teach at college. She worried about how she would find a husband when she was home weaving all the time, but did. “The first thing I asked for was a loom,” she said.

She raised sheep, plowed and worked the farm, dyed her yarn with natural colors and her kids worked the same way.

“They know how to do everything,” she said.

“We make our own designs now… I have one in mind before I start.”

Traditional patterns such as Chimayo and Rio Grande are exhibited but she also had some small weavings with images of the Madonna and at least one cartoon character. How does she determine the price?

“I don’t care if they sell or not — I just want to make it pretty.”

Other artists with work in the show include Femina and Lorena Banyacya who promote traditional values and techniques throughout Hopi lands and the Southwest with their large yucca baskets.

Lorraine Herder is a Black Mesa weaver who uses centuries old techniques of the Dine, Navajo Nation.

Sharlyn Sanchez Chino is a potter from Acoma Pueblo, the sky city in New Mexico. Her entire family creates pots. She is known for traditional designs, while her husband is recognized for contemporary style.

Manuel Chavarria Denet is an award-winning traditional katsina carver from First Mesa, Hopi, who is widely collected in Japan.

Also from First Mesa is Hopi potter Lawrence Namoki, whose work is in the Smithsonian and the collection of the British royal family.

Juan Quezada, a Mata Ortiz potter has been named a National Treasure by Mexico, because he is credited with reviving the Pasquime style of Chihuahua and revitalizing the economy of his village, where tourists stop to buy regularly.

Wood carver Gloria Lopez Cordova is a santera, female carver of saints. As a young woman, descended from a family of carvers, she rebelled against the tradition that only men could carve saints. Her smoothly sanded natural wood creations include birds, Tree of Life, angels and folk figures. She has a shop in her home in the village of Cordova and work exhibited at the Smithsonian.

Walking Thunder, born Juanita Peters, is the subject of a book bearing her name, which tells of her history as one of nine women who create sand paintings for healing in the Dine, Navajo tradition. The patient absorbs powers depicted and the sand is then returned to the Earth. Demonstration pieces and those made for sale do not carry such powers, but illustrate the use of natural colored sands.

Zuni Fetish carver Vern Nieto carves (releases) animal figures from stone. He is among the next generation of traditional artists.

Each has lectured at the Museo, with two remaining sessions scheduled:

Nov. 6, 2 to 4 p.m. Family free lecture. Lawrence Namoki will speak on “Pottery and Hopi prophecy.”

Nov. 13, 2 to 3 p.m. Free teacher training lecture. Vern Nieto will speak about Zuni fetishes.

If you go:

The Museo de las Americas is located at 861 Santa Fe Dr., Denver. 303-571-4401.


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