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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Indian Market: Youth Poster Artists Emphasize Market's Edgy Takes On Tradition
by Julie Ann Grimm - The (Santa Fe, NM) New Mexican

With their eyes on the future of Indian Market, organizers have selected 12-and 13-year-old siblings to create original artwork for the 2011 poster and official merchandise.

As the market goes into its 90th year, the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts wanted to honor its intergenerational nature and highlight the artists of tomorrow.

For Phoenix middle school student Tulane Natanni John, 13, making art is a part of growing up. He doesn't have as much time for it during the school year, but summers are full of creating, he said.

His father, Alvin John, is a renowned metal sculptor and painter who has encouraged his three children to carry out their cultural identity as Navajos through artistic expression.

Tulane and his sister Myleka Nizhoni John, 12, were chosen from a group of more than 15 kids who submitted slides of past projects. The pair is still collaborating on what will be the final image for next year's advertising.

Myleka will paint a canvas backdrop to set off a mask that Tulane crafted from a material abundant at their house — Lego building blocks.

"I already had a lot of Legos around, and I just used those pieces to make a mask," he said. "I wanted to make something different, I guess."

Tulane's other pieces displayed at this weekend's Winter Market were painted wood carvings of the Yei Dine gods with multicolored faces.

Alvin said he's proud of his sibling team and their accomplishments. The family has been at Indian Market for about a decade and some of the children's art is always on display, he said.

Gabe Gomez, director of external affairs for the association, said the Johns "have an edge of sophistication for their age and an embodied usefulness and playfulness to reconceptualized images of Native iconography."

The public will get a chance to view the poster art for the first time in March, though it will be formally unveiled at a youth event market organizers are planning for May.

Always steeped in tradition, Indian Market is branching out into contemporary interpretations by Native artists.

Hoka Skenandore, a painter of Oneida, Oglala Lakota and Luiseno heritage, is one of eight artists or groups of artists providing demonstrations at the two-day Winter Market that continues today.

His graffiti-inspired acrylic paintings are the product of an education on the spray-painted streets of Albuquerque and a fine arts degree from the Institute of American Indian Arts.

Skenandore, 28, was happy to hear about youth being selected for next year's poster art. He said SWAIA organizers seem increasingly interested in up-and-coming artists and edgy takes on tradition.

"If you had asked me five years ago if I had a future at Indian Market, I would have said 'I don't know,' but the future is looking good," he said as he added bright pink to an abstract star shape on his canvas.

"Every year, there is a little more interest in the contemporary stuff and it's great to have the traditional, too," he said. "Nowadays it seems like SWAIA has tried to focus on all the sides they can get their hands around."

Just then, shopper Janice Moody rounded the corner, carrying a bag of leather Lakota dolls made by Skenandore's mother. The dolls will soon be on her Santa Fe mantle alongside others she bought last year, she said. Moody's home already features some of Skenandore's "degenerate fine-art" paintings.

"I've collected all the old guys already," she said. "Once you've got all the top-end traditional artists, what do you do? I like to support young artists. Somebody needs to collect their work."

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