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Artist as Trickster, Trickster as Art: Santiago Romero's Ceramic Coyotes [13 Photos]

Native American artist Santiago Romero creates coyotes (and other things), and sells them with an energy he describes as sexual.

At the 2014 Santa Fe Indian Market, I sat on the curb behind Santiago Romero’s booth for the better part of an afternoon, interviewing him and not at all minding the interruptions from intermittent passers-by. They’d be one of two kinds. Friends: other young Native dudes prompting him to battle dance or reminding him that it’s really annoying that he refuses to use a cell phone. Customers: blonde, turquoised, long-skirted, cowboy hatted women. Most of them southern. He would almost exclusively speak to them in a British accent. It made so much sense.

“Half of the way I sell my art is just by tricking myself," he laughs. "I‘m a salesman. I know that sex sells. I try to attract that energy as well when somebody’s interested."

Courtesy Santiago Romero

That trickster energy is palpable. And it’s no coincidence that his best known pieces are of that theme.

“I do a lot of coyotes," he admits. "Those are what I’m known for.”

I’ve known Santi for a while. We were buddies at Dartmouth. I hadn’t seen or spoken to him since we graduated in 2010, at which time he wasn’t at all focused on producing art. (He was always studying). So it was a pleasant surprise to run into his booth while wandering around Santa Fe. It was encouraging to see that not only is he now producing art, he’s obviously making a name for himself. At 26, he had to have been one of the youngest artists with an official booth at Indian Market. It was his first time showing there.

Courtesy Santiago Romero

I asked him a few simple questions and he responded with cerebral and inspiring nuggets. Here’s a little bit of that conversation.

What do you do?

Art, science, nature, dance, humility, ancient iconography mixed in with the future becomes the present, basic symbols everlasting, turn back the infinity symbol and you have immortal sequence. Connect it to the stars with gold.

Courtesy Santiago Romero

What kind of art?

Ceramics mostly, just because it’s a basic material. It’s malleable. It can mimic any shape. It’s just a basic atom. My people are people of the underworld crawling out. We’re all the components of simple small atoms but complex, and I think that when the universe comes to a point of super-complexity it implodes and becomes simple then expands out again to create more life.

Fitness is a common interest of ours; I’m curious about how and why you incorporate physical and mental wellness into your daily life and work.

I dance a lot. It connects the body to the mind, makes me more confident. Gets the energy amped up. Helps me breathe through my brush strokes. Meditation is key. You have to eat right to tune your mind into what’s appearing in your life. Make a conscious effort to write down your dreams and control them because often you intersplice reality into your dream sequence but you forget that your dream sequence is part of reality too. So meditation, yoga, flow, breathing, hikes. That’s the one thing that really got me out of funks. It’s not the point of climbing the hill, it’s the feeling you get when you’re coming down. Climb into every precipice, reach the highest peak, next thing you know everybody that didn’t try is left behind and you’re the one flying.

Courtesy Santiago Romero

What’s your dream?

One thing I want now is to have the first sculpture in space.

How are you going to do that?

My plan would be to go back to school and figure out how to do monumental size sculpture. Writing grants, going to NASA and pitching certain ideas to them. Seeing if the calculations are correct. If so, I would be the designer. I would make it out of aluminum and gold. That’s all I would ask for.

Courtesy Santiago Romero

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I caught up with Santi again the other day to see what he’s been up to in the weeks since Indian Market and to find out what he’s got planned. He says he’ll definitely be back at SFIM next year—it was a success, in terms of sales, and a good learning experience overall.

In the near future, you can find him at other markets: The Autry in Los Angeles, the Smithsonian in New York, and the Heard in Phoenix.

As for the coyotes, he’s working on one at the moment.

Courtesy Santiago Romero

Santiago Romero art on display at Santa Fe Indian Market. Photo by Martin Sensmeier.

Courtesy Santiago Romero

Courtesy Santiago Romero

Santiago Romero art on display at Santa Fe Indian Market. Photo by Martin Sensmeier.

Santiago Romero in his booth at Santa Fe Indian Market. Photo by Martin Sensmeier.

Courtesy Santiago Romero

Courtesy Santiago Romero