The Artistry of Our Sacred Elders and Families: Legacy Artists of Indian Market

Arizona Daily Sun, Betsy Bruner / Pinterest / Baje Whitethorne Sr. and Jr. are a Navajo-Dine’ father and son painting team who showed their skills at Indian Market.

Alex Jacobs

Families, Generations, Traditions, Innovations entail the totality of Legacy Artists at Santa Fe Indian Market

Santa Fe’s Indian Market has grown from its original beginnings of a row of Pueblo artisans along the portal outside the Palace of the Governors, to go on to fill the historic Plaza area and sprawl out over side streets like spokes in a wheel to accommodate up to some 1200-1300 Native American artists. A plethora of them are elders that have been there for decades. They are the sacred elders artisans or family of artisans that are also fondly referred to as legacy artists.

The host organization, the Southwest Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA) marks it officially at 96 years but Native folks have been taking their goods to the local or regional Market for generations.

The following legacy artists are just a few representatives of the many Native families and elders that participate in Indian Market.

Baje Whitethorne Sr. and Jr.

A Navajo-Dine’ father and son team that this year came to Market bringing paintings and prints to the Seeds Market in the Railyard. They don’t always show together and Whitethorne, Jr. is very busy with his digital productions, while Whitethorne, Sr. still paints in oils and is proud of his children’s books, some he illustrated, some he also wrote and illustrated.

Whitethorne, Sr. attended the Indian Market on the Plaza for about 40 years but he stopped around 8 years ago due to constant changes and resultant turmoil. He said the stress affected his health but it didn’t take long to get better. Part of his therapy is a calm, directed life and engaging with and helping his community.

He tells people, “art should be about building a career and not just an income or about materialism, and that there’s no better feeling than to be welcomed into a community as an artist.” He is involved in many projects and organizations like: Art of the People, the Gallup Cultural Center, Southwest Indian Foundation and Grand Canyon Youth in Flagstaff, AZ.

Sally Black

A Navajo basket maker that has been showing at Indian art markets in the southwest for around 35 years. She often is asked to demonstrate and can set-up to do that for days, even weeks. She sells the finished baskets and takes orders. Navajo basket making was utilitarian or ceremonial but Black (and her mother Holiday Black) helped to develop Navajo storytelling baskets with natural and dyed materials, mostly sumac that she splits and peels and weaves while demonstrating. An award-winning artist, Black says she was happy to come to the Seeds Market and be able to sell and demonstrate. Black can be contacted via the N.A.T.I.V.E. Project with Capacity Builders, Inc.

Dolores Lewis, Carmel Lewis Haskaya and Emma Lewis Mitchell

These Acoma Pueblo potters Dolores Lewis, Carmel Lewis Haskaya and Emma Lewis Mitchell are daughters of clay legend Lucy M. Lewis who actively continue their mother’s traditions and techniques. The Lewis sisters brought their traditional pottery to the Seeds Market this year and have attended Indian Market on the Plaza for over 50 years.

They intend to be back on the Plaza for future Indian markets. “They are having their hundredth year anniversary and have asked traditional artists for stories. Well, we plan to be there and you can hear our stories right from us.”

Susan, Kaa and Jody Folwell

Susan Folwell (Santa Clara Pueblo) grew up in a pottery making family. Her grandmother is Rose Naranjo, her mother is Jody Folwell and her sister is Polly Rose Folwell. As a young girl, she helped her mom with the clay but didn’t think she would be a potter.

Her mother was known as “the matriarch of the Avant Garde Native pottery movement” and Susan’s work is even more contemporary and modern combining many artistic styles and statements. “We’re a family operation, the fourth generation of pottery makers,” says Folwell.

Jody Naranjo

Native Treasures designated Jody Naranjo (Santa Clara) as the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture’s Living Treasure for 2017. Jody Naranjo is an eighth-generation Pueblo potter and a member of the well-known Naranjo family of Santa Fe Clara Pueblo.

Jody Naranjo learned the craft of pottery from her mother and other female relatives at an early age and was soon selling her artwork at the Palace of the Governors. Jody’s grandmother was Rose Naranjo the matriarch of the artistic clan and artists in the family include mother, Dolly Naranjo-Neikrug, her brother Elijah Naranjo Smith and aunts and uncles including Nora Naranjo-Morse, Jody Folwell, Michael Naranjo, Dusty Naranjo, and Susan Folwell, also Roxanne Swentzell and her daughter Rose B. Simpsonare aunt and niece.

Keri Ataumbi, Teri Greeves and Jeri Ah-be-hill

Keri Ataumbi and Teri Greeves (both are Kiowa) are award winning artists that held a public celebration of their mother’s life at the Museum of Indian Art and Culture in Santa Fe in 2015. They established a scholarship in Jeri Ah-be-hill’s name at the Institute of American Indian Arts, for a student from the Kiowa tribe.

The family moved to Santa Fe 30 years ago, and for over half that time, Jeri Ah-be-hill (Kiowa-Comanche) was the chairwoman for SWAIA’s most popular event during Indian Market, the Traditional Native American Clothing Contest. MIAC chose Greeves and Ataumbi to be its Living Treasures for 2015.

Keri Ataumbi describes her work as “wearable art, an exploration of the relationship between jewelry’s capacities as adornment and sculpture.”

Keri Ataumbi started as a painter, then went into sculpture and jewelry, and is known for her different series focused on insects, ocean creatures and bows and arrows. Teri Greeves won a USA Fellowship Award in 2016.