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Sandra Hale Schulman
Special to ICT

The latest: An artist/horseman wins top prizes in Gallup, a new book features a Navajo murder mystery, and Indian Market artists take over Santa Fe

ART: Diné artist picks up wins 

A Diné artist and horseman has taken top prizes in the juried art show at the Gallup Intertribal Ceremonial this year, competing against himself with realistic portraits of his Aunt Dorothy and several of his horses.

Armond Antonio, of Gallup, New Mexico, won the first- and second-place prizes for his work.

Artist Armond Antonio's painting of several of his horses won first place in a juried art show at the Gallup Intertribal Ceremonial that ran Aug 4-14, 2022 in Gallup, New Mexico. (Photo courtesy of Armond Antonio)

“First and second place ribbons! Man, can’t believe it,” Antonio said in an Instagram post. “Thank you everyone for your support, I really appreciate it. I’ve gone a long way and inspired many. Ahehee Ntsaago.“

The Intertribal Ceremonial celebrated its 100th anniversary from Aug. 4-14 in Gallup with a string of events that included tribal processions, performance showcases, a rodeo, pageants, juried art shows, parades, a pow wow, film screenings and Navajo song and dance.

Artist Armond Antonio's painting of his Aunt Dorothy wearing his sunglasses won second place in a juried art show at the Gallup Intertribal Ceremonial that ran Aug 4-14, 2022 in Gallup, New Mexico. (Photo courtesy of Armond Antonio)

The ceremonial is hosted annually at Red Rock Park, which has a rodeo arena, concert stage and large indoor area for art exhibits.

Reached by phone a few days after the big win, Antonio said he entered several pieces he had created from free sketches and photographs. A painting of three horses took first place, and the painting of his Aunt Dorothy in sunglasses took second.

The painting of his aunt emerged from a photo, he said.

“This year I did a lot of free sketches and I worked from photographs,” he told ICT. “That's my Aunt Dorothy in the portrait. She raised me when I was growing up, out in Pintado Pueblo. I took that photo; those are my sunglasses I made her wear.”

He’s also a horseman, so he had additional ready subjects.

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“Those are actually my horses,” he said of the painting that won first place. “I have 13 of them. I train horses and I also resell them. I'm an activist for horses, because a lot of those wild horses, they get rounded up and get sent down to Mexico and turned into chicken feed or dog food.”

He said he taught himself to paint, though his father was also creative.

“My father was an artist,” he said. “Not a well-known established artist, but he used to paint, draw in front of me. And as a kid, I got inspired by that. And then he told me how to draw horses. He worked for the railroad. He didn't become an artist, but he used to work horses and make art as a kid growing up. That's all I really stuck to, which is horses, cattle, art.”

His current piece is a large mural-size painting of a woman on horseback herding sheep as a graffiti-tagged train runs behind her through downtown Gallup along Route 66. He will be showing it at Sovereign Santa Fe this weekend, Aug. 20-21.

He is painting it in his living room, as he is in-between studios.

Artist Armond Antonio works on a large artwork for Sovereign Santa Fe exhibit at Santa Fe Indian Market set for Aug. 20-22, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Armond Antonio)

“That is a representation of the Navajo of Gallup and the trains that carry coal from the coal mine,” Antonio said.

He’s proud of his recent win – it’s only the second time he has entered a contest.

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“Last year, I won second place,” he said. “Right now, I just raise horses and paint, so whatever art I sell just gets reinvested into my lifestyle, and my artwork.”

BOOKS: Thriller set on Navajo nation is ‘haunting’

Award-winning Diné filmmaker and former forensic photographer Ramona Emerson writes of life and death on the Navajo reservation in a chilling debut novel, “Shutter.”

Award-winning Diné filmmaker and former forensic photographer Ramona Emerson writes of life and death on the Navajo reservation in a chilling debut novel, “Shutter.” (Photo courtesy of Soho Press)

It’s the thriller read of the summer “Dark Winds” meets “The Sixth Sense.” The book follows the supernatural events of Rita Todacheene, a forensic photographer working for the Albuquerque police force. Her photography skills and uncanny sixth sense have cracked many cases, but she has been hiding a secret – she sees the ghosts of crime victims who haunt her and point her to clues that other investigators can’t see.

As a portal back to the living for dead and traumatized spirits, Rita is terrorized by nagging ghosts who sabotage her personal life. Her ability has driven her away from the Navajo reservation, has isolated her from friends, and gotten her in trouble with the law.

Now it threatens her life.

Drawing on her own upbringing on the Navajo Nation in New Mexico and her experience working with the Albuquerque police as a forensic photographer, Emerson knows of life on the reservation. Her book draws from real cases, and a rich knowledge of Diné culture.

She also knows storytelling. During her 20-year career in film as a videographer, writer, and editor, she has been an Emmy nominee and a Sundance Native Lab Fellow. In 2020, she was appointed to the New Mexico Governor’s Council on Film and Media Industries.

Award-winning Diné filmmaker and former forensic photographer Ramona Emerson writes of life and death on the Navajo reservation in her debut novel, “Shutter.” (Photo courtesy of Soho Press)

“‘Shutter’ is utterly unputdownable,” Tommy Orange, acclaimed author of the novel, “There There,” writes on the book jacket. “It is a haunting thriller, written with exquisite suspense, and filled to the brim with beautiful writing, through the lens of cameras and memory—an ode to photography, written across the landscapes of the Navajo Nation and cityscapes of New Mexico, about what it means to witness and capture death, be captured by it, told unflinchingly by an author who knows what she is doing on every page.

“It is fun, and funny, and chilling,” Orange said. “This is a story that won’t let you go long after you finish, and you won’t want it to end even as you can’t stop reading to find out how it does.”

More praise has also rolled in: the book is an American Booksellers Association Indie Next Pick for August; a Public Libraries Association Library Reads Pick for August; a Publishers Weekly Editor's Top 10 Mystery for Fall; and A Crime Reads most anticipated crime book of summer.

Ramona Emerson will be reading from “Shutter” at the Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C., on Monday, Aug. 22, at 7 p.m.

ART: Indian Market takes over Santa Fe

The Plaza in Santa Fe will be ground zero this weekend, Aug. 20-21, for the top Indigenous art and artists in the country.

A growing crowd favorite event is Sovereign Santa Fe, a contemporary Native American Arts exhibition that takes place at La Fonda on the Plaza through the weekend. The exhibition, which showcases Indigenous creativity, is curated by Tony Abeyta.

Sovereign’s mission is to create a platform to highlight so-called New School Native American Arts and its relationship between traditional and contemporary. The exhibition features contemporary paintings, sculptures, and fashion in shows from Dante Biss-Grayson and Jamie Okuma.

Piersten Doctor, Diné, is among the featured artists at the Sovereign Santa Fe exhibit at Santa Fe Indian Market, Aug. 20-22, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Piersten Doctor)

Among the Sovereign Santa Fe 2022 featured artists is Piersten Doctor, Diné, whose work features unusual angles of Indigenous dancers and women, painted with a vibrant palette.

Doctor said he gets his offbeat angles when he captures subjects “through perspective poses that show powerful movements and gesture.”

“As a Diné artist, I’m portraying and understanding my Indigenous stories,” Doctor said in a statement from Sovereign Santa Fe. “I hope to keep pushing my pieces by questioning what's been done and what I can paint by respectfully painting within what we keep sacred and what we may share.

“My favorite medium is oil, as I like to do fine art pieces as well as thick paintings with pallet knives,” he said. “I hope to learn and do more murals, as I'm still a novice with spray paint.”

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