Sandra Hale Schulman
Special to ICT
The latest: Designer fashion in the high desert, TV and film stars light up Santa Fe, new exhibit features horses and women
FASHION: Style and stars rule Santa Fe centennial market
Santa Fe Indian Market was extra stylish for its centennial year, with a museum show dedicated to contemporary Native fashion and a grand finale runway show at the convention center with 14 Indigenous designers.
A preview opening at the Museum of Contemporary Native Art’s exhibit, “Art of Indigenous Fashion,” curated by Amber-Dawn Bear Robe, Siksika Nation, featured a who’s who of top Indigenous designers, including Jamie Okuma, Luiseño; Orlando Dugi, Diné; and Patricia Michaels, Taos Pueblo; with art by Virgil Ortiz, Cochiti Pueblo. The show runs through January 2023.
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The dressy crowd leaned heavily on wearing breakthrough designer Okuma, whose dresses are featured in The Met in New York. Her clothes, intricately patterned with florals, baskets and elk teeth, are feminine and sophisticated. The designer herself attended wearing a custom satin black-and-pink jacket with embroidery.
There was big spirit energy at the two sold-out runway shows from artist/designer Dante Biss-Grayson, Osage, of Sky Eagle Collection, at the Lumpkin Ballroom at La Fonda Hotel. The adopted son of the famed late artist Earl Biss, he has worked on the upcoming “Killers of the Flower Moon” film.
His patterned flowing dresses, coats, and capes were worn by top Indigenous models Ashley Calling Bull and Stephanie Big Eagle, among others. Amber Midthunder, star of “Prey,” wore his custom pink-and-green gown at the film’s Los Angeles premiere, which was featured in Vogue.
The grand fashion finale to market weekend was at Sunday’s Indigenous Fashion Showcase, with top designers and crowd favorites Orlando Dugi, Navajo, whose menswear played on bisexual themes; and Lauren Good Day, Arikara/Hidatsa/Blackfeet/Plains Cree, whose bright prints on leggings and bomber jackets were worn by supermodel Quannah Chasinghorse, Hän Gwich'in/Oglala Lakota, and “Reservation Dogs” star D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai, Oji-Cree First Nations.
“I’ve always wanted to model. But growing up, I never saw Indigenous representation in fashion or beauty,” Chasinghorse told Vogue. “I never grew up feeling confident because of the negative stereotypes of Native Americans. But that’s changing. Today, younger generations are going to be able to witness Indigenous excellence on the cover of magazines — and hopefully everywhere.”
Okuma unveiled her new couture collection, with models and “Dark Winds” stars Jessica Matten, Red River Métis-Cree; Eugene Braverock, Blackfoot; and Kiowa Gordon, Hualapai.
Okuma, who has been at the market exhibiting since the late 1990s with her beadwork artist and painter mother, Sandra Okuma, said she feels the pressure but “was grateful to be here for the centennial. The energy and excitement was there.”
FILM: IllumiNative hosts artists and actors at Indian Market
The Santa Fe Indian Market’s Centennial also featured powerhouse events that brought together big names in the arts. The exclusive event, Indigenous Futures: Envisioning the Next 100 Years, at La Fonda on the Plaza Hotel, was hosted by IllumiNative, the Native woman-led social justice organization dedicated to building power for Native peoples.
The two-day event served as a gathering place for film producers, artists, and movie and TV stars on the breezy terrace overlooking the booths on the street and the majestic Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, whose bell tower chimed regularly all weekend.
Hosted by Crystal Echo Hawk of IllumiNative, the event featured a lounge and curated art show by award-winning Chemehuevi artist Cara Romero, who had just opened her own gallery a few nights before.
The programming and art centered around the themes of creating influence, winning climate justice, and Indigenous representation in art, film, and TV to envision a new era for Indian Country.
The Sundance Institute Indigenous Program, with new director Adam Piron, hosted panel discussions with “Reservation Dogs” actor Gary Farmer, Cayuga Nation; Zahn McClarnon, Hunkpapa Lakota, of “Dark Winds”; Jana Schmieding, Lakota, of “Rutherford Falls”; and “Prey” producer Jhane Myers, Comanche/Blackfeet.
Also lighting up the scene were Oscar-winning actor Wes Studi, Cherokee; Heather Rae, Cherokee descent, producer of “Trudell,” “Frozen River” and “Outer Range”; Native Reel Cinema director Everett Osceola, Seminole; and Bird Runningwater, Cheyenne, former head of the Sundance Indigenous Film program who is now at Amazon.
Indigenous Futures had a resident music spinner, Osage/Potawatomi Emcee One, official DJ for Nike N7, and there was a screening of “Long Line of Ladies,” a short film by Shandiin Tome, Diné.
It was standing-room-only for the panel that featured Amber Midthunder, the 25-year-old Fort Peck star of “Prey,” who spoke about the pressure she felt after learning she had won the role of Naru in the film.
“They didn’t tell me it was a ‘Predator’ movie in the auditions, “ she said on the panel. “Just that it was an action film with a Comanche girl as the lead, which I thought was really cool. Once I found out, there was pressure to get it all right from the language to the culture to the fight scenes.”
All the producers spoke of what an important time it was, with so many Indigenous TV shows, films and actors breaking through into the mainstream.
“We’re not calling this a moment, it’s a true movement,” said Echo Hawk. “Imagine where we will be in the next 100 years.”
ART: Caddo artist debuts monumental sculpture in Montana
Red-painted women ride crying horses and totem-like heads sport multiple pairs of eyes.
Raven Halfmoon’s latest collection of work debuted at the Missoula Art Museum in Missoula, Montana on Aug. 19 and runs through Dec. 31. She is known for her large scale, monumental figurative sculpture that continue and expand contemporary Caddo culture.
Halfmoon, from Norman, Oklahoma, is a citizen of the Caddo Nation, which has a long tradition of ceramics. She hand-builds her sculptures with clay coils and uses thick layers of black, white, and red glaze. The bold figures top several hundred pounds and can rise to more than nine feet tall. To her they represent women and Caddo’s matrilineal culture.
What drew her to ceramics initially?
“Working with a Caddo elder as a teenager and then taking classes in college, I found I have an affinity for working with clay,” Halfmoon told ICT. “I want to tell a story both of how one understands self and culture, but also what defines these ideals in America today. I have always found large-scale sculpture powerful because it creates urgency in the viewer. The Caddo people have always been renowned for ceramics, and I am just taking my place in that tradition.”
She conceived of the work from a personal point of view.
“I have focused on producing a body of work that is reflective of how I feel both as a woman and as an American Indian living in the 21st Century,” she said. “In this collection, I illustrate how I feel about the ancient legacy of my Caddo tribal heritage, while at the same time acknowledging the modern day and age. Each piece is a reflection of my understanding and interpretation of Caddo culture and the fight to maintain a place for it in today’s world.”
The artist’s name is glazed on the work in bold letters — an assertion of her identity and determination, to counter racism and stereotypes.
“I consider [the sculptures as] multiple facets of me,” Halfmoon said. “But they also represent multiple generations — my great-great-grandmother, grandmother, my mother, my aunt, cousins, my ancestors, and what they’ve created.”
Brandon Reintjes, senior curator at the Missoula Art Museum in a statement, said her work is “cultural work.”
“Just as she is extending our understanding of Caddo culture specifically, she is fighting stereotypes of Native people broadly,” Reintjes said in a statement, “all the while contributing to the development and understanding of contemporary ceramics.”
Raven is represented by Kouri + Corrao Gallery in Santa Fe, and has a book coming out this fall of her artwork.
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