There are certain things you can count on during the annual Santa Fe Indian Market weekend in August every year. Heat is one of those things, for example, and this year was no exception, with temperatures in the 90s and little, if any, rain to cool everyone off. Crowds is another dependable element. With some 100,000 visitors in attendance, crowds are everywhere: waiting in line for restaurants, chatting in hotel lobbies, slowly making their way from one booth to the next at the world’s largest and most prestigious Native American festival. Of course, crowds are good in many ways—lots of people means lots of sales for artists, some of whom depend on these two days for much of their annual income. This year’s crowds appeared a little stronger than last year’s, at least in my unscientific survey.
One of the most important things you can count on at Indian Market is quality artwork. Artists must meet rigorous standards in order to be accepted in the first place—everything from the materials they work with to the processes they use is covered by the extensive guidelines. And awards are given out in numerous categories and sub-categories, determined by countless experts on Native art. Winning a prize at Indian Market is often a career-changing achievement.
But while quality is a given, the types of pieces that win the top awards are not always easy to predict. This year the Best of Classification award for pottery went to a beautiful pot by Dominique Toya, an artist from Jemez Pueblo (who, I’m proud to say, was featured in our August issue). Her sculptural, grooved vessel with an irregular rim is exquisite, but it’s not large or highly decorated like other pots that have won in the past.
The Best of Show winner was Darryl and Rebecca Begay’s concho belt titled RETURN FROM THE LONG WALK, a piece that is not only lovely to look at but also tells an important story about everything Navajo people have accomplished since the Long Walk (a forced relocation that took place in 1864). And this year’s winner in the Diverse Art Forms classification is something I haven’t seen at Indian Market until now: a complicated wooden cabinet made by Therese Tohtsoni. It just goes to show that no matter how well you know what to expect from a weekend at Indian Market, you just may find something to surprise and delight you.
One more thing: We want to make Southwest Art the most informative and inspiring magazine it can possibly be. From time to time we conduct surveys in which you, our readers, get to tell us what you like and don’t like about each month’s issues. We really want your opinion, so please go to http://tinyurl.com/pnhpap before October 31 and tell us what you think. Thank you! -October 2009