SANTA FE — Last weekend, August 19–20, throngs of artists, curators, and collectors convened in the small mountain town of Santa Fe for the 101st edition of the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA) annual market. With about 100,000 people in attendance, more than doubling the city’s population, this year’s market is a robust return after the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over 800 artists exhibited works spanning painting, sculpture, beadwork, ceramics, photography, textiles, and more. In addition to exhibiting artists on the historic plaza of New Mexico’s capital city, there was a litany of programming put on by SWAIA and other entities, including a Native American Cinema Showcase organized by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, a pop-up group exhibtion organized by photographer Cara Romero and Minneapolis-based Bockley Gallery, and a launch party for artist Jeffrey Gibson’s new book An Indigenous Present (2023) at SITE Santa Fe. At the main event on the plaza, marketgoers encountered a wide array of art and artists, including the following highlights.
Veteran artist Jennifer Tafoya (Santa Clara Pueblo) is best known for her hand-coiled pottery. Her dinosaur-themed pot “Caught by Surprise” (2023) won her this year’s Best of Show (BOS) award ar the market. The hand-dug Santa Clara Clay vessel is playful in design and sophisticated in form, featuring a scene of a T-Rex hunting its prey in a dynamic and detailed tableau. Tafoya’s elaborate technique includes the application of natural ore colors and clay slips that she collects through natural sources.
Everton Tsosie (Diné), who’s based between Albuquerque and New York City, creates bold, gestural paintings on oversized canvases. Drawing from historical and personal experiences, his work often features geometric and angularly distorted faces soaked in a combination of anguish and joy.
Tyrrell Tapaha (Diné) participated in their second SWAIA market this year alongside their Cheii (grandfather in his clan) and master weaver Roy Kady (Diné), and artists Jeanette Clah (Diné) and Kevin Tsosie (Diné), who all shared a booth together. Tapaha learned how to weave from Kady while growing up in the Navajo Nation in the Four-Corners region of the Southwestern United States. The artist’s sheep-to-loom methodology — in which they raise their sheep, harvest the wool, gather vegetal dyes indigenous to the region, and roll their own yarn — is not just a process, but also a philosophical approach to Native lifeways, taking the time to hold space for every facet of the production of a weaving. Kady and Tapaha sold out their booth this year, which featured playful and provocative weavings by Tapaha that spell out words like “fuck” and “slut.” Tapaha will also be featured in the upcoming group show Young Elder at James Fuentes gallery in New York alongside Andrea Carlson, Sonya Kelliher-Combs, Tyrrell Tapaha, and Nico Williams (the show is curated by Natalie Ball and Zach Feuer).
The aforementioned Cara Romero (Chemehuevi) shared her booth with her husband, potter Diego Romero (Cochiti), and his son Santiago Romero (Cochiti). Romero showed her new photography series “Starlight, Starbright” (2023), featuring a multi-generational group of Indigenous women skating at a roller rink, exuberant in their display of power, playfulness, and beauty. Diego Romero showed one piece, a pot titled “King of the Night” (2023), while Santiago Romero showed a series of abstracted landscape and architectural paintings rich in texture.
The drawings that Jade Bread (Diné, Blackfeet Nation, San Carlos Apache) brought to the market this year played with historical tropes of drawing and colored pencil. Using antique ledger paper from government documents, mercantile, and attendance and scoring logs from schools in the 1940s, the artist participates in a continuum of representation and portraiture. The vibrantly colored drawings depict everyday scenes from her life as a Diné person and also reference parts of her Blackfoot and San Carlos Apache ancestry.
Jared Tso, a fourth-generation Diné potter, received two ribbons in the juried competition for their ceramic works “Corrugated Vessel,” and “Squash Blossoms” (both 2023). The artist shared with Hyperallergic that this year’s market was for him a “culmination of hard work on many fronts of my art practice.” Tso also said he felt encouraged by SWAIA’s efforts to incorporate works that fall outside of more rigid categories and embrace more experimental works.
The market weekend can feel chaotic, and overwhelming. With so many works, events, talks, and Indigenous fashion shows to see, it can be a lot to take in. To quote Everton Tsosie, this year’s market was “superb and exhausting.”