This year, Chiaroscuro’s annual Indian Market show, Into the Now, From Then, features an eclectic group of nine artists whose work, though rooted in themes of native identity, finds expression in a myriad of contemporary idioms, even when honoring more traditional tribal arts. As in previous Indian Market exhibitions, Into the Now showcases the talents of a diverse group of locally and internationally recognized artists who represent a cross section of the best in contemporary native arts, once again embracing a broad range of mediums such as pottery, sculpture, paintings and prints. Eight artists have returned in 2009. In addition to the late Harry Fonseca, the returning artists include Norman Akers, Rick Bartow, Yatika Starr Fields, Lisa Holt and Harlan Reano, Rose B. Simpson, and Emmi Whitehorse. New to the show is painter Steven Yazzie.
The paintings and monotypes of Norman Akers (Osage) are like narrative poems that venture into the realm of the visionary and the surreal. Abstract and lyrical, his paintings seem full of hidden meaning as everyday images take on symbolic significance. Toys like spinning tops, for example, take on a deeper resonance when paired with strands of DNA putting one in mind of the conundrum of fate and chance.
Rick Bartow (Wiyot) will present a collection of wooden sculptures that bear the same undertone of animal instinct that characterizes his works in ink and pastel. Raw and visceral, Bartow’s sculptures represent aspects of the animal in all of us. Bartow’s work gravitates between the majestic and the knowing—attributes we might associate with animal spiritual guides—and the pain and anguish of the all too human existential condition. His imagery serves as metaphor for the artistic process as both a gift and an ordeal.
Yatika Starr Fields (Cherokee, Creek, and Osage), a painter, creates hallucinogenic imagery with a pop culture aesthetic that references historical and contemporary themes. His series of paintings based on buoys are suggestive of the maritime objects’ function as a tool and their significance to native and non-native cultures. Starr Fields canvasses are alive with movement and images that rely on vibrant colors and patterns to create a narrative and expressionistic web that dazzles the eye.
Chiaroscuro, which represents the Harry Fonseca Estate, is proud to show some of the late artist’s Stone Poem series: a collection of work that references the petroglyphs created by the ancestors of modern Pueblo Indians and other peoples. As large as 6×12 feet, the Stone Poems call attention to the dancing, self contained and seemingly unassociated imagery of rock art that permeates the West. Fonseca (Maidu) used petroglyphs to reimagine mythic narratives from a highly personal viewpoint.
Lisa Holt (Cochiti Pueblo) and Harlan Reano (Santa Domingo Pueblo) continue to collaborate on traditional vessel forms in painted ceramic. Holt, niece of famous ceramic sculptor and fashion designer Virgil Ortiz, creates the forms that Reano then paints in bold, rich decorative motifs that elaborate on traditional designs with audacious innovations that speak to the less conventional pottery collector. Their work is compelling; Reano’s elaborate designs elevate pottery into eye catching showpieces of singular beauty.
Rose B. Simpson (Santa Clara Pueblo) a former vocalist for Chocolate Helicopter is a multitalented artist who is known for both her visual and performing arts. As a ceramicist, Simpson creates images inspired from tribal arts that extend beyond the Americas but still relate to the idea of self, of identity in work that is simultaneously personal and global, intimate and mythic.
Gallery artist Emmi Whitehorse contributes a series of nature inspired paintings that incorporate imagery suggestive of forms of aquatic life. With vivid colors that take on attributes of brightness as though one were approaching the light-filled surface of an underwater realm from below, Whitehorse’s paintings are expansive and dream-like. They visually represent the Navajo philosophy of harmony and balance.
Steven Yazzie’s oil and acrylic landscapes speak to the deep connection of native identity with the land but expresses the idea in a modern parlance. The echoing of the man-made with the natural such as in his painting of a chandelier paired with a dead tree speaks to intentional and accidental convergences of form, cutting to the very essence of artistic expression and representation.