Norma Howard loved to explore and play in the woods, keeping an eye on her little brother. And she loved drawing almost as soon as she could hold a pencil in her hand.
But when the Choctaw/Chickasaw woman told her mother she wanted to be an artist, her mother told her there was no money in that — “people are not going to buy Indian art.”
“It took me until I was 36 before I started painting,” Howard said, her voice thick with tears.
But her talent and her skill have brought her, not only to Santa Fe Indian Market, where more than 1,000 artists are selling their creations, but to the best-of-classification award for her painting depicting an every-day scene of people gathering around an outdoor table with food.
Indian Market, which is said to more than double the city’s population with the influx of visitors for the weekend, will run 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday on the Plaza and surrounding streets.
Howard came from Oklahoma bearing not only art, but her story of how “a little girl who played in the woods” got the chance to be recognized for her art.
And that story’s history reaches back a century and more, as she also said, “I want to pay respect to the Choctaws who survived the Trail of Tears… to pay tribute to them for surviving, or I wouldn’t be here.”
Jeremy Frey’s story was more recent. The Passamaquoddy man from Maine couldn’t focus much this past year on creating his basketry for Indian Market. His grandfather knew he was dying and asked Frey to make his casket.
Frey pulled out his phone to show a photo of a beautifully paneled wood casket, with wooden woven basketry panels on the inside lid. His grandfather was able to see it before he died.
“He loved it,” Frey said, adding how honored he felt to do the work.
With his time taken up with family matters, he said he “just made what I wanted” in creating work for Indian Market. Still, one of his woven black ash and white cedar baskets, inspired by a pottery design, won the basketry classification.
Marvin Oliver, a Quinault from Seattle, brought art in an unusual medium for Indian Market: glass woven into sculpture. His piece that won the sculpture classification showed salmon swimming inside a net, including an historic photo sandblasted and then inked onto glass from the 1930s that showed Pacific Northwest Indians fishing from platforms over a river.
He said he created the net by blowing a big bubble of glass, wrapping the glass strands of the net around it,
Marthen sandblasting the “windows” of the bubble out. The salmon, made separately, then were carefully coaxed through the just-big-enough holes and positioned inside the net.
And if you looked really closely, you might notice that, in place of fins, the sockeye had human arms nestled against their bodies.
“That’s because we were born from the river; they are our ancestors,” Oliver said.