SANTA FE – This year’s Santa Fe Indian Market honors the strength and resilience of indigenous women.
“And that’s where I got the inspiration for this piece,” said Jackie Bread (Blackfeet), who won the 2019 Best of Show on Friday for her beaded portrait of her great-great aunt.
Bread, who also won Best of Show in 2013 for a beaded hat box that included feathered portraits of her loved ones, is one of about 1,000 Native American artists from more than 200 federally recognized tribes participating in the 98th Santa Fe Indian Market.
In the market, put on by the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts, the artists will show and sell their work in booths on Santa Fe’s Plaza and surrounding streets today and Sunday.
Complementary events, such as pottery demonstrations, musical performances and panel discussions covering issues affecting indigenous people, will be held at various downtown locations.
No admission is charged to the market, which draws more than 115,000 people each year.
Bread, whose booth No. 638 is on the Plaza, says this is her 21st at Indian Market.
“This is always unbelievable, to be selected for anything, let alone Best of Show,” said Bread, whose portrait was also the winner in the beadwork/quillwork category. “It is such a huge thing. It seems impossible.”
The portrait Bread created seems impossible, too. Most of the thousands of beads that make up the portrait are size 15 – 1.3 mm – or about the size of a pinhead.
“The necklace is, like, crystals,” she said. “And I put some freshwater pearls in the background. Otherwise, it’s just all glass beads – teeny glass beads.”
It’s a tedious process.
“I worked on it all summer – literally all summer – and that’s a long time for me,” she said. “I don’t work on anything else. Some people work on several projects. I work on one thing so I can kind of keep that continuity going.”
Asked how she goes about her work, Bread said, “Most of it is like a two-needle process, where I’m carrying the beads on one thread and sewing the beads down with another thread. … It takes time, but it’s one of those things where you kind of lose yourself in it and lose track of time.”
The portrait of her bespectacled great-great aunt with long black braids and traditional dress against a tapestry background is bespeckled with turquoise, purple, blue and rust-colored beads. It’s based on a photograph she found.
“I like vintage photographs, and there’s not a lot of photographs of indigenous women. So I started looking through my personal photos, and I had this one,” said Bread, who grew up in Browning, Montana, on the Blackfeet reservation and now lives in Great Falls. “It was just a candid snapshot someone had taken, and I really liked it. It speaks to me.”
The photograph was probably taken in the early 1960s when her great-great aunt was about 60 years old, she said.
Bread remembers her Aunt Cecile, but she didn’t know her well. She recalls visiting her in a nursing home in the 1970s, but, by then, she had suffered a stroke.
“Everything I’ve heard about her, she was just an amazing person,” she said. “She had such a beautiful soul, and her family was such a beautiful family.”
Even though she has won Best of Show before, Bread said this time was even more special.
“At this point in my life, I really need that now,” said Bread, who had to call upon her own strength and resilience to complete the work. She said that she has been dealing with some family issues and that life has been a bit of a roller coaster ride lately.
“It took a lot of clearing the way to be able to work on this, and a lot of emotion went into it,” she said.
Tonight, the Indian Market Gala will be held at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center. The gala and auction serve as a fundraiser for SWAIA and this year’s will honor New Mexico U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo).
Among the items to be auctioned will be drums hand-decorated by Haaland and other female Native artists. Some of the proceeds from the auction will go to the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women.
The theme of tonight’s affair is “Rise and Remember: Honoring the Resilience of Native Women.” Getting inside will be tough if you don’t have a ticket already – ticket sales ended Friday afternoon.
Indian Market closes Sunday with the annual haute couture fashion show, which has grown in recent years to become one of the market’s most popular features.
According to a news release, it highlights the creations of Indigenous fashion designers who draw from “their cultural past to create clothing, jewelry and accessories that embody the essence of ancestral memory, while creating innovative designs representing the now.”
The fashion show takes place at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center at 4 p.m. Tickets are $10-$25, or $150 for VIP entry that includes access to a lounge before the show and a meet-and-greet afterward. Ticket sales end at 5 p.m. today. Go to swaia.org/indian-market/haute-couture-fashion-show/.