Dr. Sidney and Ruth Schultz reigned over the Santa Fe Indian Market for years, she crowned by her propeller pith helmet, and he in his patchwork pants and koshare bolo.
Ruth, a 25-year member of the Albuquerque Museum’s Advisory Committee, died in 2019. Orthopedic surgeon Sidney followed her in 2022.
Avid collectors of Native American art, the couple’s legacy is now on view at the Albuquerque Museum through a donated collection of beadwork, ceramics, paintings, prints and more in “Indigenous Art, Culture, and Community” through July 23.
The exhibition features more than 50 works by more than 30 artists. Many of them have won top honors at Santa Fe. The lineup includes such familiar names as Jamie Okuma, Sandra Okuma, Helen Hardin, Lonnie Vigil, Ben Harjo, Teri Greeves, Marcus Amerman, Les Namingha and more.
The Santa Fe Indian Market has served as a nucleus of Native American creativity for much of its 101 years. Featuring some 1,000 Native artists from more than 200 Indigenous communities, it lures more than 100,000 people to Santa Fe every August.
The exhibition explores the evolution of these artists’ styles, grounded in traditional materials and techniques.
“The reason we’re doing this exhibition is to celebrate a really important gift to the collection,” museum director Andrew Connors said.
Ruth “kept pushing the museum to support Native artists more thoroughly,” he added.
From beaded Converse to miniature pots, Native art continually evolves with innovative contemporary works. The Schultzes collected from and got to know the living Native artists they supported.
“Ruth and Sidney would often see the quality of the artists before they began winning ribbons,” Connors said.
Some pieces represent a family affair.
Jamie Okuma, (Luiseo/Shoshone-Bannock) famous for her beaded high-heeled Louboutin boots, is the daughter of Sandra Okuma, (Luiseo/Shoshone-Bannock) a maker of more traditional objects such as purses. The pair use thousands of glass seed beads in their work.
“Sandra focused more on traditional regalia and small objects,” Connors said. “These are the first pair of Louboutin boots (Jamie) beaded. She’s made a couple of pairs now that are in museum collections. That fashion runs from Native regalia to Louboutin boots. We have a wonderful doll she created of a mother holding the hand of a child with a pull toy. With the doll you see the exact same colors you see in the boots, so there’s a wonderful continuum.”
Marcus Amerman (Choctaw) integrated pop culture into contemporary work through his image of Janet Jackson gracing the cover of Rolling Stone and a portrait of George Armstrong Custer bookended by Native Americans. Artists ranging from Jaune Quick-to-See Smith and Andy Warhol have also incorporated Custer into their work to shed light on the Battle of Little Bighorn and the brutal treatment of Indigenous people.
While Amerman uses traditional beading techniques, he shows the deep influence of popular art, Connors said.
“He says U.S. culture is also my culture,” he explained. “Most of these artists don’t live in two worlds; they live in a complex world.”
Diné painter Anthony Chee Emerson incorporated the Schultzes into a “Where’s Waldo?” image of the Gallup Intertribal Ceremonial Parade in his acrylic on paper. The couple stand in front of a tan truck in the middle top section.
Emerson has participated in Indian Market since 1982 when there were only 25 booths.
Indian Market has evolved and changed tremendously across its 101-year history. Originally organized by non-Native staff at the Museum of New Mexico and the School of American Research, today its staff and board members are primarily Native American. It remains the largest juried art market of its kind in the world.