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A fresh approach: IFAM’s acceptance of nontraditional art has appeal for first-time participants

Standing outside of the office of the Indigenous Fine Art Market are, from left, artists Duhon James, George Alexander, Monty Little, Heidi Brandow and Shondinii Walters, along with Tailinh Agoyo, director of marketing and creative services, and John Torres Nez, IFAM president. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Standing outside of the office of the Indigenous Fine Art Market are, from left, artists Duhon James, George Alexander, Monty Little, Heidi Brandow and Shondinii Walters, along with Tailinh Agoyo, director of marketing and creative services, and John Torres Nez, IFAM president. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE, N.M. — The 300 or so artists participating in the Indigenous Fine Art Market next week in Santa Fe’s Railyard will include a number who are first-time participants in any market of this type.

“We’ll have people who have never been to Santa Fe (markets) before. People will see Native work they’ve never seen before,” said John Torres Nez, IFAM president.

Some of them will be young people he has taught at the Institute of American Indian Arts, while others may be more experienced artists who never felt they fitted into the long-time Santa Fe Indian Market.

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One of the latter is Heidi Brandow, native Hawaiian and Navajo, who has been working as an artist in Santa Fe for 12 years and is represented by Zane Bennett Gallery.

Her painting and print-making, she said, never seemed to fit in the traditional ethnographic shows and didn’t necessarily have “Native” themes. But she became intrigued by IFAM, which seemed to have a streak of rebellion in it.

“I don’t mean that in a negative way, but as in change, of doing their own thing, spearheading their own direction,” she said.

Looking at the list of IFAM artists, she added, “I was excited because it was an opportunity to show with a lot of people whose work I admire.”

Shondinii Walters and Monty Little, both IAIA students originally from Tuba City, Ariz., will display sculptures, paintings and prints. Little said he tried to get into Indian Market for two years and was put on the wait list last year. Walters said this is her first attempt to display her work outside of IAIA.

“I’m really starting out as an artist,” she said, explaining that her focus has been to paint pictures of Navajo women. “I find that empowering.” She also keeps up on current events, putting her reaction to them in her artwork and, perhaps because she’s a mother herself, she likes to include images of children in her scenes, she said.

And that opportunity to display a range of artwork in different mediums, not just one category, is something IFAM offers that the artists said they appreciate.

A couple of art installations also are expected to be constructed for the show, Torres Nez said.

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George Alexander, who currently has an exhibit with a buddy at Del Norte Credit Union, said he’s “definitely on the contemporary side of things. I’m pushing the edges of what’s considered a 2-D artist.”

“Lately I’ve been into architecture … I play games with location and identity, how they define a person.”

And he also was asked to work with Kevin Red Star to design T-shirts for IFAM.

“It was awesome, because it wasn’t on my radar at all,” he said, noting that the call came while he was driving to Colorado and he quickly turned around to get to work on designs.

“I said I need a design, and the next day he gave me seven designs,” said Tailinh Agoyo, IFAM’s marketing and creative director who made the call.

Duhon James, an IAIA alum who works in ceramics and screen-printing, said this is his first market. One of his works featured in IFAM’s promotional materials is a sculpture created from two clays. “You’re not supposed to mix clays, but I try to step outside the box,” he said.

The rippling and flowing piece was inspired by the wind, he said, which is “part of our and other people’s creation stories … .”

“Or maybe it was just from staring at (the famous photo of) Marilyn Monroe with her dress blowing up,” he dead-panned.

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