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A few fortunate artists collect awards for their masterpieces

SANTA FE – Adrian Nasafotie had Santa Fe Indian Market in mind when he started working on a sculpture he calls “Purification” months ago.

Although the Hopi artist’s elaborate cottonwood root carving is delicate, he wasn’t going to make anything that he couldn’t transport from his home in northern Arizona to Santa Fe.

“I wouldn’t even attempt anything like that if I didn’t know how to get it here,” Nosafotie told the Journal Friday. “They’re really expensive, and you want the piece to get where they’re destined to.”

Nasatofie, from Moenkopi, Ariz., said he made a custom box to transport the carving, which took about six months of work, to Santa Fe for this weekend’s 95th market.

The arrangement paid off for Nasafotie, as his depiction of Hopi kachinas – one of them with wings and suspended above the others, soaring into the sky – won Best of Show at the 2016 Indian Market award luncheon at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center on Friday. The piece also won the top prize in the woodcarving category.

The market, which features hundreds of artists, attracts tens of thousands from around the globe.

“I probably won’t sleep tonight,” Nasafotie said with a huge smile after being awarded the top prize. “It hasn’t really kicked in yet. I’m just surprised that some of my pieces get ribbons.”

Top prizes after Best of Show were for best-ofs in nine classifications, including pottery, textiles, paintings, basketry and textiles, along with many ribbons handed out for various subcategories during Friday’s awards ceremony.

Dallin Maybee, chief operating officer of the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts, which organizes Indian Market, said an “army” of about 45 judges splits into groups and picks the winners. There are often heated debates over who should be named, he said.

While Nasafotie accepted his awards with a subtle smile, others had a harder time containing their emotions. Berdina Charley, a Navajo weaver from Blue Gap, Ariz., needed a few moments to collect herself and fight back tears after her piece, “The Fall Wedge,” won the award for best textile. The room was dead silent as Charley struggled to find her words.

“I never thought I’d win an award here at Indian Market,” Charley finally said.

Charley said she worked on her rug seven hours a day for six months and experimented with her techniques this time around. She told the Journal t hat she didn’t expect it would earn her first Indian Market award.

“All this is new, what I did on that rug,” Charley said. “I took a chance, and I just wanted to see where it would take me and how it would turn out if I did it this way.”

Others shedding tears were mother-daughter duo Joyce and Juanita Growing Thunder Fogarty, who won the award for best beadwork.

“It’s an honor to work with you every day, Mom,” Juanita Growing Thunder Fogarty told her mother during their acceptance speech.

Albuquerque’s Ed Natiya, a 44-year-old Navajo artist who’s originally from Crownpoint, won the award for best sculpture with “The Red Men,” a highly detailed depiction of three Iroquois warriors coming ashore for battle. Natiya said his metal sculpture of the Iroquois, who he said used some of the stealth techniques that special forces units still use today, is historically accurate.

“Part of the fun is doing all the research into how they would dress, what accouterments or weapons they would use, and to study those things in depth,” Natiya said.

Natiya spent about a year working on the sculpture, and although he’ll likely sell it by the end of the weekend, he said he’ll never forget the red men he spent so much time working on.

“It really is one of your children,” he said. “There are some pieces that have a special place in your heart, and this piece definitely has a special place.”