We enjoyed related events last weekend, all organized by our friend Saba, a Diné (Navajo) artist. At NMSU's Kent Hall, Pictograff: the Art of War Prayer opened; meanwhile, as part of the 8th Annual Illegal(?) Arrowsoul Art Show, visiting indigenous aerosol artists muralized walls at Cruces Creatives, the old Coors Building near the railroad tracks, and elsewhere.
Friday evening, artwork hung inside Kent Hall; and in the courtyard stood a temporary structure, its blank walls waiting to be painted during the opening.
We talked with Orlando Cruz from Santa Ana Pueblo, and listened to his haunting songs and drumming. A Standing Rock Water Protector, he's friendly and interesting – and so popular on Facebook that he has reached Facebook's limit on friends.
Native Artists in Action had a table. This collective uses art and rap music to help kids find better ways to live, including healthier eating, Bishop Undurdog (Zuni) said. “We found ourselves through art, and we're trying to do the same thing, let young people find themselves through art.”
On the structure's three walls, three artists created interesting art pieces as the sun set. One artist, 40+ (and even sometimes using little reading glasses), was Doug Miles (San Carlos Apache), a nationally-known artist/photographer. He once painted a mural in Fort Apache (a Bronx neighborhood the police once considered highly dangerous) exploring the similarities between the two Fort Apaches.
These are energetic, creative, caring young people. They feel doubly marginalized, being both indigenous and artists. They're forging a subculture that welcomes them, nurtures their art, and helps them help others. No one should feel threatened by this – unless it's inherently threatening when people who are different (ethnically, culturally, or socially) try to express themselves, make a buck, and raise families.
These artists exhibit an appealing mix of creativity and activism. Several protested at Standing Rock. NAA sells a t-shirt with a painting and the words, “The elders say . . . never forget 1680,” a reference to the Santa Fe revolt.
Introducing the music, Saba said that while “graffiti culture” started on the coasts, Native Americans here have made it their own. “Don't forget, we've been writing and painting messages on the wall forever. So this is a rebirth of that. This is how we pray.”
He thanked Kent Hall and the University officials for “being cool with all this.”
We bought a painting by Rezmo of a traditionally-dressed young girl reaching up toward a hummingbird. The painting is somehow sweet, and seems sweeter when a friend explains that the girl is Rezmo's daughter. It also reflects her Diné-Aztec heritage. Rezmo, talked with us about how, artistically and personally, traditional tribal concerns mesh with new ideas and styles.
The temperature was perfect, the moon peeked at us between tree branches, and the music was lively. Blood-pumping. The NAA folks sang rap-style music with rap's hard-edged sound but softer lyrics. We met some neat people, learning later that many are cultural rock stars with legions of fans, though mostly unknown to us older white folks. We saw some great art, some made right in front of us. Both the art and conversations reveal a very old culture blended with a new one, and artistic self-expression mixed with strong desires to make things better.
I wished more Las Crucens were enjoying these moments; but I was also glad the evening was so intimate. Everything seemed just as it should be.
[Note: I've inserted a bunch of photos from the event, below. When I have a moment, I'll add some additional comments, additional captions to photos, and links to info on some of the artists mentioned! Meanwhile, I should note that the "Something is Happening Here . . ." in the title is from a Bob Dylan song, the line, "Something is happening here . . . and you don't know, what it is, . . . do you, Mr. Jones."]
|Even the Dead Can Paint|
|but Don't Forget What Weekend this Is!|
|Painting Cruces Creatives|
|Saba takes a hand|
|Orlando Cruz drumming - Kent Hall|
|Pleased with her Purchase?|
|At the old Coors Building Saturday morning|
|At the old Coors Bldg|
|Saba in Coors Building|
|Painting Detail near Buffalo|
|Randy Painting at Dereks Place|
|Johnny w chair|