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Curator John Lukavic Picks Five Artists to Watch From Indian Market

In this ongoing series, curators and members of the Native arts community share five artists they were looking forward to seeing at the 2020 Indian Market, which has been postponed to 2021.

DY Begay, “Winter in the North” (2019), wool, 31 x 57 inches (courtesy DY Begay)

In April, the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA) announced that this year’s Indian Market, the largest and most important Native arts market in the United States, would be postponed until 2021 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

For this series, we asked curators and members of the Native arts community to spotlight five artists whose work they were looking forward to seeing at the 2020 Indian Market, with the hope that this can play a small part in making up for some of the exposure lost from the postponement of this year’s market. Our goal is to highlight Native artists who have continued to make important work amid these trying times. You can find past spotlights here.

As Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Native Arts at the Denver Art Museum, John Lukavic conducts and presents scholarly research, develops exhibitions, collects Native arts, and disseminates knowledge of the DAM’s American Indian, African, and Oceanic collections. He received his Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology at the University of Oklahoma and his MA in Museum Science from Texas Tech University. In 2018, he was selected for the Getty Leadership Institute at Claremont Graduate University’s NextGen program for emerging top talent in the museum field. In 2019 he received an Award for Excellence from the Association of Art Museum Curators for his essay in the “Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer” exhibition catalogue. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Native American Art Studies Association, as well as for the Denver Indian Center, Inc.

John Lukavic (photo by Jeff Wells, courtesy Denver Art Museum)

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Vanessa Paukeigope Jennings , “Tipi model with depiction of underwater creature Zemoguani” (1990), original tipi belonged to Adalboingyato (Fair-Haired Old Man) (courtesy the Arthur and Shifra Silberman Collection at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, 1996.27.0749)

Vanessa Paukeigope Jennings (Kiowa/Kiowa Apache/Gila River Pima): Attending Indian Market every year for me is as much about seeing new and old friends as it is seeing incredible work. Vanessa is a knowledge keeper in her community and a longtime exhibitor who I’ve known since I was a teenager. It is always a highlight of Market to see her and her new work. —JL

Jamie Okuma with “Common Ground: Culture Isn’t Black and White” (photo by Cameron Linton, courtesy the artist)

Jamie Okuma (Luiseño/Shoshone-Bannock): To reach a high level of success is difficult, but to do so while continuing to innovate as Jamie has is so impressive. Her work never ceases to amaze me in the way it pushes boundaries with such mastery of design and technique. —JL

Cara Romero, “Evolvers” (2019), archival photograph (© Cara Romero, courtesy the artist)

Cara Romero (Chemehuevi): Cara has become an artistic powerhouse with her photography and I am always excited to see her new work. Her focus on feminine strength and agency brings a much needed visual and conceptual perspective to Market and beyond. —JL

DY Begay, “Trails of Indigo” (2018), wool, 24 x 30 inches (courtesy DY Begay)

DY Begay (Navajo): DY is an artist who sells out the moment her booth opens, but seeing her work is only part of what draws me to visit her every year. She is a teacher to so many younger weavers and provides them with encouragement and support. Unlike so many artists who leave their booth as soon as their work has sold out, she sticks around all weekend to visit with weavers, friends, and collectors. —JL

Kevin Pourier, carved buffalo horn with a portrait of Sitting Bull, inlaid with orange sandstone, yellow sandstone, and mother of pearl (courtesy Kevin Pourier)

Kevin Pourier (Oglala Lakota): I first broke bread with Kevin well over a decade ago in an Italian restaurant in Fairbanks, Alaska of all places. He is an artist who has had to fight for recognition in a highly diverse Indigenous art world. His work is exquisite, unique, and for a long time did not receive its due; however, his 2018 Best of Show award at Indian Market put a focus on him that he long deserved. —JL

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