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Curator Karen Kramer 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.

Micah Wesley, “Arrival” (2020), acrylic on canvas, 36 x 48 inches (courtesy the artist)

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. SWAIA has announced that it will partner with the Clark Hulings Fund for Visual Artists to produce a virtual market this summer.

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.

Karen Kramer is curator of Native American and Oceanic Art and Culture at the Peabody Essex Museum, in Salem, Massachusetts, where she has developed major exhibitions on Native American art, including the recent, critically acclaimed T.C. Cannon: At the Edge of America and Native Fashion Now. She also directs the museum’s innovative Native American Fellowship Program, which provides training for rising Native American leaders in the museum, cultural, and academic sectors.

Karen Kramer, curator of Native American and Oceanic Art and Culture at the Peabody Essex Museum (courtesy Peabody Essex Museum, photograph by Bob Packert)

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Keri Ataumbi, earrings from the Pee Shan Collection,  smoked brain tanned buckskin, porcupine quills, black tahitian pearls, gray and black diamond beads, sterling silver, 18k yellow gold, .5 ct white diamonds, feathers (photo by Underexposed Studios, courtesy the artist)

Keri Ataumbi (Kiowa Nation): One word comes to mind with Keri Ataumbi’s jewelry: exquisite. Under her Ataumbi Metals brand, she creates jewelry that leads a double-life on your body as wearable sculpture. Keri’s dark buffalo horn embedded with diamonds, silver cast elk teeth, and high-gloss, candy-colored semi-precious stones connect Kiowa imagery, materials, and ideas to her superlative jewelry-making skills.

Jeremy Frey, untitled basket, black ash and braided cedar bark, 16 x 11 inches (courtesy King Gallery)

Jeremy Frey (Passamaquoddy): Jeremy Frey’s baskets sing in symmetry, form, and precision. Jeremy channels eight generations of family and community history into each of his ash fancy baskets, an ornate kind of Wabanaki weaving. SWAIA Best of Show winner in 2011, Jeremy, who calls his style “cutting-edge traditional,” is always experimenting and pushing his techniques, shapes, and quality to the next level. The results are always dazzling.

Jason Garcia, “August 10, 1680” (2018), traditional hand processed clay, mineral pigments, outdoor firing methods, 6 3/4 x 9 inches (courtesy the artist)

Jason Garcia — Okuu Pin (Santa Clara Pueblo Tewa): Jason Garcia is a visual storyteller who communicates primarily through clay forms and printmaking. Cell phones, video game characters, rain clouds and Corn Maidens wearing dance tablitas find expression in his work. He gathers and hand processes his own clay and mineral pigments, along with firing his pieces using time-honored methods. A lifelong fan of comic books and graphic novels, Jason’s imagery draws from 21st century popular culture, superheroes, deep research into Pueblo historical events and sites, and by being an active participant in his community’s daily and ceremonial life.

Micah Wesley, “La Re-Enactment” (2019), acrylic on canvas, 36 x 48 inches (courtesy the artist)

Micah Wesley (Mvskoke(Creek) Nation of Oklahoma/Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma): Micah Wesley‘s expressive palette and powerful figuration often engage with history and pop culture. Time and space warp as his subjects emerge from — or melt back into — the canvas in an urgent and raw Francis Bacon-meets-Rick Bartow-and-Fritz Scholder-kind-of-way, but with his own unique Were Wulf (his DJ name) twist. Micah’s triumphant return to Market this summer follows a hiatus of several years, so I’m extra sorry to miss seeing his pictures in person.

Holly Wilson, “I’m Still Here” (2017), bronze, patina, flex cord, 29 x 27 x 24 inches (courtesy the artist)

Holly Wilson (Delaware Nation/Cherokee): Holly Wilson is a multimedia artist whose practice includes bronze cast sculpture, painting, and photography. Through her beguiling sinewy figures, both human and animal who sometimes wear masks, Holly tells narratives of identity and transformation that are at once personal and biographical, rooted in her cultural heritage and grounded in the universal. Whether handheld or a large-scale installation, there’s a dreamlike quality of her work that I’m infinitely drawn to.

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