SANTA FE, N.M. – In booth No. 508 on Old Santa Fe Trail in downtown historic Santa Fe plaza is Addie Roanhorse and her brother Dante Biss-Grayson. Their bright and colorful paintings stand out in the sea of pottery, sculpture and jewelry. They are a second generation of Osage artists that have made it a tradition to show at the Santa Fe Indian Market.
Founded in 1922, the Santa Fe Indian Market is the world’s largest juried Native art show that awards a total of $90,000 annually in prize money to artists, artist fellowships, youth and professional mentoring workshops, according to a news release. It’s one of New Mexico’s largest attractions with over 120,000 people visiting each year. Artists can make up to half of their yearly income during Indian Market weekend, which took place this year Aug. 20-21.
Standing in their booth, comfortable and laid back, Roanhorse and Biss-Grayson talked about their artwork, their inspirations, and growing up the children of the late famed Osage artist Gina Gray who died in 2014.
Biss-Grayson, 39, said he feels no pressure showing and selling his work for market. He said it’s a great and positive atmosphere where he gets to see many old friends and family from his youth. He’s been around the market since he was eight years old, helping his mother and stepdad, famed Absaroke (Crow) artist Earl Biss who died in 1998. He said he’s seen many of their friends during the week and had a chance to reconnect to his art family.
“It’s a whole network and all that. I went to the Institute of American Indian Art as well. So I grew up around that and we all know each other. So it’s always nice to go out and see each other,” he said. “We all went to a bunch of receptions last night and it’s always nice to see the old gang, and the new gang, and then the new, new gang. That’s how the generations work I guess.”
He said he was the youngest to win first place in oil painting when he was 18 years old, a prestigious feat. After, he took some time off from his artwork and joined the U.S. Air Force in which he served for 15 years. He did seven tours of duty in the countries of Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Italy and Germany. He served in Combat, Search and Rescue, Hazmat and Fire. When asked if he infused his experiences at war with his paintings, he said no. He uses art as a kind of therapy and it makes him feel happiness.
Biss-Grayson currently lives in Farmington, N.M., with his wife Yanti and son. He works for the Shiprock Indian Health Service, developing policy for Emergency Management. He does his artwork on the side.
Over the course of the weekend he sold all his paintings, including one large painting for $8,000. Most of his paintings he called the “Blue Series” which featured Osage warriors on horseback with a heavy backdrop in colors of blue and black. His other featured works were in shades of gold with black ethereal figures that appeared to be dancing. It was the gold painting that caught the eye of a Pendleton Woolen Mills representative.
“The ‘Blue Series’ is more traditional … Osages in the early morning, the mist and the hunting,” he said. “But this one (pointing to the gold painting) is more like ancient tribes, like the Anasazi. There were tribes all over the world at that time, doing cave paintings, and they study them and they were all similar in imagery. So I took that idea, and the cave paintings and modernized it a little bit. Gave it a little more rhythm, some light.
Shortly after his interview with the Osage News, the Pendleton representative told Biss-Grayson he would like to make the gold painting into a Pendleton blanket.
Her acrylic paintings were diverse, some were portraits of Henry Roan, an Osage who was murdered during the Osage Reign of Terror. Others were paintings and representations of beadwork from Chief Bacon Rind’s pipe bag and beadwork from Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear’s red and blue Osage blanket.
“I have this Native art book and it’s got each tribe, and it opens up and it’s got all of his [Bacon Rind’s] regalia, his moccasins, everything he owned and it all matches and it’s totally keen. The pipe bag kind of stood out and that’s the actual design,” she said.
Roanhorse, 41, currently lives in Pawhuska and works for the Osage Nation as its main graphic designer. Her work can be seen for every major Osage event and on the Osage Nation’s website. She also has her own Facebook page, Addie Roanhorse Artist. She has her Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis in graphic design from Rogers State University.
However, the Santa Fe Indian Market is her first time to show her work at an art market, but not her first time to help at one. She said she was around 9 years old when she was helping her mother sell her artwork. Her own 9-year-old daughter Anya, was helping her in the booth over the weekend, smiling at customers and shaking hands. She said her daughter is already drawing, painting and excelling in photography and she hopes to get her into the youth categories next year.
“It’s surreal, that’s for sure. I’m really humbled by the whole thing. We were talking in the truck and how proud our mom would be. She would still be bossing us around, but proud,” she said with a laugh. “I remember doing this when I was Anya’s age. This is exactly what I used to do. Wake up, pack up the art, go with my mom to market, man the booth, sell the art.
“It definitely feels weird coming to Santa Fe as an artist and not a helper.”
Another newcomer to Indian Market was Blair Robbins. Her grandmother, who was born on Osage land and after college moved to the “the northeast,” her artwork is largely inspired by her lifelong interest in nature, especially dragonflies, which was incorporated into a few of her paintings.
Having been a cinematographer for 18 years, working on independent documentaries on nature, some of her paintings show the technical aspects of filmmaking, such as a dissolve. Her other works involve Osages, Chief Bacon Rind, Chief White Hair, Saucy Chief and Maria Tallchief.
“I really enjoyed doing research on Osage history and looking at archival photos, drawings of the chiefs,” Robbins said. “Just wonderful originality and uniqueness they carry in their personal image, their clothing and especially their hair. So amazing, so contemporary, even in the 1800s.”
Anita Fields, who currently lives in Stillwater and is an alternate for the Osage Nation Election Board, is a renowned clay sculpture artist whose work is displayed in museums throughout the United States and the world. She was also the recipient of AARP’s Indian Elder Honors in 2014.
She has been displaying her work at Indian Market for 27 years, she said. She attended the Institute of American Indian Art and has made lifelong friends from the Pueblo communities surrounding Santa Fe, “I just enjoy seeing everybody and being together again.”
Known for her contemporary work, her clay sculptures displayed at Indian Market were unlike any other booth.
“I work in a contemporary manner with clay, but one that is rooted in my Osage sensibility,” she said. “So I want to make an expression that is contemporary, because that’s what I enjoy doing most.”
For additional information on the Santa Fe Indian Market visit: www.swaia.org. To view photos of the Santa Fe Indian Market, visit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/osagenews/albums/72157671651966250
Shannon Shaw Duty
Original Publish Date: 2016-08-23 00:00:00