This IAIA exhibit highlights contemporary Indigenous design


To kick off Santa Fe’s 100th Indian Market late last month, one of the city’s biggest events of the year, where Indigenous artists from across North America come together to showcase and sell their work , a special fashion exhibition debuted at the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts. Similar to the focus of Indian Market, the new exhibition “The Art of Indigenous Fashion”, which runs until January 2023, has been launched with the aim of highlighting contemporary Indigenous fashion. This proves that indigenous design is not a specific thing, but varies greatly depending on an artist’s tribe, location, and style. “There’s no one way to explain Indigenous fashion,” says the exhibit’s guest curator, Amber-Dawn Bear Robe.

The new exhibit features more than 20 contemporary Native designers and is particularly dedicated to showcasing alumni of the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA), Santa Fe’s influential fine arts institution where many Native artists from foreground have studied and perfected their craft since its inception. in 1962. Among those in the exhibit are Lloyd Kiva New, Jamie Okuma, Patricia Michaels, Sho Sho Esquiro, Virgil Ortiz, Orlando Dugi, and Teri Greeves. “The inspiration was to present a snapshot of Northern Native American fashion from an Indigenous perspective, featuring designers who are often overlooked in mainstream media,” says Bear Robe. “Presenting the diversity of stories created by Indigenous designers and showing how each design has a story and meaning beyond visual beauty.”

The most notable pieces in the exhibition are those that combine traditional craftsmanship with a modern point of view. Marcus Amerman’s black leather jacket from 1983, for example, features a beaded image of a naked Brook Shields wearing butterfly wings. “Marcus has been a big part of the IAIA fashion shows and brought them to different locations outside of Santa Fe,” says Bear Robe. “Her role in Aboriginal fashion is fascinating; He wanted fashion he didn’t see in the mainstream that represented him or what he wanted to wear. Debuting on the Santa Fe Indian Market runway in 2015, this dentalium shell dress by Jamie Okuma combines traditional craftsmanship with a more edgy silhouette. “It was designed for a specific model, Moonstar,” says Bear Robe. “Many of the clothes from the show debuted on the [Santa Fe Indian Market] track. Markets have been essential venues for Indigenous designers to showcase their work.

Other highlights of the exhibit include Teri Greeves’ hand-beaded Converse heels; vibrant ribbon work dresses from Lauren Good Day; and Yolonda Skelton’s fox and fern imagery cape. While all of these garments differ in craftsmanship and aesthetics, Bear Robe draws attention to their similarities: primarily their innovation and sense of pushing cultural traditions forward in new and unexpected ways. “[I want people] to witness the diversity of contemporary Indigenous art and design unique to each designer,” says Bear Robe of the exhibit. “I wanted to promote and showcase Indigenous fashion art, demonstrating how vital art is, and always has been, to Indigenous fashion and design. »


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