If recent Native American art shows are any indication of the direction that Native American artists are taking with their work, then you can expect more contemporary, edgy designs at shows this year. The shows themselves, and their judges, have a lot to do with this change. Contemporary work is being encouraged, especially by SWAIA in Santa Fe.
At the SWAIA Winter Indian Market, you could see evidence of this shift. Next to traditional Navajo Weavings, for example, a demonstration by Melissa Cody, Navajo textile artist, showed the young woman at a traditional loom working on non-traditional designs. Her work was recently recognized by the deYoung Museum in San Francisco. She was selected for the artist-in-residence program there.
Also, at the SWAIA Winter Market, there were new ways of creating art integrating traditional culture. Alex Jacobs, Akwesasne Mohawk (St. Regis Mohawk), a fabric collage artist, was showing a fascinating selection of bright fabric collage designs on board.
Well-known jewelry artists Pat Pruitt (Laguna) and Colin Coonsis (Zuni) were there with new works. Pat Pruitt is known for his edgy steel designs, some inlaid with stingray. Colin Coonsis, recently designing for the stars (Dina Eastwood), came with some striking black lipped oyster bracelets inlaid with drusy quartz crystal. These two consistently think out of the box.
Recently, Taos Pueblo clothing designer, Patricia Michaels, was nominated for a slot on Project Runway. She is the first Native designer to participate in this popular reality series.
As Native art moves toward the contemporary, the artists are also receiving increased exposure to mainstream art and design opportunities. It won't take long for these Native artists to become known widely in the fashion world.
Conversely, it is a good time to add traditional Native American work to your collection. As this trend toward creative contemporary art continues, the traditional, unfortunately, may just start to fade.