BERNALILLO — Native American artists from across the region showcased their art and much more over the weekend in Bernalillo.
In some cases, the items on display during the fifth annual Bernalillo Indian Arts Festival on Saturday and Sunday showcased participating artists’ origins or their family legacies. In other cases, the festival allowed some to express themselves through storytelling, music and dancing.
“I’m really impressed at everything that I’ve seen thus far,” said first-time participant Gabriel Ayala, a classical guitarist and visual artist from Tuscon, Ariz.
In 2017, the inaugural year, there were 68 vendors. This year, more than 150 artists descended on Loretto Park, eager to share their work.
“The quality has improved 150 percent over last year… This year, there seems to be a lot of Navajo jewelry and Hopi jewelry,” Sara Chadwick, founder of the festival, said. “It’s the first market in the spring, and they’re coming off a long winter. They need sales, and they need to create inventory at this time. It’s a necessary market, and it’s really going to grow.”
Ayala performs original music in a flamenco and jazz fusion style called “JazzMexico.” He also does ledger paintings, an art form that came from the northern plains during the mid-1800s. Ayala’s paintings were indigenized versions of historical figures and moments, from Vincent van Gogh paintings to the cover for The Beatles’ album “Abbey Road.”
Another of his paintings features the history of Native American boarding schools in hopes of creating awareness through the direct perspective of indigenous peoples rather than through a third party.
Darius Charley, who has his own art studio in Albuquerque, has manned his festival booth three of the last four years.
“Oh man, it’s wonderful. We don’t get a lot of chances to come out… The festival’s great. Every year, there’s always a great turnout,” Charley said.
Charley, originally from Rock Point, Ariz., learned how to make cradleboards from his father, Wayne.
“I’m definitely influenced by Navajo rugs, so I like to incorporate that into my cradleboard working,” said Charley, a woodworker and cradleboard artist.
Rueben Richards, a painter from Dennehotso, Ariz., does traditional Yeii Navajo artwork, as well as paintings of horses.
“I grew up around horses,” Richards said.
Along with Navajo and Hopi tribal members, the festival draws in the Pueblos, the Cherokees and Oklahoma’s Eastern Shawnee Tribe, as well as tribes from Alaska and Canada.
‘I think we’re established now’
Chadwick said some families have younger members trying get their foot in the door, but it’s been hard for them to do so. The festival’s making a stronger effort to give younger artists exposure on how to market their goods.
The Zuni Youth Artists made their debut this year, as part of that broader effort.
“I think we’re established now, and we’re only going to get better,” Chadwick said.