After not being able to gather since 2019, SWAIA staff, artists, art patrons, and the media reconvened at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center to witness the dramatic announcements of award winners. Beginning with the classification winners, announcements led up to the coveted Best of Show title. Carefully navigating COVID-19 protocols, SWAIA has been able to launch an in-person market for the 99th annual Santa Fe Indian Market, the largest and oldest continuing Native art event in the country.
“I’m grateful to SWAIA. Somehow you pulled this off. Unbelievable!” acknowledged Diverse Arts–winner Dana Warrington (Menominee/Potawatomi).
SWAIA director Kim Peone (Colville/Eastern Cherokee) and SWAIA artist services Eric Villegas (Acoma) announced the winners. The artists delivered moving speeches about the challenges they faced, including Robert Patricio (Acoma) who had suffered a debilitating accident. He could barely speak and couldn’t lift things without assistance but was still able to create the Best of Pottery piece. Artists thanked their families and spoke to those that they had lost during the ongoing pandemic. “My piece represents healing among us,” shares Best of Sculpture–winner Raymond Chee Sr. (Navajo/Apache).
The 2021 Best of Show winner is Rhonda Holy Bear (Cheyenne River Lakota), for her intricate beaded sculpture, Lakota Honor—Sees the Horses Woman. The elegant doll with a carved wooden face honors Holy Bear’s ancestor who survived a massacre and speaks to ongoing resilience.
“I was shocked when they called me yesterday,” admits Tyler Glasses (Navajo). “This is my first in-person market.” Taught by his grandmother who he lost in 2019, he wove his Poncho for Days with the rare Navajo–Churro sheep’s wool. “If someone has passed, they are never truly gone if you remember their teachings.” Weaving became his solace during the ongoing pandemic. “This has been my therapy during the last few years.”
“I want to acknowledge the Pueblos. This is Pueblo land, and I’m a visitor here,” said Warrington. He moved back to his Wisconsin homelands at the beginning of the pandemic, and his entry was Defending Our Homelands. “We were told not to fear what was going on during the pandemic but respect it.”
The 2021 SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market Best of Classification winners are as follows.
I. Jewelry: Denise Wallace (Unangax) for Origins, Roots and Sources
II. Pottery: Robert Patricio (Acoma Pueblo) for Raining Dawn to Dusk
III. Painting/Drawings/Graphics/Photography: Thomas Tapia (Tesuque Pueblo) for Buffalo Elk Dance
IV. Wooden Pueblo Figurative Carvings and Sculpture: Arthur Holmes Jr. (Hopi) for Broken Arrow
V. Sculpture: Raymond Chee Sr. (Navajo/Apache) for Healing into the Night
VI. Textiles: Tyler Glasses (Navajo) for Poncho for Days
VII. Diverse Arts: Dana Warrington (Menominee/Potawatomi) for Defending the Homeland
VIII. Beadwork/Quillwork: Rhonda Holy Bear (Cheyenne River Lakota) for Lakota Honor-Sees the Horses Woman
IX. Youth: Aydrian James Day (Ho-Chunk/Lakota/Anishinaabe) for Mishkiikii Ode (Medicine of the Heart)
X. Moving Images: on hiatus
XI. Basketry: Jeremy Frey (Passamaquoddy) for Malsom (Wolf)
The only special awards were second and third for Youth Classification and Native American Art Magazine bestowed their excellence award on Wilmetta Kayquoptewa (Hopi).