Art is the symbolic language of a culture. Like all languages, it must grow and mature. It must trade and assimilate. Stagnation equals death, and a dead language communicates nothing.
Warren Montoya says Native art never stopped speaking.
Montoya is the founding artist and owner of Rezonate Art, a company based in Albuquerque that promotes and sells the work of Native artists. He’s preparing for the upcoming Creative Frequenciesshow, a collaboration between Rezonate Art and Beyond Buckskin showcasing contemporary Native art, fashion and music.
“There’s countless representatives for traditional Native arts,” Montoya tells me. “There’s silver and turquoise shops online and everywhere in the Southwest. But there’s not really a lot dedicated to representing contemporary Native arts.”
“Natives are sometimes a myth,” points out Eric Manolito, Rezonate Art’s project manager. “We don’t really exist beyond the Southwest as an everyday experience. We’re mascots, or we’re cartoons, or we’re just ‘made-in-China’ turquoise and silver. This event is great because it presents the art as livingart.”
Montoya agrees with him. “Art is meant to evolve. It’s meant to grow into different things.”
But for those of us who didn’t grow up in the Southwest, Native culture is treated like a relic under glass, a remnant of a long-lost past, frozen in time. A survivor.
Meanwhile, Native art has continued to mature with each new generation, regardless of whatever cultural rut the rest of the world imagines. Rezonate Art’s mission is to battle this ignorance by exposing the community to the rich art scene happening right under our noses.
It might be ironic, then, that a unique feature of Native art is its connection to tradition. DEF-i, who will be performing at Thursday’s event, describes it as “a mixture of traditional and contemporary views. When I see Native art, there will be a crazy story about every corner; every little mark. There’s a lot of stories that go underneath all these brush strokes.” To know these stories, you have to hear them from the artists. You have to experience them.
Which is why Rezonate Art has teamed up with Beyond Buckskin, an online Native boutique, to give the community a chance to experience this scene directly. Creative Frequencieswill attempt the superhuman feat of deprogramming cultural misconceptions by running several performances simultaneously. Touring artists Yatika Fields and Randy L. Barton will be painting six murals live, while a fashion show exhibits work by Beyond Buckskin and Rezonate Art. Live music will be performed by DEF-i and DJ Element. Audience members are encouraged to participate in hip-hop dance instruction and the creation of chalk floor art.
Kiva Club and Conchita’s Creations provide concessions. “I’m also working with the Kiva Club to see if we can find a partner to use their house to make fry bread,” says Manolito.
My stomach lets out a conspicuous growl. Montoya looks over at me and laughs. “Make sure to say that it’s all ages … and there’s fry bread.”