This year, 2016, is the centennial of the birth of seminal Native American artist Lloyd Kiva New (1916-2002), and three Santa Fe arts institutions are celebrating the anniversary in style.
New, a Cherokee, who arose from humble beginnings on a family farm in Oklahoma, became one of the first Native Americans to earn a degree in art education at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1938. He then taught painting at the Phoenix Indian School. After returning from Navy service on the Pacific Front in 1941, New became a charter member of the Arizona Craftsmen cooperative, a group of artists that helped develop Scottsdale, Arizona, into a western center of handcrafted arts. There, throughout the 1950s, he earned national acclaim for handbags, clothing and printed textiles. The “Godfather of Native Fashion” was appointed artistic director of the newly formed Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in 1961, and served in that capacity until 1967. He then became the school’s president, serving until 1978, returned to serve as interim president in 1988 and then became president emeritus. He also served key roles in other institutions, including the National Museum of the American Indian, the Heard Museum and the Buffalo Bill Historic Center.
The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture (MIAC), the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA) and the New Mexico Museum of Art are each presenting an exhibition focused on key aspects of New’s significant contributions to contemporary Native art. The museums worked for two years to assemble items from their holdings, from his widow Aysen New’s collection, and from important private collections that have rarely been publicly displayed.
In January, MoCNA opened Lloyd Kiva New: Art, Design, and Influence, an exhibition drawing on New’s pioneering concepts in Native art, fashion design and culturally based education. It includes paintings completed between 1938 and 1995, presents the artist as an innovator of Native Modernism in an interpretive reproduction of the Kiva Studio, New’s successful 1950s showroom in Scottsdale, and features more than 40 printed textiles created by IAIA students under New’s artistic direction.
MIAC’s exhibition, A New Century: The Life and Legacy of Cherokee Artist and Educator Lloyd Kiva New, opened in February. It surveys New’s lifespan and works using his art, fabrics, fashion designs, photos, sketches and archival documents in six sections: New Lands, Ancient Stories; Student and Teacher; An Artist at War; A New Enterprise/Clothes Make the Man; New Horizons; and The New Legacy.
New had a broad, humanistic approach to the arts, stressing creative links to the traditional arts but urging students not to be bound by them and to reject stereotypical notions of American Indian art and culture. He encouraged looking at innovative techniques and forms and envisioned IAIA artists in a dialog between two cultures: their indigenous heritages and the nonindigenous contemporary mainstream. He asserted that Native artists had a contribution to make to the field of contemporary art. In 1968, New wrote, “Given the opportunity to draw on his own tradition, the Indian artist evolves art forms which are new to the cultural scene, thereby contributing uniquely to the society in general.” MIAC’s exhibition highlights how New’s influence provided a foundation for today’s artists to map out their own artistic path and gain increased relevance in the global art world.
The artwork of the 1960s and ’70s began a conversation around these issues that continues to this day. The New Mexico Museum of Art’s exhibit, opening on May 20, Finding a Contemporary Voice: The Legacy of Lloyd Kiva New and IAIA, will showcase artwork by former and present IAIA faculty and alumni such as Fritz Scholder, Neil Parsons, T.C. Cannon, Melanie Yazzie, Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie and Will Wilson.
Additionally, in October, IAIA and MIAC will jointly present a symposium, The Lloyd Kiva New Centennial Convocation. This will be an interdisciplinary look at the contemporary Native art movement. Other planned activities include fashion shows, panel discussions, lectures, Veterans’ Day event and additional special programming in conjunction with Indian Market in August. This spring semester, IAIA will offer a class, Lloyd Kiva New and the Contemporary Native Art Movement, taught by IAIA archivist Ryan Flahive with various guest lecturers.
IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts
108 Cathedral Place, Santa Fe
Anne and Loren Kieve Gallery, Fritz Scholder Gallery, North Gallery
Lloyd Kiva New: Art, Design, and Influence
Through July 31, 2016. (North Gallery will remain on view through Sept. 11.)
Museum of Indian Arts and Culture
710 Camino Lejo (Museum Hill), Santa Fe
A New Century: The Life and Legacy of Cherokee Artist and Educator Lloyd Kiva New
Through Dec. 30
New Mexico Museum of Art
107 W. Palace Avenue, Santa Fe
Finding a Contemporary Voice: The Legacy of Lloyd Kiva New and IAIA
May 20 through Oct. 10