When Opportunity Presents Itself

2018 Mentor Artist Fellow Jason Garcia (Santa Clara Pueblo Tewa) and his apprentice David Naranjo (Santa Clara Pueblo) planned their one-year mentor/apprenticeship work to culminate in a joint art project involving serigraphy-silkscreen printing – a technique that Garcia has included in his practice for decades. However, when a unique opportunity presented itself, Garcia decided to expand their project and invite his apprentice to work alongside him to produce a work of art that can be experienced in an unusual way.

Shortly after Garcia and Naranjo started their mentor/apprenticeship in July 2018, Garcia was approached by the Nativo Lodge in Albuquerque, NM, with an offer to design and paint a hotel room. The Nativo Lodge has commissioned contemporary Southwest Native artists since 2013 to transform guest rooms into works of art, integrating Native art into guests’ experiences in an intimate way. Garcia saw this as a perfect mentoring opportunity, especially for Naranjo as an emerging artist, where their artwork will be viewed by countless visitors to the hotel for several years to come.

Naranjo and Garcia collaborated on the designs, story boarding, sketching and painting the walls of the room. They named the room Okuu Pín-Turtle Mountain for the mountain it faces that can be seen from the hotel room window. Okuu Pin is one of the four sacred mountains of the Tewa world. Both artists incorporated their own artistic styles and cultural backgrounds into the project. “David decided on a Humming Bird [design], which is his Tewa name, and an Eagle, which is my clan name,” explained Garcia about the painted images in one section of the room. They also painted images and figures that represent Santa Clara Pueblo cultural traditions and scenes of Pueblo life, with depictions of the Buffalo Dance and the Harvest Dance.

In addition to the Nativo Lodge project, during the fellowship year, Garcia has introduced Naranjo to artists and museum professionals, they visited museums and collections together, amongst other professional development activities. So, while they were working on the mural, he introduced Naranjo to a friend and wood carver in Albuquerque. The result of this interaction is a mirror that now hangs in the Okuu Pín room that was designed by Naranjo and carved by both him and Garcia.

One of the signature elements in Garcia’s work is the representation of the Corn Maiden, which he commonly adapts to reflect a contemporary theme or issue. For the hotel mural, Garcia placed her looking up with her hands open hoping for rain.  “Water is a sacred symbol and essential to life in the Southwest. Part of the coding here is that the Corn Maiden is gazing up to the water sprinkler, which speaks to the issue of the commodification of water,” he says.

The Okuu Pín room officially opened to guests on April 26, 2019. If you are in Albuquerque on May 23rd you can take a peek at Garcia and Naranjo’s work at the Nativo Lodge Artist Room Open House. NACF National Artist Fellows Rose Simpson (2013) and Mateo Romero (2016) also have their work featured at the hotel.

Garcia still plans on finishing the originally planned joint serigraphy silkscreen printing project with Naranjo, which he hopes to exhibit at a gallery in the Santa Fe/Albuquerque region.

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