Prelude: ReVOlution is Coming


This is a critical moment for the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA) and for Native art. Today, many Native artists feel that they are being discouraged, or that there is an attempt to silence their art, much as happened in the past. Even if it is by accident that some of the older artists didn’t get booths at market this year, there is that feeling that their work doesn’t matter. However, the truth is just the opposite: all these Native artists are coming from a similar background. We all use art to tell our stories.

For me, it is both a personal and cultural experience.

I have been telling the story of the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 for the past two decades. It is not just a story of persecution and revolt, but also a story of resilience — one that seems to be more important than ever to talk about in today’s political and cultural climate. Cochiti Pueblo’s figurative art was destroyed in the 17th century by the conquistadors, who associated it with sorcery and witchcraft. After the revolt and the return of the Spanish, clay once again became a means of personal and cultural expression. By the 1880s, the monos — figures historically created by the women of the pueblo — provided a social commentary on what seemed to be a fast-changing world. Today, the speed of change via social media and the internet makes it increasingly important for Native artists to keep our art relevant and to use art as an educational tool.

The Pueblo Revolt has a strong resonance throughout the Southwest. Since Herman Agoyo began the process of getting the statue of Po’pay into the U.S. Capitol building, Native artists have begun to see how the event speaks to the world today. I have used historic facts to create my own futuristic version of the revolt to help make it relevant and understandable for both kids and those who have never heard of the event. However, there seems to be a slow awakening about its importance: the Denver Art Museum featured Revolt 1680/2180 — a collection of ceramic figures and photographic pieces — in 2015-2016; the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center will be bringing the story forward with Revolution: Rise against the Invasion, which will open in October 2018. Like the other artists, I am working for Indian Market, but it’s not just about sales: I want to continue to make a statement about my art and culture. I have said for years that I want to give “voice back to the clay,” but I think it’s more important right now to give “voice back to our culture.”
I am working on a group of new pieces about the Pueblo Revolt called Prelude: Revolution Is Coming. The work will be in both my Indian Market booth and at King Galleries in Santa Fe — a holistic approach that includes art, culture, clay, photography, my booth at market and the gallery space. It’s time for all of us involved in Native art to work together to keep it from becoming marginalized as just another ethnic art. It’s time for all of us — collectors, galleries, artists and market attendees — to stand together and protect, promote and enjoy this awe-inspiring American Indigenous art in all its forms. Just as the Pueblo Revolt was the First American Revolution, Native art is the First American Art.

Virgil Ortiz (Cochiti Pueblo) — the son and grandson of renowned potters Seferina Ortiz and Laurencita Herrera — won his first Santa Fe Indian Market award at age 14. He is a sculptor, photographer, graphic artist, fashion designer and home decor designer. His work has been exhibited and collected both nationally and internationally. To learn more about Ortiz and his work, visit


The image of Aeronauts searching desert battlefields is from Revolt 1680/2180, Virgil Ortiz’s ongoing film project.

The accompanying narrative and video trailer:

Revolution is Coming It is 2180. The pueblos are in chaos. The invasion of Native land continues. The scourge of war rages everywhere. The time to act is now. Cuda and Steu, the Aeronaut twins, are the captain and head commander of the Survivorship Armada. They summon their fleet and prepare for extreme warfare against the invading Castilian forces. Translator and the Spirit World Army are transported to earth’s realm to aid Po’pay, Tahu and her army of Blind Archers in preparation for an unprecedented revolt. Desperately, the Aeronauts search for any remaining clay artifacts from the battlefields. They know that challenges and persecution will continue, so it is imperative to preserve and protect their clay, culture, language and traditions from extinction.

A larger-scale video, introducing more characters from his “Revolt” storyline, will be unveiled at Ortiz’s “Revolution: Rise against the Invasion” exhibit at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center on October 6, 2018.


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Collecting Pueblo Pottery

At Indian Market in Santa Fe every August, pueblo pottery is perhaps the most coveted. Ranging in technique and design, pots, jars, urns, and plates tell a story of traditional craftsmanship, often brought into the 21st century by modern potters. “I am inspired by modern design of all kinds, whether it is fashion, architecture, film, sculpture, or music,” says Ortiz. “These influences transform as I build my figurative clay works.”

Primarily making their homes in the Four Corners region, Pueblo tribes established dwellings and trade centers similar to those located at Chaco Canyon in Northwestern New Mexico and Mesa Verde in Southwestern Colorado. Today, many of the 19 pueblos in New Mexico bring variations and techniques in technology, form, and decorative style to pottery. Cultural traditions, religious beliefs, and family customs also play a part in the formation of clay.

At Indian Market, one can expect to see a variety of contemporary pieces, including hand-coiled figures of demons and devils with tattoo-like designs. Virgil Ortiz, whose work may be found not only at Blue Rain Gallery, but in museums nationwide, integrates cutting-edge imagery into traditionally realized work, winning multiple awards at Indian Market. Ortiz’s mission is to not only revive the style and subjects created in the late 1800s but also to continue to tell the story of the 1680 Pueblo Revolt. Because the historical figurative work of the Cochiti Pueblo appears contemporary in design, it was a natural progression for him to take these influences and add his own interpretations.

“It is an exciting time to witness the birth of these artistic ideas in full force at Indian Market,” Ortiz says. “My traditional work will always be the heart and soul of everything I do. I am now entering into the world of high-fire contemporary ceramics — a new and exciting body of work I plan to unveil during this year’s market.”



Native American Futurist Virgil Ortiz is a Pueblo artist inspired by two loves: the traditional figurative ceramic style he learned from his mother, and Star Wars. These influences resulted in Revolt 1680/2180, a sculpture series retelling the story of his ancestors’ rebellion against Spanish colonizers in 1680, complete with laser blasters and an ancient astronaut vibe. We spoke to this internationally-renowned artist after his appearance at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts this past October as part of the Hear My Voice: Native American Art of the Past and Present exhibition. In this exclusive interview, we talked about his work, his process, and how he avoids appropriation of his work, even as he collaborates with fashion designers like Donna Karan. You still live and work in your birthplace, Cochiti Pueblo. You’ve traveled the world to exhibit your work, but I’m curious how it’s received back home. Sadly, creating pottery using traditional methods & materials is a dying art form; there aren’t many masters still living in my community at Cochiti Pueblo, NM. I believe my mentors, teachers, and community view my clay works as innovative, when in fact, I am reviving the original style, subject matter and social commentary that was used in the 1800’s. I have dedicated my life to revive these significant pieces and art form, and give voice back to the clay that was once destroyed by the non-Natives. Once they understood where my inspiration was coming from, and by examining photographs of historic pieces, I gained their support.

Your work is like nothing I’ve ever seen; but it has familiar elements, too, drawing from pop culture and other influences. Would you call it traditional? What makes your work so original? I am inspired by all types of cultures, non-Native included. I am fortunate to be able to continue and use the same methods and materials that have been used for a very long time. The only thing different are my subjects. Cochiti figurative clay works from the 1800’s were based on social commentary, so that itself provides me with a vast array of subjects to work with, [which] transcend to what is considered Native art today, yet [are] very traditional at the same time. Can you talk a little bit about Revolt 1680/2180, your exhibit at the Denver Art Museum? I love the way you bring an event that happened over 300 years ago into the future. What’s it about? For the past 15 years, I have sought tell the story of the 1680 Pueblo Revolt, also referred to as the First American Revolution. The Revolt of 1680 is a historic event that hovers somewhere between the unknown, insignificant, and ignored by most unless they live in certain areas of the Southwest. This historical event is not taught in schools, or included in textbooks; it has been swept under the carpet for far too long. By utilizing the mediums I work with, I’ve been able to create a storyline using my art to make it more interesting and relevant to the next generation. The Revolt storyline takes place in 1680 and [is] simultaneously happening in the year 2180. This allows me to incorporate fantastic versions of the original characters and introduce a sci-fi point of view.


The Art and Times of a Santa Fe Artist. In this issue, you’ll meet people who inspire me: Milla Jovovich, the international model-actress who stars in both our Donna Karan New York and DKNY ad campaigns and an artist I met in Santa Fe: provocateur Virgil Ortiz, whose work directly influenced my spring designs. There’s art that soothes, and then there’s the kind that gets a rise. Meet the Santa Fe-based artist whose soulful art provokes strong reactions. – DK

The work of Virgil Ortiz speaks a language all its own. There is a code conveyed that reaches beyond words, conversing closer to soul: wild spinach, water, clouds, fertility symbols – all appearing in columns and rows. The striking patterns spoke to Donna, who, after discovering Ortiz’s works, was inspired to use them on a dress and a skirt for Spring 2013. These graphically compelling designs, Ortiz says, have belonged to his family for hundreds of years.

“Donna came out to Santa Fe in August for Indian Market, the biggest Native American art show in the world, “33-year-old Ortiz explains. “I showed her some of my pottery, and she said, “nothing happens by chance. I like your work, and I’d like a chance to collaborate with you.” Soon his designs were featured on Donna’s clothes, and his pottery and sculptures were slated to sell in Donna’s New York store. His reaction to seeing his traditional Native American art morphed onto the figures of runway models: “Totally cool. It flipped me out to see it all done in a real feminine style.

There is tension in Ortiz’s work, between the traditional and the modern. He comes from a family of highly regarded figurative artists who work in pottery and are based in Cochiti Pueblo in New Mexico. His mother, Seferina, learned the craft from her mother Laurencita, and handed down the tradition to her children.

They specialized in what are known as “storyteller” figures. Surfacing in the 1800’s, these sculptures depicted tableaux that Anglos traders first thought were sacred images but the realized were caricatures of themselves and other non-Indian neighbors.

Ortiz inherited the impulse to surprise with the odd narrative twist. “When I was six, I created a sculpture of a woman,” he explains. “She had very prominent breasts. Then I next painted her wearing a bow tie and hat, my parents said “Uh-oh, this kid’s in trouble.” In the early 1990’s, Ortiz created a series of sexually kinky sculptures that offered a modern-day continuation of the pueblo’s mission: “All the pieces in the 1800’s were social commentary, and it’s exactly what I am doing, but it’s a different point on the time line.”

Ortiz’s work caught the eye of Robert Gallegos, a local trader. Ortiz recalls, “He called them “the Madonna sculptures’ because this was around the time of Madonna’s Sex book.” So began Ortiz’s ascent as a successful artist, entrepreneur and celebrity on the Santa Fe scene. His Santa Fe store. Heat: A Freak Boutique, sells leather clothing of his design. With his long hair, numerous piercings and penchant for wearing Marilyn Manson-ish contacts that distort or blank out the eyes, Ortiz lives the Goth aesthetic. Until, that is, he returns to Cochiti Pueblo, where his family gathers every month or two. When he visits, Ortiz takes care to put everyone at ease. Off come the scary contact lenses. “It’s a really small pueblo, and I don’t dress like that around there,” Ortiz says. “They understand the deal; it’s all artwork.” – James Servin