Sunday, May 18, 2014

Taos Pueblo: Ancestral Places, Sacred Spaces. Welcome and Introduction.

From April 15th through May 11th, 2014, the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, New Mexico hosted a one-man exhibition by Wings: Taos Pueblo:  Ancestral Places, Sacred SpacesThe show included a variety of work from both of his preferred media: photography and silverwork. 

The photography exhibit features ten large images, all matted, signed, and framed. Some are from earlier in his career, and you may have seen digital facsimiles posted online, but this is the first time any of them has been developed, printed, and mounted. Five were taken using film; five were taken using a digital camera.

Each photo is of a subject in the old village at Taos Pueblo. Every subject shown is of something accessible to outsiders (although a couple were obtained from vantage points not accessible to anyone except tribal members); nothing shown here is a restricted subject or area, nor do the narratives include any forbidden information.  What is different is the fact that he has taken such ordinary, everyday sights and offered viewers a wholly new vantage point on what they see: a cultural context of a breadth and depth that is simply not accessible to anyone who is not a tribal member. It provides a new frame of reference for how visitors view the public areas of the Pueblo.

Likewise, the silverwork comes from a spectrum of time and experience, and the inclusion of each piece is built around the same themes that animate the photographic entries. Some are items that he created years ago, pieces that found new life and relevance in the context of the show's theme. Others are more recent, reflecting his current interests and vision. And some were created expressly for the show, designed to give voice to the show's overarching message.

Below, you will see the various pages of the brochure we created for the show, to be used by visitors and viewers as an introduction to Wings, to his art, and to Taos Pueblo, and as an interpretive guide to provide context for the exhibit and its narratives. The text of each page is presented next to the image. All photos except the one of Wings himself will appear in this retrospective.




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About Wings

Wings, a self-taught silversmith and professional photographer, is an enrolled member of Taos Pueblo, the People of the Red Willow. His heritage is full-blooded Tiwa, which is his people's name for their ancestry, their spiritual beliefs, and their native language, which he speaks fluently. Wings grew up immersed in the Tiwa cultural, spiritual, artistic, and linguistic heritage.

He is a "traditional" who walks in two worlds, living in contemporary society but following the old ways that have sustained the Pueblo and its people for more than a thousand years.

From his earliest memories, art has informed and shaped Wings's life. As a young man, he lived elsewhere for a few years, but soon returned to Taos Pueblo permanently, finding a renewed hunger — and a renewed inspiration — to focus on his art.  His time away reaffirmed and strengthened his sense of gratitude, responsibility, and hope for his people, and those passions infuse his work.

Sterling silver is Wings's primary medium. He approaches it in the traditional fashion, using Native silversmithing techniques. All of his silverwork is hand-crafted; he uses only natural gemstones such as turquoise, coral, and other precious gifts from the Earth. In recent years, he has expanded his art to include photography, using the medium to illuminate Pueblo life and traditions, his people's role in the natural world, and their relationship to other living creatures. He also plays the traditional Native flute, and continues to experiment with new media.

Wings draws his inspiration from the world around him: a ray of light . . . .a passing shadow . . . the movement of the water that runs through the Pueblo and sustains its life . . . the flash of a dragonfly . . . the flicker of a bird's wings, like a gentle heartbeat . . . the strength and grace of a running horse . . . the healing beauty of sage and Indian paintbrush . . . and always, always the lessons left by the Ancient Ones who have gone before.

Wings welcomes you to Taos Pueblo:  Ancestral Places, Sacred Spaces. He hopes that his art offers you a window onto a new (yet very old) perspective on life and spirit.

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TAOS PUEBLO:  ANCESTRAL PLACES, SACRED SPACES

When the world thinks of Taos Pueblo, the image that first springs to mind is that of our famed North House, Hlauuma.  And with good reason:  More than one thousand years old, it’s an iconic example of the architecture for which our people are known.

But that’s only the surface.

There is so much more to our ancestral lands, our sacred spaces, that people never see. Some of that is purposeful:  Our traditions require privacy and secrecy, and there is much that is not available to outsiders. But even in the public areas of the Pueblo, what visitors see and what I see are two very different things.

With this exhibition, I would like to take you on a journey.  I want you to see what I see, feel what I feel —  the sights and sounds and smells and sensations of this place, this land, that has embedded itself in my blood and bone and that of my people for more than a millennium.

The very earth, so sacred to my people, that fills the spaces between the old earthen bricks of our homes:  It holds the walls together, yes, but this earth, this beautiful red earth, also links our homes and families and clans in an ancient structural embrace. It feeds us, nourishes us; it supports the walls and windows that keep the elements out but the good spirits, the beauty, the harmony within.

The wood from the trees that have grown naturally on the sides of sacred mountains since before the dawn of time:  The piƱon poles, cut and stripped in the old way, become the vigas, the beams, that support the ceilings of our homes and enabled us to create the first multistory dwellings on this continent; the latillas of our fences and arbors that provide safety from the surrounding wilderness and shelter from the sun; the traditional wooden ladders that kept our families safe in ancient times and to this day provide entrance and egress to sacred spaces.

And all of it, bathed in the enigmatic light that is unique to Taos Pueblo, to the land of the People of the Red Willow, the magical light that blesses my body and spirit as I walk in the sun and fills my dreams at night with joy and mystery.

Come with me.  Let me show you this earth, this sky, this light that is wholly a part of me.

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About the Art

Wings creates wearable art reflecting Native themes. Each piece of one of a kind, crafted in sterling silver of 98.9% purity.  He shapes every piece by hand, using traditional silverwork processes to give form and expression to a piece.  

Hand-stamping is the most highly personal element of Wings's creative process, by which he uses traditional Native symbols and patterns to give voice to ancient stories and lessons. Sometimes one symbol can tell an entire story.

Many stories and lessons are more complex, and this is where Wings's talent, creativity, and knowledge of tradition find their deepest expression: as the ancient Ones left their stories for us on rock walls and sacred pots, so, too, Wings blends discrete symbols to create a greater whole. By choosing patterns in the right combinations, and in the right number of repetitions, he creates complex, multi-layered symbols that share larger, more complete stories and lessons. As needed, he chooses stones appropriate to each individual piece of art and the creative spirit that suffuses it. Finally, when a piece of art is complete, one step remains: Wings ritually blesses each piece of art before offering it for sale, infusing it with the same sacred healing spirit that made its creation possible.

Wings uses photography to capture the spirit of Taos Pueblo. Most publicly available Pueblo photographs have been taken by outsiders; very little photographic imagery by Pueblo members exists. To preserve the sacred beauty of Taos Pueblo, its people, and its culture and traditions, Wings began recording these images on film and in digital media.

In either medium, the ethereal light in the Taos Pueblo area is ideal for capturing the mystical, spiritual qualities of Pueblo life. Wings works with this magical natural light to illustrate the stunning dichotomy between the transformative and enduring natures of the Pueblo.  

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About Taos Pueblo 


Tua’tah, or the old village at Taos Pueblo, has existed for more than 1,000 years, making it the oldest continuously inhabited community in the United States. The word “Taos,” for which the surrounding county and adjacent town are named, is a corruption of “Tua’tah,” which the people used to refer to the inhabited area of the village itself, and which European invaders were unable to pronounce. Pueblo members call themselves “People of the Red Willow,” for the indigenous red willow plants that adorn Pueblo lands and line the Rio Pueblo de Taos. Their native language is “Tiwa,” a term that also refers to their ancestry, cultural identity, and spiritual traditions. 

Construction began on the ancient buildings of the village around 1000 C.E. These multi-story buildings, which still stand today, were completed some 450 years later — nearly half a century before Columbus (or any other European) set foot on the lands of North America. These two multi-story core structures, separated by the Rio Pueblo de Taos, are known as Hlauuma, or North House, and Hlaukwima, or South House. Both buildings are made of adobe, a mixture of earth and straw, using a local clay containing mica.

Of the roughly 1,900 enrolled members of Taos Pueblo, approximately 150 still live in Hlauuma and Hlaukwima. Pueblo members maintain the buildings in the traditional fashion, using the same adobe for repairs that their ancestors used a millennium ago. There is no electricity or running water inside the old village, including those portions of the buildings still used as residences.  

The federal government has designated Taos Pueblo a National Historic Landmark. In 1992, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) also named the Pueblo a cultural World Heritage Site, one of only eight such sites in the United States and the only living Native community so designated.

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Because of the limitations of the Blogger platform and templates, entries in the photography exhibit are reduced substantially in size. It permits me to show you the photograph, but it loses nearly all depth, texture, and detail. If you are interested in one of the photographs and would like to see the larger, high-resolution digital image, please leave me a comment, message me on Facebook, or e-mail me at Ajijaakwe [at] gmail [dot] com.

If you'd like to purchase an item, please contact me in the same way. Two items are currently marked "Reserved." If that changes, I will update these posts accordingly. You may also visit our Web site to see additional items that were not a part of the show. The Web site is currently undergoing a comprehensive upgrade; unsold items from this show will be added once the new version goes live. We are unable to offer layaway arrangements for any of the items that were a part of this exhibit.

In closing, we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to everyone who helped make this exhibit possible: George R.R. Martin and Parris McBride Martin, for their generous invitation to mount this exhibit in their venue; Raya Golden, Sam Haozous, and the staff of the Jean Cocteau Cinema, for working closely with us and keeping everything running smoothly; and to our many, many friends and loved ones who contributed money, time, social media assistance, and moral support. From both of us, ta'a and chi miigwech.


Please visit the next two posts to see the exhibit.


Welcome to Taos Pueblo:  Ancestral Places, Sacred Spaces. We hope that Wings's art gives you a glimpse of his culture that is as rewarding for you as sharing it has been for him.



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All photos copyright Wings, 2014; all rights reserved.  All text copyright Wings and Ajijaakwe, 2014; all rights reserved.  None of this content may be used without the express written consent of the owner.

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