Isleta’s Watermelon 7 debuts art at Santa Fe Indian Market

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During this year’s Santa Fe Indian Market week, held Aug. 13- 19, a new hour will arrive for the world of Native art as a new medium makes its first legit debut on canvasses and local walls alike.

Submitted photo: Isleta Pueblo artist Watermelon 7, left, and Jemez Pueblo artist Jaque Fragua, right, work on a mural at Estrella Del Norte Vineyard in Santa Fe that will be included in “The Hour Has Arrived,” Santa Fe Indian Market’s new public art component.

And Isleta Pueblo multi-media artist Watermelon 7 will be there, spray paint can in hand.

This year, the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts will present “The Hour Has Arrived,” marking the first time the genera of “public art” will be a component of among the most elite Indian art markets in the world, during a series of public mural installations, forums, soirees and presentations.

According to SWAIA’s website, the program was derived from a quote by Indian Market founder Edgar Hewitt, who said in 1922, “The hour has arrived to recognize the importance of fostering and preserving the craft of the Indian,” of which SWAIA says “now includes the popular phenomena of culturally informative and interactive Native public arts.”

The website says, “The values that this ‘new art’ represents are inclusive of breaking from tradition, while arising from it, and embodies the need to redefine and expand cultural boundaries integral to a healthy, growing environment.”

But, for Watermelon 7, who has participated in Indian Market weekend for the past five years through shows at Pop Gallery and with Apache Skateboards’ Skateploitation event, public art, including graffiti and mural art, has been a part of Native communities for a long time.

For him, interest in graffiti began way back in fourth grade through influences from hip-hop and noticing the graffiti in Chicago while riding the train from Michigan to New Mexico.

“I just kind of really latched onto it,” says Carl Anderson, aka Watermelon 7. “I liked the movement of it, the colors and the movement, just the way it sticks out of everything and how clean it can be. It’s kind of like old school sign work, I guess, really clean font that’s actually applied by a human and not a printer.”

He laughs that he got his start as a graffiti artist doing bubble letters for people in elementary school, using markers and paper, and graduated up to applying paint to wall.

“There’s a lot of really good street artists in the Native American world right now that are starting to get exposure, start their own companies — T-shirt designs, whatever — it seems like there hasn’t really been a lot of recognition for Native Americans in the hip-hop scene, even though they’ve always been a part of it, so this could be a good transitional point for them.”

While he does keep a sketch book, Anderson says when it comes to painting a wall, his process is less about rigidity and painting from a sketch than it is about unrestricted self-expression and freedom.

For the mural that he created on a wall of Estrella Del Norte Vineyard in Santa Fe with Jemez Pueblo artist Jaque Fragua for the event, he says none of it was planned. Through his art, Watermelon 7 said he tries to shed light on issues he feels are important, encourage others to express themselves and just make people smile.

“If you do a mural in a neighborhood, you notice a change in the neighborhood right away,” he said.

But, as he’s gotten older, he says he no longer advocates for people to break the law through graffiti, saying that there’s so much space out there for people to paint in a positive way. Although he admits it’s difficult to tell young people not to do something he has done for a large part of his life, he says he doesn’t encourage them to get involved in it and rather advocates for young people to get into galleries instead.

“If you’re doing it on people’s personal property, like your neighbor’s property, you’re really not helping anybody or any thing in any way,” he said.

But, he says it’s also frustrating that corporations have the ability and resources to flood the streets with media, through bill boards and advertising, and no body else can — especially when that media is promoting harmful products or behavior.

“Many products that are on bill boards, they kill way more people that I’m going to ever kill by (painting),” says Watermelon.

He said even so, painting illegally usually ends up badly for most people, which is why events such as “The Hour Has Arrived” are crucial in showing young artists positive avenues that street art can aspire to through sanctioned public art.

For more information, follow “The Hour Has Arrived” blog at www.n8vpa.com.


-- Email the author at udavila@news-bulletin.com.