Buffalo for Dinner: Art All-Stars Pose for ‘The Last Indian Market’

Courtesy Cara Romero/Detail from 'The Last Indian Market' by Cara Romero. Photo courtesy Cara Romero.

Chemehuevi photographer Cara Romero took on a daunting task with a recent project:

Shoot 13 of Santa Fe’s leading Native artists in a tableau based on Leonardo da Vinci’s painting The Last Supper. She pulled it off, and the image is one of the better Last Supper parodies or tributes you’re likely to see. ICTMN asked her to share her thoughts on the process and the final product.

What were you going for in that image?

It’s a whimsical, Hollywood, celebrity style, editorial portrait of Buffalo Man and an amazing group of contemporary Indian artists that came together to capture a most memorable moment in our lives. This is Buffalo Man and his famous artist peers posed just like Da Vinci’s painting of The Last Supper. Buffalo Man is kind of a pop icon for contemporary Native artists living and working in Santa Fe.

We were looking for iconic images that would serve as amazing collisions of Native culture and popular, mainstream culture and the resulting interpretations have been very powerful, personal and rather unlimited. Buffalo Man is unlike any persona or model I’ve ever worked with, because you can read so many metaphors into what he symbolizes. These photographs of him always spur fascinating interpretations, so it makes me want to keep mine a secret. It’s both editorial and Native American fine-art documentary of Native peoples. I want to execute gorgeous photographic murals that have great, contemporary, and perhaps, controversial content.

Is it part of a series? What else were you doing in that series and what ties them together?

This unique body of work is a series in which I specifically collaborate with Buffalo Man/Marcus Amerman. He once told me the mask found him in an Indian trading post, some 20 years ago. Since then, he’s posed as Buffalo Man for several Native and non-Native photographers. He’s a wonderful model and creative performance artist with a history of fashion and theater going back to the 80’s. We’ve collaborated over the last 3-4 years on an ongoing series of (so far) 3 iconic image recreations that have Buffalo Man as the focal point.

Two Buffalo Man photos by Cara Romero. Source: kinggalleries.com

It looks like a fun set-up, any difficulties?

It was a very ambitious photograph to execute. Certainly, it was my biggest photo shoot to date with 14 models. Marcus and I marveled at the ease with which the project came together and how all the artists supported the artistic endeavor so graciously. It was as if, “it wanted to happen.” Will Wilson supported me with extra lights, IAIA students volunteered as lighting assistants, The Coyote Café offered their dining room and what was most amazing, were all the famous artists that showed up to support Marcus and have their portrait taken with the celebrity Buffalo Man. Marcus is truly an inspiring individual just to be near and that shines through in this photograph. The artists acting as both themselves and as posed models were so theatrical and creative. They make the photograph come alive. On the backside, in post-production, I pieced together 7 individual photographs in Photoshop to create a seamless panoramic, super high-resolution, mural with the intriguing perspective that was achieved. The composition and the way the design and theater and lighting came together was a personal masterpiece. It’s my favorite piece.

“The Last Indian Market”, photographed in December 2014, is a limited edition 1/5 mural size (21 X 72 inches) print that was debuted at a recent Winter Show for the Robert Nichols Gallery here in Santa Fe, where I am featured year round. I’m from the Chemehuevi Valley Indian Reservation in the Mojave Desert, California. I moved to Santa Fe in 1999 to go to IAIA and am married to Cochiti potter, Diego Romero.

Alex Jacobs
January 21, 2014
Santa Fe NM