Celebrating the culmination of a multi-year art experiment, Heritage Hotels threw open the doors on June 28th to 24 Native artist designed guest rooms at Nativo Lodge in Albuquerque for public viewing. In the past month, hotel visitors have had the pleasure to stay in any one of the rooms decorated with hotel walls beautified with Native designs.
Cloudface (Diné/Hopi), whose room is entitled “Arrival/Departure,” decorated it with oversized hummingbirds. “Hummingbirds are so small,” he explained to ICMN, “I just wanted to zoom in to have their brief visits last a little longer.”
Cloudface says his art addresses “the impermanence of life,” as his composition was also an homage to the memory of his older brother, also an artist, whose last paintings depicted hummingbirds.
“I owe everything to him,” Cloudface said. “He was the only person I’ve ever considered a real teacher. I followed his lead, he gave me so much—taught me how to draw, how to paint in more traditional ways. It’s not all about loss,” he said. “It’s about offering all you can, while you can.”
Lynnette Haozous, who is a grandniece of legendary sculptor Allan Houser and is Chiricahua Apache (of the San Carlos Apache Tribe), Diné and Taos Pueblo, said she wants the guests who choose to stay in her “Sunrise Blessings” room—on which the east wall has an image from her Apache tradition of White Painted Woman—to find a peaceful place of respite from everyday cares.
“She comes from the water, and her hair flows in the waterline,” she explained. “It’s a lifeline around the whole room. I hope they’ll experience this room as a whole different world,” said Haozous to ICMN, “and let it encompass them.”
José Martinez, who often comes to New Mexico on business and is a frequent guest at the hotel, said Haozous’ imagery was both enlivening and restful. “In my profession, I spend a lot of time working from my left brain,” he explained. “But seeing this artist’s quail, stars and orbs connects to my right brain, and it’s calming.”
Ehren Kee Natay, Diné, from Santa Fe, painted three characters in a cartoon-style drawing in Japanese animé style in the main room of the suite he titled “Keeva”—a water serpent, a self-portrait in a mask and a buffalo dancer.
Andrea Vargas-Mendoza, Diné, was happy to have stayed onsite while working on the room she entitled “Mountain Flower.” Her piece is largely black, gray and white, accented in gold to evoke the glimmer of sunrises and sunsets.
Vargas-Mendoza painted a self-portrait inspired by Navajo Changing Woman, who represents female transition. She also brought her people’s topography into the composition, painting from her imagination a literal location for ceremony—a sacred mesa called Dzil Na’oodillii. “Our intentions and desires are heard from those plateaus,” said the artist to ICMN. “She’s free, she’s in the wind.”
Using house paint, acrylic, spray paint and stencil work, Joeseph Arnoux, Blackfeet/Spokane, created two main contrasting figures—a fisherman working to spear a salmon, and a grizzly bear posed with his successful catch already in his mouth.
“Fishing is part of my identity and salmon is a source of sustenance,” said Arnoux to ICMN, whose signature has two names—Man at the Bottom of the Mountain and Grizzly Bear Walking.
“The bear is a skilled hunter, but the human is working hard to survive,” he explained. “As the man pursues his catch, the bear looks out directly. He has his fish and his food, the answers are already there.”