Fine art

Museum honors Taos Pueblo jeweler

Artist named a 2018 MIAC Living Treasure and Native Treasures Featured Artist


Known for her minimalist lines, interdisciplinary approach and modern designs, Taos Pueblo jeweler Maria Samora has been named the 2018 Museum of Indian Arts and Culture (MIAC) Living Treasure and Native Treasures Featured Artist, the museum has announced.

Samora, 42, will be honored for her artistic contributions, service to her community, support of the MIAC, and her dedication to the Native Treasures Art Market, now in its 14th year and held annually on Memorial Day weekend. The 2018 event is planned to begin May 25 with the pre-show celebration and benefit, and then continues May 26-27 at the Santa Fe Community and Convention Center, 201 West Marcy St. in Santa Fe.

“Samora began apprenticing with goldsmith and master gem cutter Phil Poirer in 1998 and went on to work with him for 15 years,” the museum’s press release states. “Since striking out on her own around 2005, Samora’s jewelry has become known for the simplicity of its design, textured metals and combinations of both gold and silver. Stones include traditional turquoise and unexpected choices, such as diamonds, guava moonstone or African opal. The metalwork she has since learned incorporates techniques adapted from Etruscans, Egyptians, Greeks, Syrians and even the Korean method of keum-boo, which involves applying thin sheets of gold to silver.”

“For me, I really want to break down these boundaries and these stereotypes of what people think Native jewelry should be,” Samora said in a prepared statement. “I just want my jewelry to speak for itself.”

Her creations’ meticulously clean lines reveal the mastery of her craft. “Each piece is very deliberate. I have this attention to detail which I sometimes feel is a bit of a curse!” she said with a laugh.

Samora’s most recent collection, “Strata,” is comprised of geometric forms and parallel lines. She will be working on new pieces for the Native Treasures show for a minimum of six months in advance, building on the “Strata” collection and branching out in new directions as well.

In addition to her minimalist designs (sometimes she actually removes a detail from a piece if she thinks she’s overdone it.) According to the release, Samora emphasizes practicality. “This is not something you’re going to be hanging on the wall,” she said. “You’re wearing it; it becomes a part of you.”

To that end, she tests all her jewelry designs by wearing them herself, making sure they’re comfortable enough for a night on the town or a morning at yoga class.

Samora said she looks forward to this spring’s Native Treasures Art Market and relishes being part of such a dynamic community of artists. “It’s really an honor to be accepted by all the other artists who, over the years, have become a community and a family,” she said. “We’re all just kind of pushing each other, encouraging each other, and it’s so empowering to see that. I think that sometimes [in the Native art world] there’s this view that we’re stuck in these traditions, and of course they’re deep rooted and make us who we are, but it doesn’t keep us from moving forward, from evolving, from growing. Native art is not something that’s static. It’s ever changing, moving forward.”

More than 200 museum-quality artists are invited to participate in Native Treasures each year and again will showcase their pottery, jewelry, glass, painting, sculpture, carvings, textiles, and other art, according to the museum release. Many have works in MIAC’s permanent collection. Selected artist demonstrations, music, and the Native Treasures Street Eats food truck event on Sunday add to the festive atmosphere.

 “The Native Treasures Art Market has become one of the most important Indian art shows in the country since its inception in 2005,” the release states. “More than 200 museum-quality artists participate and will showcase their pottery, jewelry, glass, painting, sculpture, carvings, textiles and other art. Each artist is especially invited by the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. Many have works in MIAC’s permanent collection. Selected artist demonstrations, music and delicious food add to the festive atmosphere. Proceeds from Native Treasures provide the primary funding for MIAC’s changing exhibits. Native Treasures’ artists generously donate a portion of their sales to the museum.”

Each year, the award for MIAC’s Living Treasure is an original piece of art made and presented by the previous year’s MIAC Living Treasure honoree. Last year’s award recipient was Jody Naranjo. The pre-show celebration and benefit features a special sale of art by well-known and often award-winning artists. Hors d’oeuvres, wine and a cash bar are available. Tickets for the Friday party are $150 and are also available as part of Native Treasures sponsorships.

For information and tickets, visit