Just as the Red Willow Creek has flowed through the Taos Pueblo mountains, so centuries of artistic craftsmanship, drawn from the everyday lives and experiences of Taos Pueblo ancestors, flowed down from generation to generation. Now come the lesser-known but newest generation of young artists at Taos Pueblo, who are developing unique approaches and styles all their own.
Just as the Red Willow Creek has flowed through the Taos Pueblo mountains, so centuries of artistic craftsmanship, drawn from the everyday lives and experiences of Taos Pueblo ancestors, flowed down from generation to generation.
From the adobe mud, Taos Pueblo has seen many artists rise to become household names: from Robert Mirabal with his multilayered musical style to the traditional touches Dean Johnson gives his peace pipes. The world has seen tremendous sculptors and wise potters come from Taos Pueblo mud.
Now come the lesser-known but newest generation of young artists at Taos Pueblo, who are developing unique approaches and styles all their own.
The Taos Pueblo musical group Po.10.Cee always comes to mind when talking about relatively new artists at Taos Pueblo. The group of nine (or so) Taos Pueblo tribal members formed in the early 2000s and have become synonymous with hip-hop in Taos.
When asked what he felt was the most advantageous contribution to the group's style that comes from being Taos Pueblo, tribal member Ph8, or Cody Mirabal, said, "Unique stories of upbringing. Being taught to have respect for the land and others." Along with this powerful message the group incorporates Native style chants and harmonies into their music, a humble nod to the traditional path.
Po.10.Cee currently has a music video circulating on the First Nation's Experience broadcasting station. According to the broadcaster's website, "FNX is the first and only nationally broadcast television network in the United States exclusively devoted to Native American and World Content." Now the guys are cooking up new content. "We've done a lot of growing up. We've dug deeper in our subject matter and want our art to have a positive impact on our community," Ph8 said.
Another tribal member with a powerful message is emcee B3ar, aka Bear Marcus. Marcus possesses an inspirational, contemporary voice, a rarity in some Native American communities. "Our community being patriarchal, women are unable to use their voice to inspire in positions like such." B3ar noted that "being a female emcee allows me to use my voice to bring awareness to how crucial it is to stick to tradition, to preserve the sacredness of our land and culture."
Marcus attributes this outlook to growing up both traditional and modern. "I've learned there must be balance. In the modern world the idea of tradition is almost unheard of nowadays," she said. "Being Indigenous, participating in ceremony is my norm."
Currently the Taos Pueblo emcee is working on a project with Eligh of the Living Legends Crew and when asked what's on the horizon, the emcee could barely contain her elation over a possible overseas tour alongside fellow Native American musician Nataanii Means.
You can see and hear B3ar jam at the Slap Frost Revue, an all-ages hip-hop show, set to take place next Thursday (March 5) at the Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership (see Que Pasa, page 35).
Marcus is steaming ahead into her new music career, gracing stages across the country and even winning the 2019 gathering of emcees held during the Gathering of Nations Powwow. B3ar said she is "still healing from past trauma - emceeing is my therapy and my passion. I try to lead by example and want to be the change I wish to see in our community and in the world."
Po.10.Cee and B3ar are creating a new definition of hip-hop at Taos Pueblo, but are not the only ones influenced by pop culture. Taos Pueblo/Navajo painter DeAnna Autumn Leaf Suazo is making waves with her unique exploration of traditional craft.
Creating art since she was 2 years old, Suazo made her first monotype. "At least that's what my dad tells me," she said. When Tempo spoke with Suazo she was still on what she described as an "artistic high" from painting her first room mural at the Nativo Lodge in Albuquerque, entitled "Summer Memories in Taos." (Room 407 if you'd like a peek.)
"Seeing a Native doing something huge and significant was always inspiring to me," Suazo told me. She hopes for mural opportunities in and around the pueblo, such as Taos Pueblo Day School, where she would like to motivate children and parents.
Right now, Suazo is making plans for a fall Paseo Project, but she's tight-lipped about the details. Suazo's work brings perspective and modernism to the painter's representations of Taos Pueblo. The Japanese anime features to her all original work has inspired her friends to call her style "Nann's style." She turns to sometimes peculiar forms of canvas - taking the traditional motif and transforming it to blend with a more pop cultural look. More of her work can be seen at her website, deannaautumnleafsuazo.com.
Just outside the pueblo's main entrance, you'll find DeAnna Suazo's sister, Shundine Suazo at Shundine's Frybread Stand. She brings a personal touch to the culinary arts of Taos Pueblo. Shundine credits an array of grandmas, aunties and older cousins for showing her how to be innovative in the kitchen.
"It's like the frybread. They [elders] don't even show you measurements. They show you what goes in then you figure out your own measurements," said the aspiring restaurant owner. Shundine Suazo started this endeavor years ago with "nothing but soda, frybread and $50."
Full disclosure: This ain't your average frybread stand. Shundine's is quickly becoming a Taos Pueblo "it" spot for lunch breaks.
Suazo incorporates indigenous ingredients into traditional American and New Mexican dishes. She also utilizes ingredients from the Red Willow Farmers Market and, when in season, ingredients "from our hills," she said. Street tacos are a popular order at her stand and though the dining is only alfresco, she will be opening an area for indoor seating in the near future.
Suazo acknowledged her customers for her current progress. "What people contribute into my business will help me expand as far as I dream to go," she said. However, there is another reason Taos will want to pay close attention to this future restaurateur. She feels the majority of Native American culinary artists are breaking into gourmet foods, so she wants her company to be based on family dining - the traditional way families eat at Taos Pueblo.
And so, the artists of Taos Pueblo continue to hone their art and craft through a deep-rooted sense of tradition, mixed with inspiring sense of self and current culture. Po.10.Cee continues to pioneer a new sound for their people. With tradition as her guiding light, B3ar blazes new paths for, not just Taos Pueblo women, but for all Native women. The Suazo sisters DeAnna and Shundine are metamorphosing traditional recipes on the easel and in the kitchen.
This next generation of Taos Pueblo artists has broadened their perspectives and thus broadened their own horizons. Who's to say the sky limits these artists? As long as the Red Willow creek flows, Taos Pueblo artists will continue rising from the adobe.
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