Lloyd "Kiva" New

Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Lloyd “Kiva” New, a Life Dedicated to Native American Art

Alex Jacobs

“My next project will be the establishment of some kind of design laboratory. We’ll teach Indian boys and girls…how to make a living with their own native craft-work. I’d like to put the bead work of the Yuma Indians and the native fabrics of the Navajo, Hopi and Sioux into high fashion too!”

– Lloyd “Kiva” New

This year is the 100th Anniversary of the birth of legendary artist Lloyd Henri “Kiva” New, a renowned artist and designer and one of the founders of the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe New Mexico.  In celebration of his life, the IAIA, its Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA), and the Museum of Indian Art and Culture (MIAC), also in Santa Fe, will be presenting exhibits, symposium, and a career retrospective (at MIAC) throughout the year. (Links can be found at the end of this article). Alex Jacobs takes a look at this extraordinary artist’s life and work. 

Lloyd “Kiva” New entrance to Museum of Indian Art and Culture exhibit. Courtesy image MIAC / photo by Alex Jacobs

Lloyd Henri “Kiva” New was born on February 18, 1916, when Oklahoma was a new state, to a Cherokee mother and a Scots-Irish father. The tenth child of a poor farming family, his mother Josie made sure he was able to leave the farm and grow up with his sister Nancy, where he would be allowed to make art. Nancy lived near the oil boom-town of Tulsa and Lloyd would be exposed to formal art education and the “urban Indian” experience. No one really knew of his humble beginnings and why would we? Lloyd was an elegant, self-assured, self-made man who was respected by all he met. The New York Times called him “a teacher of generations of Indian Artists” when he passed away in 2002.

Lloyd New with family (parents, sisters, niece) at Welch, Oklahoma home, 1935. Lloyd H. New papers, IAIA Archives.

Lloyd New was “discovered” when he became director of Arizona State Fair’s “Indian Exhibits” in 1947. He modernized the typical staid museum-like exhibits by combining contemporary elements as backdrops to showcase Indian arts and jewelry. 10 years later he became co-director of the Southwest Indian Arts Project at the University of Arizona, sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation, which put him on the national stage. Soon after he would be tapped to be art director at the experimental Institute of American Indian Arts. New taught and then collaborated with the renowned Hopi jeweler Charles Loloma over the years. Charles and Otellie Loloma were equal to New when it came to marketing and they would come to Santa Fe to be teachers at IAIA, influencing a new generation of Indian artists. Charles did not stay to teach long as he had a very busy career ahead of him but his wife, clay artist Otellie Loloma, would stay to become a beloved figure at IAIA.

Printed textile, Cherokee Syllabary, 1965. photo by Alex Jacobs

Lloyd New thought that people “expected” a stereotypical style of Indian Art, that he felt was stuck in the past, “This preservation syndrome…amounts to “embalming”. New’s words from the Museum of Indian Art and Culture (MIAC) exhibit clearly show his intent, concepts and direction:

Indian art of the future will be in new forms, produced in new media and new technological methods. The end result will be as Indian as the Indian who produced it.  And while everyone knows that the world of fashion is indeed strange and capricious, it nonetheless represents one of the most basic and compelling of artistic impulses…the art of personal adornment.

As a Native American (Cherokee) designer New was the first to create a successful high-fashion brand. From Scottsdale, Arizona in the 1950s, he sold his customized clothing and accessories to a specialized clientele across the nation, from boutiques on Fifth Avenue to Beverly Hills, and distributed his line through Neiman Marcus. A generation later, New mentored those who have since brought his entrepreneurial and innovative spirit into fashion design and Native aesthetics; contemporary artists and designers such as Patricia Michaels, Pilar Agoyo, Wendy Ponca, Penny Singer, Marcus Amerman and America Meredith. The Native Uprising Fashion Collective of the 1980’s-1990’s in Santa Fe found support from President Emeritus New and IAIA Museum Director Rick Hill and basically forced SWAIA – The Southwest Association of Indian Art that puts on the annual Indian Market, to accept contemporary Native Fashions into the Market. These events would presage future Native Fashion trends 20 years later.

Printed fabric with plant designs, 1962. Photo by Blair Clark/DCA

I always say you can’t teach innovation, but Lloyd knew how to identify talent, nourish it, and allow it to become.

– Marcus Amerman (Choctaw), his beaded portrait of Lloyd New at the entrance of the MIAC exhibit is titled, “A Force of Nature.”

Ryan Flahive, IAIA’s Museum of Contemporary Native Arts archivist, was picked by New’s wife, Aysen, to edit the memoirs started by her husband many years ago. “The Sound of Drums” is available at Sunstone Press and MoCNA’s own gift shop if you are in town visiting their exhibit: Lloyd Kiva New: Art, Design, and Influence, which will be up through this summer’s Indian Market. IAIA will offer a class "Lloyd Kiva New and the Contemporary Native Art Movement" in the Spring 2016 semester. IAIA and MIAC will jointly present a symposium, "The Lloyd Kiva New Centennial Convocation" in October of 2016. The convocation will be an interdisciplinary look at the contemporary Native art movement.

Men’s printed sport shirt (1956) with model at MIAC. Photo by Kitty Leaken

The MIAC exhibit is a career retrospective A New Century: The Life and Legacy of Cherokee Artist and Educator Lloyd "Kiva" New (through December 30, 2016). Through personal recollections, photos, archival documents, and objects pour la couture, New Century: The Life and Legacy of Cherokee Artist and Educator Lloyd "Kiva" New, reviews the life of this American Indian visionary. The exhibit is divided into five sections: New Lands, Ancient Stories; Student and Teacher; An Artist at War; The New Enterprise/Clothes Make the Man; and the New Legacy.

SW landscape dress (1955) with model at MIAC. Photo by Kitty Leaken

Santa Fe, New Mexico will celebrate the 100th anniversary of New’s birth all this year with exhibitions and activities. A hard cover catalog with text from all three curators and images from all three exhibits will be available at these Museums sometime in April. The New Mexico Museum of Art’s exhibit Finding a Contemporary Voice: The Legacy of Lloyd Kiva New and IAIA (May 21 through October 10, 2016) showcases artwork by former and present IAIA faculty and alumni demonstrating the contribution these artists have made to the larger field of contemporary art.

Orlando Dugi leather bag, inspired by Lloyd’s “Kiva Bags”, beadwork by Kenneth Williams, Jr., the image is of Lloyd holding his leather-working mallet in a raised 3D effect. The bag won 2nd place in it’s category at the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market. Photo by Kitty Leaken

And so, from the heart, from all your students, friends and fellow artists, we love you Lloyd, Happy Birthday.

“Fritz Scholder, Arts Faculty at the Institute of American Indian Arts at 4:15pm”, 1968, Collection of the New Mexico Museum of Art. © Fritz Scholder Estate. Photo by Blair Clark. From the New Mexico Museum of Art’s exhibit: Finding a Contemporary Voice: The Legacy of Lloyd Kiva New and IAIA.







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