Artist Tony Abeyta grew up in Gallup, New Mexico and has lived, worked and studied around the world. He received an Honorary Doctorate from the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) where he is an Adjunct Profesor. He was awarded the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in 2012 and was honored by the 2012 Native Treasures Living Legend award, also in 2012. He joined me here at La Fonda to discuss his art and Santa Fe.
Q: You’ve traveled a lot and spent time finding inspiration in other places… what keeps bringing you back to Santa Fe?
A: I love the possibilities of new stimulus and inspiration from other environments, but Santa Fe will always be home. Even at this moment, I am plotting my next chapter of logistical changes to the Bay area in the fall.
Q: After the 10 year retrospective of your work was exhibited in 2000 at the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles, you said you re-evaluated who you were as a painter and what your role was as a contemporary Native Artist. What answer did you come up with?
A: I don’t really remember but I continued with new collectors and a supportive community. It gave me confidence as an artist as well.
Q: Artists you admire?
A: I love Agnes Martin’s work because it is nothing like my own. I like the work of the modernist Taos founders and the New York expressionists.
Q: Favorite song? Music that makes you happy?
A: I love progressive jazz. I listen to hip-hop and hate classical music……sorry.
Q: Place you’re most proud to have your work hanging or on display in? (Besides my house and La Fonda of course!)
A: In the collection of the Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., and in my dear late friend Sam Maloof’s home in California.
Q: One piece of advice for a young artist growing up in New Mexico right now?
A: Walk….don’t run. There’s plenty of time to sell paintings. Develop and refine your work first.
Q: If you had to choose one defining moment in your life, what would it be?
A: When I quit my last job and went to Art School and never punched a time-clock again.
Q: If you could be the spokesperson for one product or one cause… what would it be?
A: It would be an environmentalist position that spoke against uranium mining on Native soil.
Q: When you aren’t working, how do you most like spending your time?
A: I like traveling, eating healthy delicious food, camping, fishing, eating, museums, yard sales…and dessert!
Q: Best thing about Santa Fe?
A: Great friends and collectors.
Q: One food you can’t live without?
A: Fry bread, mutton stew, green chile from the Gallup Flea Market on Saturday…..my favorite day ever!
Q: If you could choose any super power, what would it be and why?
A: The ability to manifest, and I would manifest a doppelganger, one who would help prep paintings, show up to openings, fundraisers and board meetings so I could hang out by the pool and take road trips.