Visitors to New Mexico come to be enchanted by the vibrant land and culture. Now, they don’t even need to leave their hotel rooms. Nativo Lodge, the independent Native American-themed hotel located at Pan American Freeway and San Mateo, offers visitors an experience to remember with the recent addition of four new rooms, each one designed by a Native artist to create a live-in art experience.
Nativo Lodge showcases traditional and contemporary indigenous American art and design. Marketing and creative director Maresa Thompson developed the idea to offer rooms to Native artists as a means to help shape and directly share contemporary Native art with guests without the stuffy museum environment. Art-themed hotels are gaining international popularity as a way to offer visitors a unique experience. The Nativo Lodge is the first to do so with Native art.
Nativo selected Native artists Rhett Lynch and Ehren Natay to contribute one room each. They then partnered with SWAIA, the organization behind the Santa Fe Indian Market, to name Nani Chacon and Heidi K. Brandow as their SWAIA/Heritage Hotels and Resorts Rising Artists Fellows for two other rooms.
Through a series of life experiences with poverty, material success, traveling and taking care of his dying mother, world-renowned Navajo artist and actor Rhett Lynch decided that he wanted to be “spiritually rich, because if I have that, it doesn’t really matter what the rest of it looks like.” Recalling a documentary film on Picasso he watched as a young boy that inspired him to become an artist, he says, “There were goats walking through his house and birds were flying through and he was painting a painting in his underwear and there was a beautiful woman sitting on the side of a piece of furniture. And I thought, ‘I want to be that guy.’”
Lynch's room concept is focused on offering a “deeper, more spiritual experience” and helping shape a “relationship with the creator.” Lynch says, “My work is about meditation, prayer, and what I can contribute to others by what I do, and to connect with someone.” Above the headboard, Lynch has created a painting with 175 tiny prayer ties, which he hopes will help visitors with prayers of gratefulness and healing. Beneath every component in his room are scan codes for visitors to deepen their experience through online descriptions, videos, and a virtual guest book where they can interact with him and other guests of the room. He describes the room as “an opening for a dialogue,” adding, “the crazy thing is that there is a hotel that is letting us do this. This is like what our parents told us that we couldn’t do with our own room.”
Native painter and metalworker Ehren Natay’s goal is “to change the world and the way people think about world issues. Square one is creating a voice for urban Indians.” His room concept brings together both traditional Native images and urban culture through graffiti art. His wall mural of a Pojoaque-style buffalo dancer jumps out of a background of fluffy clouds. The room is intended for younger, twentysomething visitors or families to have an urban but classy experience while engaging with contemporary Native culture and art. “Because art to me is like a prayer,” says Natay, “a divine connection to the creator. The success is in doing what I love and connecting to people.”
Heidi K. Brandow says, “In general, I am very attracted to very simplified forms.” Her room presents geometric shapes and designs in bold colors paired with modern abstract paintings. Brandow is a painter and draughtsman whose work commonly portrays personalities found in poetry and personal reflections. Hailing from a long line of Native Hawaiian singers, musicians and dancers on her mother’s side and Dineh storytellers and medicine people on her father’s side, she finds that her pursuit of an artistic career came naturally.
Nani Chacon’s room features a painting of a larger-than-life Native female who seems to blow blue birds into the wind against desert earth tones. “Blue birds in Navajo culture,” she says, “are symbols of creativity and creation.” Chacon started her street artwork when she was 16 years old, and she’s become known for her vibrant colors and representations of American and Chicana culture. Born in Gallup, New Mexico, she grew up in both Chinle, Ariz. and Corrales. Chacon uses archetypal female characters to explore ideas of feminism, sexuality, imagination, form, shape, design, color, subtlety, softness, power, culture, traditionalism and modernism.
Nativo Lodge is hosting a free family-friendly unveiling reception with food, drinks and music on Friday, May 10, from 7 to 10 p.m. for the public to view the rooms and meet the artists. This will be the only viewing available to the public and there will also be art for sale. The art guest rooms are available for only slightly higher-than-normal rates. Call Nativo Lodge at 798-4300 to reserve the art rooms, or visit nativolodge.com.