It's a rare thing to be able to live within a piece of art. I don't mean living with an art practice or co-existing with a painting hanging on a wall in your home (although each of those things is very cool). I mean being totally immersed in a work, feeling as though you've stepped into another world when you've really just passed through a doorway. That's why what Nativo Lodge has fostered in their 24 artist guest rooms is such a wonder to explore. Born of collaborations with the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts and the Institute of American Indian Arts, Nativo Lodge, a hotel in northeast Albuquerque, has over the course of several years invited a host of Native artists from the region to design and bring into existence distinct worlds within single rooms. On occasion, the hotel hosts a vast open house, where visitors are invited to amble around the whole of the place, from room to room, taking in each of the 24 distinct, enveloping works of art.
At the lodge's most recent open house last week, a reception on the second floor teemed with people eating, drinking, listening to music and engaging with the artists, many of whom were present, while other visitors flocked to the upper floors, where most of the artist rooms stood with doors open. The fifth floor hosts the bulk of the rooms, where I started my wandering trek through the hotel. One of the first rooms I chanced to enter set an impressive (and consistent) precedent. The mood changed as soon as I turned from the hallway into a room painted by Lynnette Haozous, titled “Sunrise Blessings.” The ambient sound from the second floor hushed as the energy shifted. Haozous' colors and lines radiated light and joy, inducing a sense of levity. A soft blue base provided grounding for a palette of pale peach, yellow, green, swirling into lines that create a lifted face, and on an opposite wall, a quail moving across the space followed by her young. Haozous' aim was to “pay respect to the sacred connection of women to earth and water, and to honor this sacred feminine life force connection.” Succeeding with ease, I can only imagine how safe and peaceful it must feel to sleep here.
Soon after leaving Haozous' room I found myself in an immersive landscape by Del Curfman, where the Great Plains rolled across the walls. Curfman's lines, details and sense of scale gave the space real dimension. A man rests in the foreground with his horse, while a butte juts out of their background; the colors employed deepen and extend the sense of distance and openness. On the opposite wall, a large crow stands atop a red hill, bending its head, its body bisected by a horizon line. The room-size work, titled “Apsaalooké” managed to feel much bigger than the room that contained it.
The truth is that all 24 rooms thrummed with their own particular imagery, language, color, intention. They all stood out. Other artists who have decorated the walls of Nativo Lodge include Rhett Lynch (who painted the first room ever), Heidi Brandow, Nanibah Chacon, Ehren Kee Natay, Rose B. Simpson, Jaque Fragua, Randy Barton, Estella Loretto, Michelle Lowden, Geraldine Tso, Ishkoten Dougi, Orlando Allison, Peterson Yazzie, Duane Koyawena, Mateo Romero, Warren Montoya, Jay Smiley, Joeseph Arnoux, Cloudface, Alexis Estes, Garrett Etsitty and Andrea Vargas-Mendoza.
There's something very cool and singular that is happening at Nativo Lodge, where art can be both lived in and remain an enduring attraction for visitors who are lucky enough to have a private and personal experience with a piece. Stay updated on when the next open house is scheduled by connecting with Nativo Lodge on Facebook (@NativoLodge) or book a room so you can fall asleep to and wake up with one of these wonders.