2016 marks the 40th anniversary of the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, and from the opening of our first permanent exhibit in April to our Indigenous Peoples’ Day Celebration in October, we’ve been celebrating Pueblo culture all year long. Throughout, we appreciated the support of our wider community, including Pueblo dancers, musicians, writers, and artists—particularly George Toya of Jemez Pueblo.
Toya is a multi-award winning artist whose oil, acrylic, pen-and-ink, and watercolor paintings can be found in collections around the world. This past year he shared his gifts with the IPCC through his vibrant painting “A Pueblo Prayer.”
Completed in 2015, “A Pueblo Prayer” depicts sacred elements of the natural world, including brightly-colored stars, dragonflies, animal prints, and cornstalks against black geometric elements. The IPCC selected the painting to serve as our own cherished 40th anniversary design, and we’ve since worked with Toya to transfer its beauty and meaning to items that everyone can enjoy, from Pendleton blankets to mugs.
In honor of this collaboration, we’ve asked Toya to share his thoughts on life as an artist, the symbolism of “A Pueblo Prayer,” and working with the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. His work is available for sale through our partner Shumakolowa Native Arts, both in-store and online at Shumakolowa.com.
What sort of art do you create?
I am continuously trying different types of art. Earlier this week I was making baskets, yesterday I was carving wood, today I am painting in oils. Overall I am a painter and two-dimensional artist.
How did you develop the design of “A Pueblo Prayer”? What inspired you?
The inspiration for most of my work is my heritage, knowing who I am and who my people are, where I am from and knowing I am a part of a unique culture. My goals are to inspire and continue to learn.
For “A Pueblo Prayer,” I had a pretty good idea of what the design would be from the beginning. I continued to make revisions as I started to sketch it and I developed different ideas for how to create balance and how the design would be interpreted.
What would you like people to know about the images in “A Pueblo Prayer”?
The imagery is best explained on the tag that accompanies the blanket:
In Pueblo life, our prayers are offered to the spirits of the universe. Every element has a spirit that exudes energy. This energy surrounds us, reminds us of our many blessings, and gives us strength to continue through this life’s journey and onto the next.
This Pueblo Prayer starts at the center with the sun, moon, sky, and stars, all of which are a reminder of our existence amongst the heavenly bodies. The elements of wind, thunder, and lightning remind us that we are but one element of a universe that we do not control. Through this Prayer we acknowledge and show respect to the four sacred directions, our homelands, and the sacred places of our ancestors—these places that keep us grounded in our homes and culture. Our Earth—the mountains and valleys, the rivers and plants—support the animals, birds, and insects, and we acknowledge that they too are on their own journey.
Since time immemorial, this Pueblo Prayer is offered for the good of all communities, through the spirits of the universe, by the offering of sacred corn meal and pollen to protect people on their journeys, to give strength to those in need, to act with good intentions with kindness and confidence, and to live in a worthy manner for the benefit of all people and generations to come.
How does “A Pueblo Prayer” connect to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and its 40th anniversary?
The image is a design that the majority of Pueblo people can relate to, since our heritage and ways of life are very similar. The design was made to honor our Pueblo heritage the same way the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center was designed and built to honor and inspire our heritage.
What do you think of seeing your artwork on the blanket and other keepsake items at Shumakolowa Native Arts?
Seeing my artwork on these items is an honor. I hope that they inspire the next generation of Pueblo artists to continue to honor our heritage through art, culture, song and dance, and history.
What’s next for you as an artist?
To be a better person.
If you love “A Pueblo Prayer” as much as we do and would like to bring its beauty into your own home, you’ll find it and Toya’s other work available online at Shumakolowa.com and in store:
Shumakolowa Native Arts
2401 12th St NW
Albuquerque, NM 87104