Armond Lara hosts a closing reception for his Flying Blue Buffalo installation on Saturday, November 17 from 5 to 7 pm. The Santa Fe artist collaborated with form & concept on this monumental art installation that tells the centuries-long story of enslaved Native American children. Inspired by his own family history, Lara dreamed up the winged buffalo as a new symbol of Native survival and resilience.
Santa Fe artist Armond Lara and his collaborator Joseph Riggs discuss the story behind the Flying Blue Buffalo installation on Saturday, August 18, 2-3 pm. The monumental art installation, comprising 77 winged buffalo sculptures, tells the centuries-long story of enslaved Native American children. Inspired by his own family history, Lara dreamed up the winged buffalo as a new symbol of Native survival and resilience.
Armond Lara collaborates with form & concept on this monumental art installation that tells the centuries-long story of enslaved Native American children. The Santa Fe artist sends 77 hand-painted, cast resin Flying Blue Buffalo sculptures soaring through the gallery’s atrium. Inspired by his own family history, Lara dreamed up the winged buffalo as a new symbol of Native survival and resilience. Each sculpture in the suspended flock is labeled with the name of an abducted child. The installation debuts at a special reception on Friday, August 17, 5-7 pm, on the weekend of Santa Fe Indian Market.
Suspended from the ceiling is a herd of blue buffalo, seventy-five of them, flying on wings. The buffalo tell the story of thousands of Native American children who, from the 17th Century through the 19th, were abducted from their families and enslaved on ranches and in homes across the Southwest. The Flying Blue Buffalo installation is the creation of veteran Santa Fe artist Armond Lara, and it’s on view starting August 17 at the Santa Fe gallery, form & concept.
You can listen to two versions of the radio segment on the KUNM website— one that’s 4 minutes and one’s that 7 minutes. Both stories include this gorgeous quote from Armond:
I decided that all I would see was a cloud of blue. I thought it would be a beautiful presentation. That’s the whole philosophy for Navajo people. Walk In Beauty. It has to be in a beautiful way. It doesn’t have to be ugly, even though it is ugly. We can take the pride and the endurance of still being here. Like the buffalo.
Meanwhile, we’re deep in the installation process for Armond’s show. You can see the grid system we’re using in the photo above, which will support all of the sculptures in the piece. Come see it on opening weekend, August 16-18!
Later this month, when Armond Lara sends 75 winged buffalo sculptures into the stratosphere of form & concept’s atrium, he’ll fulfill a long-held dream. Lara has been depicting buffalo in his artwork for years, but more recently they’ve turned blue and sprouted wings. The Flying Blue Buffalo series is a reference to the Santa Fe artist’s family history: his grandmother, who was Navajo, was kidnapped as a small child and forced into servitude by a Mexican family. Across three centuries of Spanish, Mexican and American rule, thousands of Native children were similarly enslaved as household servants or field hands.
The Pueblo people called these abducted youths “Lost Bluebirds,” a symbol that Lara combined with the buffalo to create a new icon of Indigenous resilience. He dreamed up a massive installation of 75 winged buffalo sculptures, which came to fruition through a Kickstarter campaign and 3D printing technology. We’re hosting a preview of the installation on Thursday, August 16, featuring a talk by Dr. Estevan Rael-Gálvez of Santa Fe. The installation opens with a reception on Friday, August 17, and Lara conducts an artist talk on August 18.
“My grandmother didn’t talk much, but if she did talk, you listened,” says Lara. He’s known the story of his grandmother’s abduction for as long as he can remember, but it wasn’t until recently that he learned how common the practice was. “My sister was doing genealogy research on the family, and she found a list of all the Native American kids who had been ‘adopted’ by Mexican families in the Four Corners area,” says Lara. “It dawned on me, whoa, this is really widespread. That’s when I started asking other people about it.” He learned about the kidnapping and enslavement of an enormous number of Native American children over several centuries—from the 1600’s when the Spanish arrived, through the period of Mexican Independence, until the late 1800’s under the government of the United States. A number of Lara’s close friends revealed that they too had ancestors who were taken.
For Lara, this growing web of stories reminded him of his grandmother’s resilience, which has been an enduring source of inspiration. “I looked to my grandparents for guidance. The strongest voice was my grandmother’s voice,” Lara says. “She didn’t talk about it, she just did it. If she needed something, she’d make it. If she needed a robe, she’d weave one. I really admired that quality.” He dreamed up an art installation and storytelling project that might communicate this ethos, and inspire people to learn more about their heritage. A series of five winged blue buffalo marionettes that Lara carved from wood over a number of years became central conceptual elements.
With the help of his frequent collaborator Joseph Riggs, an artist and retired attorney who lives in Santa Fe, Lara pitched the idea to form & concept. The gallery commissioned a digital model and several mock-ups of the buffalo from Albuquerque technology firm 3D Proven Systems, while Lara and Riggs started gathering stories for the project. “We’ve represented Armond’s work for years, and were so excited to help bring his vision into reality,” says Sandy Zane, Owner of Zane Bennett Contemporary Art and form & concept. “For a project at this scale, we turned to 3D printing technology to capture the original carvings in high fidelity.” The gallery mounted a Kickstarter campaign to fund a round of 3D-printed sculptures, which were used to create molds for a final series of 75 cast resin sculptures.
Riggs says the scale of the installation is vital to the project, because it communicates the staggering number of children, families and communities affected by the issue. “I’ve lived in the Southwest my whole life, and I was unfamiliar with the story,” says Riggs. “You can’t find it in history books in New Mexico, but as I learned, there were slave markets all across this region. It became a deep part of the culture of the Southwest.” Each of the 75 buffalo sculptures will represent the story of one “Lost Bluebird,” with oral and written accounts of their fight for survival. “People in New Mexico have been searching for a way to explore this part of their family history,” Riggs says. “They can take pride in the fact that they’re Hispanic, and they’re Native American, and they’re American. There’s so much division in our country. We need to find ways to show our unity, to show how much we’re alike rather than how we’re different. And I think we can do it through this story.”
“Somehow in my mind, in my being, I felt I needed permission.”
Before carving the original Flying Blue Buffalo, Armond journeyed to Colorado to find a herd in the wild. His encounter with the buffalo gave him the inspiration to begin the ambitious installation and storytelling project.
The Flying Blue Buffalo Project will feature 75 cast resin sculptures crafted under Armond’s supervision. The Installation will debut this August. Support our Kickstarter campaign to learn more about the project and collect exclusive Flying Blue Buffalo artwork.
On Saturday, February 17 at 3 pm, Lara will conduct a panel discussion with Moises Gonzales, Estevan Rael-Gálvez, Sunny Dooley, Kim Trujillo, Joseph Riggs, and Weston Brownlee.
“A herd of anything has much more impact than one.” -Armond Lara
The fundraiser will go towards the creation of a monumental installation of cast resin Flying Blue Buffalo sculptures in the gallery’s atrium, based on a series of wood carvings by Lara. Inspired by the Santa Fe artist’s family history, this project tells the centuries-long story of enslaved Native American children. It’s a topic that hit the front page of the New York Times this weekend, in an article by Simon Romero. Here’s an excerpt:
Lenny Trujillo made a startling discovery when he began researching his descent from one of New Mexico’s pioneering Hispanic families: One of his ancestors was a slave.
“I didn’t know about New Mexico’s slave trade, so I was just stunned,” said Mr. Trujillo, 66, a retired postal worker who lives in Los Angeles. “Then I discovered how slavery was a defining feature of my family’s history.”
Mr. Trujillo is one of many Latinos who are finding ancestral connections to a flourishing slave trade on the blood-soaked frontier now known as the American Southwest. Their captive forebears were Native Americans — slaves frequently known as Genízaros (pronounced heh-NEE-sah-ros) who were sold to Hispanic families when the region was under Spanish control from the 16th to 19th centuries. Many Indian slaves remained in bondage when Mexico and later the United States governed New Mexico.
The revelations have prompted some painful personal reckonings over identity and heritage. But they have also fueled a larger, politically charged debate on what it means to be Hispanic and Native American.
Lara’s studies of this little-told history lead to the conception of the Flying Blue Buffalo, a new symbol of Indigenous survival and resilience. The Flying Blue Buffalo Project Kickstarter campaign launched on January 26 and runs through February 28. Mock-ups of the buffalo sculptures will appear at a February 17 open house event, and Lara will convene a panel of history experts to discuss the project and its themes. The installation will debut in form & concept’s atrium on August 17, 2018, and run through November 2018.
Click here to browse Armond Lara’s artwork.
“Buffalo are masters of survival,” says Armond Lara. “They’re still around today, even though we tried our best to kill them all off.”
The Santa Fe artist has depicted buffalo in his drawings, paintings, and sculptures for decades. In recent years, they’ve turned blue and sprouted wings. Armond combined the buffalo with the symbol of the “lost bluebirds,” a term the Pueblo people called the millions of Native children who were abducted and enslaved as household servants and field-hands.
This August, Armond will collaborate with form & concept to fulfill his long-held dream of creating a monumental installation of flying blue buffalo sculpture that explores this little-told history. A Kickstarter campaign will raise funds to support the production of over seventy 3D printed buffalo, based on a series of wood carvings by Lara.
Visit flyingbluebuffalo.com to learn more.