Santa Fe artist Armond Lara collaborated with form & concept on this monumental art installation, a flock of 77 winged buffalo that soars through gallery’s atrium. Inspired by his own family history, Lara dreamed up the Flying Blue Buffalo as a new symbol of Indigenous resilience. The installation tells the centuries-long story of abducted and enslaved Native American children. Each sculpture in the suspended flock is labeled with the name of a child who never came home.
Lara discovered at an early age that his grandmother, Juanita Sanchez Alarid, was raised by a Hispanic family but was actually Navajo. As a young child, she had been kidnapped, enslaved, used as a maid, and later baptized and married into another Hispanic family. Lara learned that this was a common occurrence for Native Americans in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. The Pueblo people called these abducted youths “Lost Bluebirds.” Lara combined this symbol with the buffalo to create the Flying Blue Buffalo. He dreamed up an art installation and storytelling project that might inspire people to learn more about their heritage.
A series of five winged buffalo marionettes that Lara carved from wood over a number of years became central conceptual elements. form & concept commissioned digital models and 3D-printed replicas of the original buffalo carvings from Albuquerque-based technology firm 3D Proven Systems. From these 3D-printed mock-ups, the company cast 77 buffalo sculptures in resin. Lara hand-painted and strung up the buffalo, forming a striking visual statement that illuminates a little-told history. The red-hued buffalo, on the southern edge of the flock, represents Lara’s grandmother Juanita.