Museum of Contemporary Native Arts

Juxtaposition, Identity and Meaning Explored in MoCNA’s Four Fall Concurrent Solo Exhibitions

Santa Fe, NM | Jul 13, 2012 –

For Debra Yepa-Pappan, her life is her art. Embracing her Native American and Asian background, Yepa-Pappan’s digital images and photographs disclose not only pieces of herself but the urban world around her.

“I grew up in the city and my influences have been pop art,” she says of digitally mixing pink teepees and the iconic Hello Kitty logo with Native American women in traditional dress. “I want people to come away knowing that can’t hang on to what these preconceived images of Indians are. We aren’t all plains Indians with feathers in our hair. We’re a bigger mix. I’m a mix–I’m half Jemez and half Korean and I’m very proud of that. I feel that I don’t need to choose one culture or another. I’m very proud of both.”

And that pride is seen in Yepa-Pappan’s first solo show, Dual(ing) Identities: The Work of Debra Yepa-Pappan, by guest curator Delana Joy Farley at the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA) opening August 17. The show is one of three solo exhibitions by Institution of American Indian Arts (IAIA) alumni opening the same day. A film about a Pueblo feast day ritual, Grab, will also debut at the museum.

Growing up in Chicago, Yepa-Pappan often passed graffiti and galleries containing artistic vision pushing limits. She had developed an interest in graphic design early on, and after hearing stories from her father attending IAIA in the 60s, she decided to come to Santa Fe in 1989. Once here, she fell in love with photography but also experimented with other mediums, and received an associate’s in two- and three-dimensional studio arts. She also found one of her biggest influences her life, meeting her husband, Chris Pappan, an Osage/Kaw/Cheyenne River Sioux artist, who places a modern twist on Plains Indians’ two-dimensional drawings on ledger paper given to them by soldiers hired to round them up in the late 1800s.

Her style, which she calls “ledger prints,” is created with ink jet and digitally altered photographs. She also incorporates another heavy influence in her life, her daughter, Ji Hae (meaning wisdom in Korean), in her work.

Debra Yepa-Pappan, Divine Spirits

“As a mother, that was such a proud moment for me when my daughter danced for the first time for the feast day at Jemez Pueblo, and I always wanted to do something with that image,” she said. “Using that image and repeating that image is paying homage to the pop art genre.”

The Pueblo feast day is also found in her other work as she uses Kool-Aid, a common feast day drink, to dye her wood panels.

In addition to Yepa-Pappan, two other IAIA alums will open their solo shows:


Mateo Romero, Tiger Tank, 2010

Mateo Romero (Cochiti Pueblo): Red Meridian

 Romero’s exhibition is loosely based on Sioux author and philosopher Vine Deloria’s idea of neo-tribalism, using existing Indigenous ideologies with new symbols that replace pre-existing ones to create new meanings.  The exhibit incorporates a series of historic Pueblo ideologies, primarily Pueblo dancer figures, juxtaposed with pop-like imagery of a post-modern mainstream society. The California-born, award-winning artist attended Dartmouth College and studied with acclaimed artists Ben Frank Moss and Varujan Boghosian. He received an M.F.A. in printmaking from the University of New Mexico.


Jeff Kahm, Vernacular 2012

Jeff Kahm (Plains Cree): VERNACULAR

In VERNACULAR, Kahm explores geometric structures like stripes as an effective vehicle for exploring compositional variations. Kahm, an instructor at IAIA, culls examples from all cultures to show that these forms played a major role in the geometric styles and development of aesthetics of early history and it is precisely in their use as symbols that geometric configurations persist. After completing high school, Kahm attended IAIA to study painting and photography, and received an A.F.A. in 1992.  He continued his studies at the Kansas City Art Institute where he received a B.F.A. in 1994, and then attended the University of Alberta where he received a M.F.A. in 1997, and continued advance his research in painting.

In addition to the solo exhibitions, the museum will also screen filmmaker Billy Luther’s (Navajo/Hopi/Laguna Pueblo) Grab, a 2011 official Sundance selected documentary about the Laguna Pueblo feast day ritual of dispersing food and other goods to the community. The film will be accompanied by selected photographs taken during the filming.

The opening reception for the exhibitions is scheduled for 5 p.m. August 16, and the exhibitions will continue through December 31. The solo shows will run concurrent with the exhibition, 50/50: Fifty Artists, Fifty Years, celebrating 50 years of the Institute of American Indian Arts.

Contact Information

Ryan Rice, 505-428-5922 or