Photo courtesy Heritage Hotels & Resorts
The New Art Hotel
NATIVE AMERICAN ART is more than pottery, weaving, and jewelry — though those cherished traditional arts live on beautifully in the hands of new generations of creatives. The state's museums install these works, but Hotel Chaco has a museum-quality collection of its own. It's the first new hotel to be built in Old Town Albuquerque in decades, and it draws inspiration from the great houses of Chaco Culture National Historical Park for its fivestory stacked-stone design.
Interior designer Kris Lajeskie, who has worked with the Heritage Hotels & Resorts group for eight years on seven hotels, commissioned some of the most prominent contemporary Native American artists to create original artwork for its lobby, shared spaces, and guest rooms. "I thought about artists that could capture the essence and spirit of Chaco Canyon," Lajeskie says. "I sought out artists I had worked with, and I approached some new artists who, even though they are young, have a story to tell about their connection to Chaco Canyon. All of the artisans are the descendants of Chacoans." A stroll through the hotel tours many of the top-notch works.
Hotel Chaco's lobby opens to a largescale sculpture set in the bare floor as though the bronze springs from Mother Earth. Oneness by Joe Cajero (Jemez Pueblo) wends to a stacked crown representing love, energy, and harmony. Its four sides represent the four directions — and four seasons of life — a vital symbol for generations of Native Americans. One side depicts a female likeness, while the other side bears a male image, balancing those qualities as well. Roxanne Swentzell's sculpture The Guardian presides over the hotel lobby reception desk. The Santa Clara Pueblo potter hails from a family of artists. Although she creates clay vessels — more on that in a moment — she's best known for clay figures that express a full spectrum of human emotions and moods.
Guests enter the hotel through doors designed by Tammy Garcia (Santa Clara Pueblo). The Pueblo potter drew upon her tribe's renowned black-on-black pottery for the modern doors that feature the image of Avanyu, a water serpent. Her Oculus, which hangs from the lobby's circular roof, represents three sacred eagles flying and invites the viewer to look skyward.
The lobby leads into the hotel's relaxation room, which features the work of Navajo painter Rhett Lynch. The two-piece painting I Am represents petroglyphs found at Chaco and beyond with handprints that say, "I was here. I exist. I am."
Around the corner, a set of Chacoan cylinders hangs above bench seating in the downstairs bar. Lajeskie saw original vessels — a unique tumbler-like shape — protected in museum vaults during her research, then commissioned today's artists, including Swentzell, to create new takes on the distinctive containers.
This dialogue between traditional techniques and designs and modern interpretations echoes throughout the hotel. "They're not only telling their own story but taking the ancient art and the entire project forward," Lajeskie says of the contemporary artists.
Photo by Nick Merrick