Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Albuquerque artist brings characters to life with a deep look into the souls of the indigenous people

Publisher’s Note:

The Journal continues the monthly “From the Studio” series with Kathaleen Roberts, in which she takes a close look at an artist.

“The Breath-Taking Voyage to the Unknown”, Everton Tsosie, 2021, acrylic and mix media on canvas. (Courtesy Ellsworth Gallery)

Primary strokes penetrate deeply into the souls of the urban characters captured in Everton Tsosie’s paintings.

These local men smile through clenched teeth, are split in two and clump into a cityscape ravaged by Covid, drugs and alcohol.

The Albuquerque native’s first solo show recently took place at the Ellsworth Gallery in Santa Fe in Urban Native.

The Diné artist grew up in the International District, where crack addicts smoked in his backyard.

“My mother always told me to draw because I was a disgusting kid; I was hyperactive and wanted to concentrate, ”he said. “She told me to sit down and draw a horse.

“I’ve always been involved with gangs and violence, alcohol and drugs,” Tsosie continued. “My mom was really good and told me to go over.”


“Vital”, Everton Tsosie, 2021, acrylic on canvas. (Courtesy Ellsworth Gallery)

At school, he was the kid everyone asked to make event posters. Soon his teachers began to notice. In the second grade, part of the classroom was dedicated to a small studio. He was already working in abstraction.

“She set up a little studio gallery like a little show for me,” said Tsosie. “I thought it was cool; I’ve put on a little suit. I sold a painting. I felt like I was already rich; it was $ 15 or $ 20. “

He began college at the old TVI (now Central New Mexico Community College) where he studied both math and art before moving to the University of New Mexico. He was good at math and initially thought he would study engineering as well as arts. In 2018 he completed his studies with a BFA in painting and drawing.

“I didn’t want to be in the ghetto anymore,” he said. “What changed my mind was that I was sitting in class and hearing everyone talking about Popular Mechanics and being very demanding in their language. I looked out the window and dreamed and just couldn’t stand it. “

“Miracle in the Sun”, Everton Tsosie, 2021, acrylic on canvas. (Courtesy Ellsworth Gallery)

Tsosie has worked in construction jobs and at a Circle-K gas station where a cowboy encouraged his dream to go to New York, inspired by stories by abstract expressionists Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. He bought a plane ticket in 2018 and lived in Alphabet City in the East Village for three years. He earned his living building stretcher frames for an artist and worked as a security guard.

“It was intense,” he said. “It made me a new person. I was in the very southwest, in Albuquerque. “

The move inspired him to paint on larger canvases; some as tall as two feet tall. One day the rent was due and Tsosie needed the money. He collected 16 paintings and sold them all in a park.

The artist Everton Tsosie can be seen in his studio in northeast Albuquerque. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis / )

He returned to New Mexico that year at the behest of his mother and the pandemic.

“I just felt that if something happened to my mother, I’d rather be in New Mexico than New York,” he said.

“Dicer”, Everton Tsosie, 2021, acrylic on canvas. (Courtesy Ellsworth Gallery)

Tsosie’s current work begins and ends with the energy he channels while attacking the canvas.

“The Breathtaking Voyage to the Unknown” embodies his vision of an urban Indian.

“The Last of the Pure”, Everton Tsosie, 2020, acrylic and mixed media on canvas. (Courtesy Ellsworth Gallery)

“Nobody knows what is ‘unknown’,” said Tsosie. “This word has come up recently because of the Covid virus. We are in a twilight feeling. On the side is thunder; the sky is not blue, it is yellow. “

A stick figure on the left bumps into the character’s arm in a virus-driven form of interaction.

“There’s always stoicism in Native American stereotypes,” Tsosie continued. “I wanted to portray him as happy in an unknown time. I think stoicism is why people don’t talk to us. I think (we) have a grim look. “

“The Miracle in the Sun” combines problems affecting Native Americans: alcoholism, uranium mining, which pollutes reserve water, and Covid-19.

“We still don’t have running water on the reserve,” said Tsosie.

For him, “vital” is a message of preparation for what comes next.

Everton Tsosie works in one piece in his studio in northeast Albuquerque. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis / )

“I like working with dual personalities,” he says. “One is more excited than the other; When there are moments of isolation, an absurd person comes out. “

Last year, Tsosie won the two-dimensional prize for best classification at the Virtual Indian Market with his painting “The Last of the Pure”. The work raised awareness of the Navajo nation’s struggle for clean water.

“Where’s the vibrator?” Everton Tsosie, 2020, acrylic and mixed media on canvas. (Courtesy Ellsworth Gallery)

“It sparked a lot of discussion in Santa Fe and got me more exposure,” he said.

It also brought him his first online platform selling “four or five” paintings.

“I got a check and was able to pay my rent,” he said. “I no longer have to work on construction.”

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