Gerónima Cruz Montoya has had a long and impressive career as an artist and teacher. An early student of Dorothy Dunn at the Santa Fe Indian School’s (SFIS) Art Studio, she pursued higher education at the University of New Mexico, Claremont College and St. Joseph’s College in Albuquerque.
Mrs. Montoya headed the art program at SFIS from 1937 to 1961. During her tenure at SFIS, she was in the position to encourage the artistic development of several generations of students. A quintessential painter of the two-dimensional Studio Style, Gerónima Montoya has been both praised and scorned for her approach to teaching art to Indian students. Dorothy Dunn was an early role model for her. “She was wonderful, very understanding. We’d been made sort of ashamed of our Indianness, weren’t allowed to speak our Indian languages, and she made us see what a contribution Indians could make to the art world.” (1988 Magazine for Indian Market:3).
When the 1960s hit, and Fritz Scholder’s abstract individualist approach to Native art eclipsed the tradition-bound art world of Gerónima Montoya, she became an early casualty of the revolution and was not allowed to teach at the Institute of American Indian Arts, which had replaced the Indian School art program. She went on to teach adult education at San Juan Pueblo, and established there the first Pueblo crafts cooperative, O’ke Oweenge Crafts.
Gerónima Montoya was a recipient of the first National Museum of the American Indian Art and Cultural Achievement award in 1994. She has served on the board of the Southwest Association of Indian Arts (SWAIA), and has participated in the Santa Fe Indian Market since 1962. A biography of her remarkable life,The Worlds of P’otsúnú: Gerónima Cruz Montoya of San Juan Pueblo, was recently published (Shutes and Mellick 1996).
Deer in the Fall is rendered in Montoya’s crisp outlined style. In her painting, Mrs. Montoya does her part to keep the scenes and symbols of Pueblo culture alive. “I’m really a traditionalist and my subject matter has always come from Indian life. I am an Indian,” she once remarked unapologetically. (Magazine for Indian Market 1988: 31).
1 Object by Gerónima Cruz (P’otsúnú) Montoya