Artist and farmer Maida Branch opens up about her roots in Northern New Mexico.
Inspired by her family and the land from which they came, Maida Branch founded MAIDA in 2017 - an online collective of Indigenous and Indo-hispano artists.
Q: What makes someone or something beautiful?
A: Effortlessness is always so beautiful to me. Maybe because that’s what nature does so perfectly, so stunning in its naked state, always purely itself.
Q: You have an online shop dedicated to indigenous artists that nurtures sustainability on a sociological and environmental level. How important is mixing in vintage items with a modern creation from an artist? What draws you to both types of objects?
A: I’m drawn to pieces that look like they could be from thousands of years ago or made today. Aside from a select few pieces, I’ve designed or co-designed most of what’s sold. Often I think of a lesson or something I’m learning in my life I’m reflective of and how I wish I could wear something that represented that story and carry it in my life in a physical way. I take the steps to create it so I can have it as a totem and so others can too. Designs can also be very functional in their purpose like a series of churro wool blankets I’m working on. They’re inspired by designs from the Martinez Hacienda in Taos, NM. Josh Tafoya and I hand dyed the wool with plants foraged from the land where my partner and I live. A piece inspired by something quite old, for our everyday use today.
Q: What does does resilience mean to you?
A: I describe my project MAIDA as ‘a love story, a coming home story’ this is a reference to actual homecoming that is a response to Pueblo land being taken from us due to Spanish and American colonization and settler population of New Mexico, it’s also an internal reference to displacement and home being within us, wherever we may be. I speak to this from my experience as a Indo-hispano woman whose native heritage is directly related to forced slavery and the intermarrying of Pueblo women to Spanish men. My grandparents grew up farming and harvesting their animals as a means of survival in Dilia, near Anton Chico, New Mexico, once a known genízara community meaning that of mixed native slave descent. I’m two generations removed from living back on the land, my parents grew up in the big city of Santa Fe. The survival of our people and our culture despite all of the forces at odds with our existence is the definition of resilience to me.
Q: In a world that is increasingly experiencing climate anxiety. How important is transparency and what is a sustainable process when creating in terms of people and plant?
A: I’ve been thinking a lot about our obsession as people with our own immortality and our presence on this planet in perpetuity. I feel inspired by the fact that nature knows exactly what to do always, despite our belief that we have some control over it. We often think of ourselves as humans as separate from nature, I hope to compliment what nature already does so perfectly by living more in alignment with its teachings and cycles, and I hope to share this through MAIDA by highlighting humans that culturally already practice ‘sustainability’ and have for millennia. MAIDA work comes directly from the earth and when we’re gone it will be given back to the earth, like adobe houses or clay objects, silver, and wool - they’ll return to where they came from but support and compliment our existence while we’re here.
Q: How has living in the desert shaped your relationship with the world, are there examples of resilience that you can share?
A: My partner and I talk about how people reference the desert as if it’s just one thing. People who move here often say they were ‘called to the desert’, but in many ways New Mexico is so varied it can hardly be just that. If you want the desert Georgia O’Keeffe has popularized you can have that here, but what I think is beautiful about where I’m from is that it’s really uncategorical. Where I live now, I’m surrounded by Ponderosa forest, tall mountains and in the summer green green pastures, in the winter in moments it looks like a village in the Pyrenees, we don’t have the ocean but somehow we’re in rivers and swimming holes all summer.
But perhaps a characteristic that references resiliency that I’m most proud of in being from the desert, is that resiliency is demanded of all things here, its plants, animals, and people. Historically, we have always been self-sustaining and independent, dependent only on the land and its gifts, knowledgeable of how to survive even in the midst of what some would believe as lack. Deciding to come back home years ago and creating MAIDA required me to get really clear about my values, my relationship to place and my ancestors relationship to place one of the most important, that’s become a compass and led me right to where I always wanted to be. It took a lot of figuring out what I didn’t want to discover what I do, coming home feels like resilience to me, and has been the best decision I ever made.
Q: What is your skincare routine?
A: As a little girl I tried to emulate everything my mom did, and watching her wash her face each night, and look so soothed as she put oil of olay on her skin, I’ve always associated the beginning of day and end of day skincare time as important rituals. Since using Ayond I’ve been admiring its simplicity and a really powerful affect. I was drawn to the intention around ingredients and desert botanical focus. Looking to medicines that are directly from ones environment makes most sense to me.
Maida is seen with the Resilience Collection.