Patricia Michaels Continues to Make the Cut on ‘Project Runway’

Greta Chapin McGill - April 1, 2013

"My heart is with the Lady from Taos Pueblo"

In the days before last year’s Indian Market, I recall a conversation with Amber-Bear Dawn Robe the coordinator of the Institute for American Indian Art's 40th Anniversary Fashion Show and Tailin Argoyo, marketing director of public relations for SWAIA, Santa Fe Indian Market about what would be the tribal work of Native Americans produced in this modern era.  It is a discussion of cultural newness. From the incredible art and architecture of Pojoaque by George Rivera to designers like Jamie Acuna and Gaussoin and of course Patricia Michaels. These are forward-thinking designers, artists and  architects using their ancestral roots to build upon and make something exciting, pleasurable and new.  New ways to honor old traditions.

This week on "Project Runway" I was completely blown away by the manifestation of this concept by Michaels. The teams were again reshuffled by the judges and Michaels was paired with Richard.  The designers met at the iconic Solomon R., Guggenheim Museum in New York to be inspired by the contents and character of one of the most recognizable art institutions in the world. It houses a permanent collection of  Impressionist, Post Impressionist and early Modern and contemporary art.  Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the cylindrical shape of the  structure makes it one of the most recognizable buildings in the world.  The Guggenheim was the last major work of Wright, who died six months after its opening.  There is no other major artistic inspiration I can think of in New York City that could have inspired these designers to dizzying heights.

In my past blogs I have talked about the pettiness of the designers and their artistic differences.  This challenged moved me greatly.  The design Michaels executed was an intensely personal work of art.  Since coming to northern New Mexico I have visited Pecos, Puye and Taos Pueblo.  I have also seen  Hopi Land, Chaco Canyon and Window Rock.  These tribal places are a part of who Michaels is.  They are a part of every textile she designs and this challenge gave her the freedom to dig deep into her ancestral past and come up something amazing.

The textile she created was in her words “tribal.. but from what tribe”.  I could envision the procession of kachinas emerging from the kiva with this look among them.  I could imagine her as the spirit of a virginal deity being delivered to her warrior brave.  The color and imagination of the conceptual modern print with her arms free, but not free and her face veiled was for me a story created by the print and the painting of the print.  Heidi Klum again “loved” her work.

I have decided not to waste time on the crying and moaning of some of the designers.  They are now down to the wire and every moment is a make-or-break moment.  The final judging had me sweating.  With Michaels left on the runway with her teammate and the ultimate loser in this challenge, my heart was racing. I had tears in my eyes when Klum said “ Patricia, you are in” and the relief rolled over me like a dark cloud over a sunny day.

The workroom promises to become even more intense next week and I have now saged every room in my house and my TV more than once, white candles are everywhere and my niches are filled with scraps of cloth, feathers and photos of my favorite designer.  My heart is with the Lady from Taos Pueblo.