Chocolate Helicopter
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Chocolate Helicopter

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"Zane's World: Foursome"

When the sometimes cheerful, sometimes cantankerous, nearly always provocative collector Sandy Besser ended up curating an exhibition of drawings for the Turner Carroll Gallery (725 Canyon Road, 986-9800), it turned out to be a chaotic mess and, also, a pretty good idea. Wedging 26 artists into a single room of the modest Canyon Road digs couldn’t be anything other than over-stuffed and unhinged from the get-go. The show closed last week, but during its run the packed nature robbed one of truly sinking into, say, each juicy mark of Gary Snyder’s “Study : Intelligent Design : Kansas,” a paradise of sexual-political polyps and Truffula trees, because it’s rammed into a corner behind a desk. At 5’ 10” I was hard pressed to examine Alexander Kvares’ “Zombie Discotheque” in all its entrail-spattered glory because it was hung over my head and above another work.

The range of styles was so great—from careful pencil pecking of family-friendly subjects to wild ink-flinging kinkiness—that it felt as though, rather than fast-talking, knobby-kneed Besser, the show took form when June Cleaver ate Hunter Thompson’s brain and went on a speed and cucumber sandwich-fuelled studio visit binge. The more June-and-cucumber-ish works, while technically dazzling, were boring enough to induce sudden narcolepsy, while the more Hunter/speed-type selections weren’t far from offering up epileptic seizure to all comers. But a room full of unsettling art and conflicting messages can be preferable to peace and resolution and, in the midst of discordance, there was an even-keeled buzz to be had by soaking up the deep, velvety goodness of graphite and the commanding beauty of a single ink line. If I’d had the guts to bludgeon the gallerist and steal just one work, it would have been Victoria Carlson’s “Faith, Hope, Charity and the Tiny, Pissed-Off Orchestra.” You think the title says it all, but it’s really the extra limbs, delicately rendered watercolor udders and, of course, the wee people which sets it apart. Tomorrow’s Drawing Today, while challenging—and not always in a desired manner—was a successful sampler platter that became, in a way, one big weird drawing of its own. If you missed the show, images from every artist are available in impressive detail at

The fact that drawing as a primary medium is big these days may be news to walk-by traffic on Canyon Road, but it’s just another day at the office for Dwight Hackett Projects (2879
Rhymes, rhythm or rock ’n’ roll art—Hoka Skenandore and Chocolate Helicopter have you covered from the high ground at Zele Café. (Hoka Skenandore, “Push/Pull (A Subatomic Particle Escaping A Black Hole in the Form of A Shirt & Dress)” (detail), 2006.)
All Trades Road, 474-4043) where drawing has filled a soft-spot on the walls since day one. I’d be ethically compromised if I spent any time chatting up Peregrine Honig’s small drawings spoofing the fashion world because I, ah, bought one. That alone is, I suppose, indicative of two things: my opinion of them and the fact that they are dirt cheap. A visit to the gallery is in order, however, if for no other reason but to stare in wonder at Linda Swanson’s massive, disembodied pencil drawings of her mother’s hair. Two drawings tackle this topic and they each are strangely warm, despite the fact that the hair is missing a head to be attached to. It’s like staring down at a rich taffy of marine swish and sway, a fluid and deeply personal topography of heredity.

N Dash is the third artist in the current exhibition (through June 10) using her trademark obsessive rendering of circles to draft structure—sometimes physical, sometimes psychological—around figure elements. Dash’s drawings are like a pair of magical glasses; put them on and you still see people, but instead of buildings, cars and the mundane trappings of a built world, there is an ebb and flow of particle energy emoting every which way.

April’s outdoor exhibition CAMP didn’t draw too many visitors—something about treacherous ice-covered roads and unexpectedly snowy mountains discouraging folks from stopping by the Hyde Park location—but those who did make it up for the later portion of the opening night got grooved straight into bliss by a short, but oh-so-sweet, set from Chocolate Helicopter. Quirky musical attitude with the rhythm to work alongside Rose Simpson’s lush voice ain’t all the upstart artists from Santa Clara Pueblo have going for them, however. There’s a whole visual art thing happening as well, on display at Zele Café (201 Galisteo St., 982-7835) through June 12. Don’t be surprised if it looks like a lot of, well, drawing, ’cause Simpson is never far from her Sharpie and cohorts Hoka Skenandore, Jake Fragua and Mike Schweigman are pretty much drawing even when using a spray can, a paint brush or a stencil. This is gritty, productive youthful angst art at its energetic apex—political, sexy, thoughtful and infused with the self-aware symbolism - Zane Fischer

"J Spot: Apocalypse Now"

Nineteen-year-old Jake Fragua and his compatriots Rose B Simpson, Mike Schweigman, Douglas Two Bulls, Cougar Vigil, Hoka Skenandore and Watermelon 7 make up a collective called Chocolate Helicopter. Their group incorporates a band of intertwining members, busting out with soulful, sometimes blues-based songs, meant to twist your melon with a skill and introspection that’s shocking considering CH’s youth—but don’t call them just a band. And, though each Chocolate Helicopter also is either an IAIA student or someone affiliated with the school, don’t call them just artists either. Chocolate Helicopter believes types of artistic expression cannot be categorized, and each form of artistry interlocks and interweaves with the same fluidity as the members of the collective itself. I spoke with Fragua—who embodies just the right balance of youthful rebellion, intelligence and thoughtfulness—about Chocolate Helicopter, in advance of the group’s upcoming multimedia Galvanize show at Zelé Café (7 pm Friday, May 12. 201 Galisteo St., 982-7835).

SFR: What exactly is Chocolate Helicopter?
JF: Chocolate Helicopter is the group behind this event—it includes a group of artists, Rose Simpson, myself and Mike Schweigman. Chocolate Helicopter as a band is one of the entities at Galvanize. It kinda switches around. The philosophy around the group is it’s less stagnant
Get audio-visual this week when Chocolate Helicopter, the band, plays in support of Chocolate Helicopter, the artists.
than concrete. The core group are Rose, me and Mike, but there are other people like Cougar Vigil also involved in the group. We’ve been together since February.

How did you guys get together?
The Galvanize idea came out of Rose Simpson’s head. She decided we should all express these new ideas coming out of the new generation of artists. All the artists [involved with Chocolate Helicopter] are affiliated with IAIA except Watermelon 7 and we wanted to express the individualism behind each and every one of us, and break stereotypes of what an IAIA artist or Indian artist is supposed to be; to express the feelings of new generation.

What are some of those stereotypes?
I’ll give you one really good example: A few weeks ago there was a graffiti artist who marked up downtown Santa Fe with acid tags—that stereotype has become what graffiti artists are and what they do. Little do people know that many individuals in this show are graffiti artists, but in a different sense. We do express our graffiti-influenced art but on canvas or in a different form.

The stereotypes that come out of IAIA are the Fritz Scholders, the Alan Housers, the TC Cannons; and the board members who are involved with looking for these types of artists are in for a surprise because there’s a new generation coming out. There are more artists looking for consciousness rather than just trying to express themselves.

How does that come out in your music?
One view we have with it is we want to spread a message about how to be more conscious about your surroundings, to act as who you are and go outside and do whatever you want. The band is really about letting loose and being free.

Do you feel there’s a separation between visual art and music?
For me they’re all one thing. Art to me can come in many different forms and for me being a Pueblo Indian I feel like art is some kind of Western idea and a category and it doesn’t incorporate the idea of, “What are our feelings? What are our tools? What are our medicines?” In an Indian way art can be utilitarian or just something to look at or feel good about. So I feel art can be encompassed by a culture’s dances, songs, healings, visual representations of healings, or anything. So I feel like art is in general music, sounds, pictures—anything that you feel.

That is really different from a lot of Western ideas about art. Do you feel like you have a fight ahead of you to change the way people see it?
That’s what I always strive for, raising questions about what kind of world we live in and what definitions we have and how do we see ourselves. Especially with the type of artwork that I do, it’s very blatant, very aggressive, sometimes even really offensive, so I really do have a fight ahead of me, going downtown to Zelé and setting up this art that isn’t seen downtown or on Canyon Road.

Do you and the other folks in Chocolate Helicopter plan on sticking around after you graduate?
Well, our idea of our future; it sometimes seems fatalistic—because we’re looking forward to the apocalypse, so we base our choices on that. We’ll probably stick around here near our pueblos because we feel more support here.

To find out more about Chocolate Helicopter, visit

© Copyright 2000–2005 by the Santa Fe Reporter
- Jonanna Widner

"Zane’s World: Home Plan-It"

Jake Fragua, the thin and furtive backbone and tireless promoter of kickin’ local band/experimental art project Chocolate Helicopter, told me between acts at the High Mayhem Festival that he sometimes feels lost and out of place. Not with his artwork or his band, both of which are doing just fine, thanks, but geographically. Being from Santa Clara Pueblo, he sucks the high Southwestern desert dust like milk, he trusts the feeling of low scrub against his legs or a lonely, broken road beneath a fierce moon like quiet siblings—here, he’s home. In other places, he knows when to go left, when to go right, but in a deeper way, he told me, things don’t make the same complete and harmonious sense. Jake wondered if I knew what he was talking about, if had experienced the same sense of welcome place via cultural tradition, maybe in wherever the hell my people are from?

I’d have to say no, not in the same way at all. I’ve been to Scotland and Germany, and I have gotten all misty-eyed, with the ground buzzing beneath my feet and my heart pumping with the blood of my ancestors,
One of these is the thoughtful, identity-resolving work of Yuki Murata at Victoria Price; the other is Santa Fe’s precarious Downtown Vision Plan. Can you tell which is which?
but then I’m given to romanticism and those are both countries with strong and abundant beer, so it’s difficult to pin down such sensations with any real certainty. Also, I have a small bladder, so I can feel any number of things from true love to spectral presence before realizing I just have to pee.

I wondered what artist and designer Yuki Murata’s feelings are on the same issue. Murata’s exhibition Split, Stitched & Whole, on exhibit at Victoria Price Contemporary (550 S. Guadalupe St., 982-8632) through Nov. 28,
Yuki Murata, “Yama.”
manages to leave a slash of eloquent violence across the gallery walls, a study in contrasting red and white, in wax and in paper, a stormy centeredness. Murata is half Japanese and fluent in the language, but her features mark her as a foreigner, and she has never been able to feel truly at home in Japan. Though her works on paper are literally split, stitched and then made whole again, the practice is a fairly intense personal ritual, stemming from the same sense of exploring identity, perception, geography and biology.

A friend in San Francisco, a writer and educator, said last week that her own immediate ancestors, scattered by war, had no real geography. Her father was essentially born nationless, without a passport, without even a native tongue, and finally settled in the United States. But she had a strong sense of home within the idea of global nomadism. It felt right. Jake Fragua’s mythology is about a land he knows intimately, whereas my friend’s mythology is less rooted and is centered on mobility, not only through geographies but through cultures as well. So many of us in industrialized nations live like this, making our homes within a personal and completely voluntary diaspora. Santa Fe’s non-native and non-Hispanic populations often strike me like this, as loose tribes of people formed more by the fact that they’ve left somewhere else than the fact that they came here. And I wonder how that influences the kind of community we end up creating together.

Or, to get right to the point, I’ve blown some 500 words by way of getting around to saying that Santa Fe, for better or for worse, meaningful or shallow, is our collective place now, a spot on earth where many of us feel at home, in a way that might just be real. And I wish we’d all pay more attention to it. A case in point: Now is the time for everybody to take a good long look at the Downtown Vision Plan. I know it’s just a plan, but it’s always possible some kind of action will take place based on it. It’s long, but it has more pictures than substance, er, words, and is a pretty easy read. Fifty-odd pages in two multiple-megabyte downloads on a city’s Web site is enough to try a populace’s patience, even for committed citizens in a blossoming digital age, but reading Santa Fe’s plan reveals some surprisingly good ideas and a litany of questionable ones (if you don’t do digital, go pick up a copy at City Hall).

On the good side, there’s plentiful encouragement for river improvements and some suggestions for the city to streamline the bureaucracy around dealing with the river (like, choose a department to be responsible for it. Duh.) and some very ambitious sketches of a capitol promenade, a kind of leisurely, tree-lined avenue running from the Railyard past the capitol building. To my eye it looks very convenient for large acts of civil disobedience, but I’m sure it would be a nice place for a picnic or a meeting with Deep Throat as well.

However, the plan contains some enormously half-assed ideas about how to handle different tiers of retail businesses (with some catering to tourists, some catering to locals and some spanning the gap), some damaging conc - Zane Fischer

"Zane's World: Confounding Conformity"

OK, I admit it. I was talking smack about Indian Market last week. Not in this column, but in person, without remorse and to anyone who would listen, which, at this point, feels a bit harsh or at least narrow-visioned. My beef with Indian Market, the annual Plaza event organized by the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA), is that as a central clearinghouse for Native American arts and crafts, which emphasizes arbitrary notions of “tradition,” it encourages artists to follow the easy money of a safe, homogenized “friendly Indian” art career rather than push the boundaries of expression, experimentation and identity. That much I believe is true, though it’s not a dynamic confined to ethnic-based arts events; anyone who tells you there are no aesthetic, conceptual or behavioral recipes for getting ahead in the contemporary art world isn’t paying attention. But Indian Market is a more concentrated form of creative sanitization and it happens here, in Santa Fe, where our entire civic identity is already tied up in a precarious balance between creative expression and rigidly enforced appearance, so it’s doubly alarming. But, in
Trevor Lucero tries hard to mismanage his heads. (Photo courtesy Trevor Lucero.)
the same way “Santa Fe Style” has been unable to prevent thriving subcultures of all kinds from burrowing in and out of the rotted vigas of its façade, Indian Market, I’m forced to concede, can’t quite be written off as a monolith of conformity.

I learned this not strolling the Plaza for jewelry ’n’ frybread (which, less than a charming and fattening Native food, is more the result of Navajo and Apache prisoners being rationed white flour and salt while interned at Fort Sumner) but sliding through chilled glasses of Chichicapa Mezcal at the Cowgirl. It was a Market scene, sardine-packed with both local and imported indigenes alongside a more usual crowd. Carefully furled blondes bounced next to samurai-high, jet black sprigs. Long, prairie noses dueled with tight, eastern buttons for prominence while calling the eight in the corner pocket, and Wes Studi’s Magnificent Firecats of Discord—despite being neither fiery nor discordant—wrangled the crowd into a sort of multicultural bliss.

Meanwhile, folks from far and wide, summoned not by Market exactly, but dragged by friends and relatives or here to participate in the Native Cinema Showcase, were proving that even if the basic premise of Market is faked, the interaction that happens around it is about as vital as anything. With all the different indigenous action colliding around the Cowgirl, it felt like, well, like a real version of what Santa Fe pretends to be, only more worldly. After Chocolate Helicopter left a swelling under-aged crowd on the street in front of the Cowgirl clamoring for more, even though they weren’t even allowed in the bar, it made sense to follow Rose Simpson and Jake Fragua’s band over to the all-ages, late-night portion of Spindian Market, the DJ/Band festival that started at Alegria at 10 pm and ended at the Wise Fool Performance Space well past 4 am. Unfortunately, there was an interminable sound check and a desperate need for someone to solve the high guitar, quiet vocals and timid bass putting a damper on things. When the band really got rolling, though, with the soulful/psychedelic/noise rock set that woulda-coulda-shoulda stopped traffic back on Guadalupe Street, and Simpson addressed her indigenous crowd with urges of creative insurgency and smacked her mic against the floor so hard it split in two and proclaimed “This is our tradition,” well, something was going on in that room. It was clear from the yips and whoops and fists in the air that the next generation is going to deal with Indian Market on its own terms. Watch your ass, SWAIA.

Of course a night like that has to start somewhere and, for me, it was over in the quiet Basiste Studio (430-B W. Manhattan St., 988-1814) on the Railyard. In the back room, one of Eli Levin’s old paintings addressed Indian Market with a scene of tourists and locals clashing in the street in front of a downtown boutique called “Daddy’s Money.” In the front room, Trevor Lucero had prepared an inside outsider assault of portraits, prints and paintings, his scrawling expeditions on paper clutched with immediacy and simultaneously limber and blobby. Lucero’s work has always been good, but we saw this vein last time the Albuquerque-based artist exhibited in Santa Fe. When will we see something else? It turns out Lucero’s working up the courage to deliver the Center for Contemporary Arts a proposal to exhibit a series of 100-square-foot paintings he’s been secretly, awkwardly, working on. “You know, you’re doing something for 10 years and it just becomes normal, manageable,” Lucero says. “And that’s terrible. So, how do you break out of it? I try to do something completely unmanageable.” Unmanageable may or may not be a tough sell for CCA’s spot-on curatorial committee, but some - Zane Fischer

"Summer Guide 2006: Young Hotties"

Marcel Proust once said, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Indeed, new eyes are essential when it comes to being an artist—or discovering one. In fact, it seems everywhere your eyes gaze, you can observe today’s hot topic in the art world: young artists. There have been numerous New York Times articles on the subject, with headlines like “Warhols of Tomorrow are Dealers’ Quarry Today,” and “Tales From the Crit: For Art Students, May is the Cruelest Month.”

Perhaps the best evidence of young artists’ popularity is the latest Terry Zwigoff (director of Ghost World) film, Art School Confidential. Despite the film’s gratuitous nature (Does a movie that documents the challenges
facing an artist really need a serial killer wandering the school, looking to kill art students?), it touched upon the
Benji Geary, “No Title.”
challenges that artists are continually faced with. As John Malkovich’s character tells his class, “Only one out of 100 of you will ever make it as an artist.”

However, here in the quiet town of Santa Fe, there is a scene of young artists who are discovering their own way to “make it.” This past February marked the emergence of two such groups—A.D. Collective and Chocolate Helicopter.

A long way down Agua Fria, there lives the old building of the International Institute of Chinese Medicine. Here, A.D. Collective opened its doors with its first exhibit, Chapter 1. This show featured various small-scale pieces, comprised of different media, and produced by the 13 A.D. Collective members. Their ages range from 22 to 32, and each attended Santa Fe High.

During their years at the local school, A.D. Collective members studied with a teacher who has been both facilitator and mentor for over 30 years, Gary Myers. “The thing about Gary Myers is, no matter how much time, or how long ago you interacted with him, he made you feel important and [made you believe] that your art mattered. He
Jake Fragua, “Hunter Gatherer.”
created an environment where you could check your bags at the door and express yourself to the fullest,” says Myer’s son, student, and A.D. Collective member, Jesse.

In fact, the name “A.D. Collective” originated as homage to Myers who was often called “Art Dog” by his students; however, the group’s title “is also suggestive of a new start, and maybe a little sarcastic nod to our generation of ADD, our refusal to fall into the Santa Fe tendency of having a very short attention span,” says the Collective’s leader, Bess Murphy. In the competitive world of emerging artists, A.D. Collective seeks to create a supportive environment, free from the hubristic tendencies that are innately joined with artistic success and recognition. Additionally, the group hopes to further community outreach projects. This was the main idea behind the Collective’s May event, Hoi Polloi: Art By the Masses. The 12-hour event was an art-making experience open to
Michael Schweigman, “USDA.”
all Santa Feans. It was a success, attracting people of all ages to get down and dirty with colors, collages, and creativity.

This summer, A.D. Collective plans other events and exhibitions. An exhibit in July, titled Bueno Byes and Frito Pies: Myths and Legends of Santa Fe, will consist of various forms of art “as an artistic celebration of local folklore, intrigue and legend.”

Chocolate Helicopter “sounds like tumbleweeds flying across the highway at super sonic speed,” according to the group’s Myspace page. You may have seen their recent visual art fling, Galvanize, at the Zele Café on Galisteo Street. These artists, ages 21-26, not only play with paint and pens, but instruments as well. Chocolate Helicopter does it all: writing, recording and painting. The five dedicated individuals—Rose “Bean” Simpson, Jake Fragua, Cougar Vigil, Michael Schweigman and Douglas Two Bulls—have been collaborating since February, but they have also been successful in their independent efforts.

Almost all of the members have exhibited in the Institute of American Indian Arts Museum. This past March, Cougar Vigil was included in the Art in the Raw exhibit, an IAIA tradition that
Pablo Ancona, “Hall of Fame.”
shows finished works in conjunction with works-in-progress. Some members have gone so far as the East Coast. Simpson, for example, has exhibited at the Massachusetts Peabody Essex Museum. She was also part of the University of New Mexico Fem-i-nin-i-ty show which included a total of 15 female artists. Simpson’s piece, “Growth into Freedom” was a sculpture suspended from the ceiling, portraying a woman in different stages.

Chocolate Helicopter has events planned all summer long, both in Santa Fe as well as the great Hills of Beverly in California. Between these creative efforts and those of A.D. Collective, Generation Y is clearly permeating today’s art scene. This summer will surely consist of noteworthy artistic happenings. Despite the challenges facing - Tristan M Katz


Album: Plastic Epidemic
1. My Breath
2. Rain Song: Remember When
3. Your World
4. Fear Explosion: Reprise
5. Feels Like Plastic
6. Dim Light
7. Story Told
8. Shaky Restless
9. My Favorite
10. Crude & Absurd
11. Feels Like Plastic: Reprise
12. Shaky Restless: San Carlos
13. Relations
14. Mama
15. Fear Explosion
16. Simple


Feeling a bit camera shy


Chocolate Helicopter is a collective of artists, manifesting through various mediums, the post-apocalyptic indigenous culture we have come to know. This consortium was formed in the late 2005, while attending college in Santa Fe, New Mexico. There are several members that create the group including Jake Fragua and Rose Bean Simpson. Chocolate Helicopter has been involved in numerous events since the start. Our art is not believed to be art in our senses because it is just a word conceptualized by Western thought. However, art to us means healing, awareness, growth, understanding, and prayer. We create for the sake of creating. Our first complete creation is a full-length album we like to call Plastic Epidemic. From this point on, we have performed this project many times. Performing has changed the music into an element of surprise and this keeps us excited and interested. We have changed the line up of artists a few times, which has also aided in the evolution of our art. Artists include Cougar Vigil, Michael Schweigman, Douglas Two Bulls, Dmitri Brown, Arne Bey, Yolanda Monroy, Micah Wesley, Hoka Skenandore, and Karl Anderson. We have also been apart of several art shows that have shown our collaboration and that have been greatly received by the art community, such as Relations: Indigenous Dialogue at the IAIA Museum. That show was a breakthrough in creating connections between people: indigenous and non-indigenous. Likewise, through our own efforts, we have developed a mission to connect with everything around us. And thus, here we are.