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n artist born in Taos, New Mexico, and raised in Peru’s Sacred Valley of the Incas would no doubt be a creator of art that celebrates the natural and spiritual. Suni Sonqo Vizcarra Wood, 22, wears a long braid, a warm smile, and a traditional Peruvian ch’ullo—a variegated wool cap knitted by his uncle. Suni Sonqo means “generous heart” in the Quechua language. He is a member of the Quechuan community in Peru’s southern Andes, which is committed to reviving ancient ceremonial and agricultural calendars of their pre-Columbian traditions. “Together with a network of local and international indigenous Nations, we are dedicated to preserving our roots while embracing our future,” Vizcarra Wood says. His Taos-born mother and Peruvian father raised him and his siblings in Taray, Cusco, but annual visits to Vizcarra Wood’s maternal grandmother’s house have made Taos their second home. “I was born in an old haunted adobe house that my grandmother lived in, and where my mother was raised. The backyard was on Native land with the river and willow trees. It was a very intimate birth on a beautiful, snowy January morning. I was created in Peru, had my first heartbeats there, but born in Taos,” he says of his history. “In my culture, we believe that wherever you are born, the apus—spirits of the mountains— will help to guide you. I have one apu in Taos Mountain and another one in Peru.” His favorite places in Taos include the hot springs near the Rio Grande Gorge, Taos Pueblo, and Lama Foundation. He and his sister attended Taos Day School and the Taos Waldorf School when the family spent time in New Mexico. “There was lots of creativity in these schools, which was not how the public schools in Peru are. I remember playing in the garden and learning about Nature.” At Cusco’s oldest art university, Bellas Artes Diego Quispe Tito, Vizcarra Wood learned important basics, like carving wood and stone by hand, digging clay for sculpting, and anatomy, but he felt limited by the university’s focus on European classical art and lack of modern art-making education. “My art didn’t fit,”

Vizcarra Wood says. “I wasn’t able to fully express myself,” so he was creating his work outside of the school. Sensing his frustration, friends from Taos Pueblo told Vizcarra Wood about the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) art program and encouraged him to apply. Since January 2019, Vizcarra Wood’s studio has been an entire campus building—the Allan Houser Haozous Sculpture and Foundry Building—with classrooms dedicated to stone, wood, glass, metals, and fabrication; a slurry room; and outdoor areas to accommodate blacksmithing and stone sculpture. At IAIA he has access to a wide array of methods and materials and is encouraged to continue along his own creative path. “IAIA empowers Native people to express themselves and their culture and gives them a sense of leadership. It gives me a great opportunity to experience someplace else and to learn about Native and non-Native cultures coming together.” Vizcarra Wood is a certified Peruvian tour guide who takes visitors to some of Peru’s most beautiful places, including the Inca site of Huch’uy Qosqo, with ancient ruins of sacred temples, storehouses, and Inca agricultural terraces. “I feel very connected to pre-Columbian ruins and to nature and the landscapes of these places,” he says. “In my culture, we believe everything is alive.” Spending time in these sacred locations and sharing his culture with visitors from other parts of the world inspires his art. When in Peru, Vizcarra Wood works in a small studio in a garden behind a house in Taray, which he shares with his extended family. The walls and roof of the small, open-air structure are semi-hidden by blossoming vines, and, depending on the season, tall stalks of corn and lush vegetation grow close by. From this verdant vantage point, he can glimpse several sacred mountains, including Mama Ñust’a, Apu Ñust’ayoq, Apu Ch’eqta Qaqa, and Apu Inti Watana. These mountains, he says, are living beings, and so being in his outdoor workspace is like being surrounded by elders. Vizcarra Wood has been fashioning figures from bars of soap and creating 3-D

Sacha Puma (2017), mixed media Ixi’im Xch’uup (2018), wood carving (cypress) Opposite: Vizcarra Wood working in his studio on untitled pieces in bronze.


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