49 Minutes of Fame Artist Profile: April Holder

New Mexico-based artist April Holder shares themes of nature, mortality in her work, builds awareness of Native culture.

Indigenous artist April Holder comes from a long line of creatives.

Over the years, many of Holder’s relatives have specialized in the arts. Her grandmother sang and composed traditional songs, her mother was a dancer, one uncle was an illustrator and another produced traditional tribal items. Holder says these examples made her all the more drawn to art as a young girl.

“I believe I was born an artist,” she says. “I feel like inherently a lot of Indigenous people are artists by nature. It’s a way of life.”

Art as an action

Coming of age in a naturally creative environment, Holder says her next step was to obtain a formal art education. She attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in Sante Fe, where she further developed her skills under the tutelage of professors and mentors such as Linda Lomahaftewa, a Hopi and Choctaw printmaker, painter and educator.

“She transformed how I saw myself as an Indigenous woman and an artist,” Holder says. “She pushed those ideas that were in my art and made them come to fruition.”

While at the Institute of American Indian Arts, Holder was a founding member and participant in the Humble Art Collective, a group of students from the institute who displayed their work at various art shows and concerts. Although the collective disbanded in 2010, Humble helped bring awareness to underrepresented Native voices.

Reflecting on the experience, Holder says the collective molded her into the artist she is now.

“There were so many artists that brought something unique,” she says. “All of it contributed to who we were and our development. I was thankful I got to be in a space of wonderful, creative individuals that cultivated my growth.”

As one of the many collective members who have furthered their crafts, Holder says she is grateful for the experience and for her time at the institute. The themes in her work as a student continue to influence the art she creates today. In many of her pieces, Holder focuses on the issues of colonialism, assimilation and retaining Native identity.

“I think all the concepts I address in my work are a continuous dialogue,” she says. “That work lends itself to a non-Indigenous movement of abstract expressionism. It’s part of that Indigenous relationship of a feel for the material. The images are parts of nature, mortality and that finite existence.”

During her artistic process, Holder says she seeks to be precise and thoughtful, creating many of her works on hand-made paper she purchases to bring extra love and care to her art.

Holder says her pieces are also very process-oriented. She isn’t so focused on the final product people see in a gallery, but rather on the pursuit of creating the art itself.

“What we have to leave in this world is our art,” Holder says. “Art is an action, not an object.”

Making art accessible

A member of the Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma, Holder says she considered it an honor to participate in the 49 Minutes of Fame Native pop art gallery at the Red Cloud Opera House in November 2021. As part of the exhibit, she shared her works, “The Beast and the Serpent,” “The Multiverse Buffalo” and “The Heron.”

In addition to her contributions to 49 Minutes of Fame, Holder continues to make art that brings visibility to Native people, particularly Indigenous women. She says her goal is also to empower the youth who view her pieces.

“I hope young people go into spaces and see part of themselves in my work,” Holder says. “I hope they feel seen and recognized and heard. That’s what I seek to do.”

Although she experiments with many art techniques, Holder says she enjoys pop art due to its appeal to a wide variety of audiences.

“I love that translation of contemporary life that is clever enough to invest in the depths of it,” she says. “Pop art allows us to translate that in a way that is so palatable to many. l think that’s really beautiful.”

About April Holder

April Holder is a mixed media installation artist, community organizer and advocate for Indigenous women. A citizen of the Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma (People of the Red and Yellow Earth), Holder also has Tonkawa and Wichita heritage. While attending the Institute of American Indian Arts, she was a founding member of the Humble Art Collective, which worked to create accessible and diverse art environments to the community and empower emerging artists. Holder was also an educator in the arts department at the Sinte Gleska University in 2011 on the Rosebud Indian Reservation. In addition, she is a creative contributor and member of the Three Sisters Collective of Santa Fe, a group that focuses on Pueblo women centric arts, activism and empowerment. Holder is currently the artist in residence at Ute Mountain Studios.

Learn more about April Holder and her art on her Instagram page and in this podcast interview with Broken Boxes podcast.

Learn more about 49 Minutes of Fame: An Exhibition of Native Pop Art which was installed at the Red Cloud Opera House Gallery from November 5-December 14, 2021 • For a list of other 49 Minutes of Fame artist profiles on this website, click here • You can also view the digital gallery here.

We are grateful to freelance writer Juli Oberlander for her artist biographies and public relations efforts for this exhibit.