New Mexico culture is an iconic brand in itself, one properly exemplified through the struggles, perseverance and eclectic minds of the creative.
Cameron Ward and Natassja Santistevan aim to promote the state’s cultural innovation through their new magazine, Iconica.
Ward said, “Our goal for the magazine is for this not just to be a platform for people to showcase their work, but also a platform to broaden their connections.”
The publication focuses on modern lifestyles, featuring the imperceptible world of fashion, the perspective of artists and photographers, and the underground cadence of local musicians.
Even wordsmiths can share their poetry, and Ward and Santistevan are open to expanding what forms of art can be submitted.
Santistevan said, “We’re talking to spray painters, we’re talking to tattoo artists, we’re talking to DJs that have been here for a long time, because that’s kind of what the Albuquerque architecture is.”
They’ve also been exploring cities beyond Albuquerque to discover more representations of the state’s niche lifestyle, including Native American influence.
Ward added, “We’ve been traveling to Santa Fe a lot, and that is where we’re getting … a whole bunch of culture.”
Ward grew up in Isleta, and she shared that her grandmother was a fashion designer in a more traditional sense. She discovered a deep admiration for arts and crafts, from her own creations to writing about other artists, which eventually embedded her in Albuquerque’s scene.
Through her network, she met Santistevan, and the desire to start a magazine was mutual and almost immediate. The two decided to start their journey in an unapologetic, competitive industry.
Ward said, “We were like, no expectations, let’s just go in blindly, and it actually was really good.”
They were both hardened and motivated from their past experiences. Santistevan received a similar grandmother influence and was placed in sewing classes as a child. Yet, Santistevan was pushed away from the craft by peers.
“I stopped sewing after being bullied,” Santistevan explained. “I would wear what I made to school … so then after that, I kind of just stopped, but I continued to use fashion to express myself.”
Santistevan began curating events while in college and building a network, eventually colliding with Ward’s path.
Iconica formed, voyaging from a brainstorm to a warm copy off the printer, clutched by the hands of the creators. Each possesses their own strengths, allowing their partnership to be balanced, and their correlative passion for culture and craft helps drive the publication.
Ward said, “We have to motivate each other … pushing each other is a huge role that you have to do.”
Santistevan added, “We’re like our own bosses, but also each other’s bosses.”
The art community
The two boasted the inspiration they receive from the arts community, expressing their gratitude to the various sponsors they’ve partnered with and mentors who are already established in the medium. From graphic designers to social media gurus artists to photographers to makeup to models.
Santistevan said, “Having those people that we can ask the questions to and support us is definitely something that, for any artist, is super important.”
Their willingness to learn has been apparent in their coverage. Iconica features the local fashion scene highlighted by seasonal style, expressive photo and art galleries, profiles on musicians gracing venues across the state, and poetry meant to linger in the minds of readers.
Iconica provides a behind-the-scenes look into modern lifestyle and culture, influencing the audience while inspiring other creators at the same time.
The development of the magazine remains a constant learning process, however. Ward and Santistevan admitted that they had difficulty grasping variables of the production, from navigating software to formatting the layout to managing sponsors.
Yet, Ward and Santistevan are becoming more comfortable with every aspect of the operation.
Ward said of the process, “It’s like building the brand as we go. Like the people in Albuquerque, we’re always evolving and growing.”
They have already seen development in the early life of the magazine. Each issue’s release is complemented by an event, where they are not only able to build their brand, but connect artists with each other.
From the first release party to the second, attendance almost tripled in size, according to Ward and Santistevan. They are already preparing to book an even larger venue for the third release.
Showcasing the brand
Iconica is a quarterly publication and its next issue will be released in November. The events and issues will purposely drift from the standard, offering a new experience, for there is a large world of emerging artists primed for exposure.
“We want to showcase these people because it takes a lot of commitment,” Santistevan said.
Iconica not only displays the talents of local creators but also encourages camaraderie in the artistic community.
“In reality, we can’t just use each other as ladders and then move on,” Ward said. “We grow together.”
Expanding Iconica is a goal for Ward and Santistevan. They plan to keep building the magazine, eventually bringing attention to New Mexico in larger markets.
“What’s really important is we want it to still be about New Mexico,” Santistevan said. “We’re just trying to get eyes on this place.”
New Mexico is as unique as the artists who express the culture’s style and creativity, whether through fashion, photography, music or art. It is a brand earned through hard work. It is iconic.