September 2022: Loretta Burden

As September wraps up our second season of ‘The First Lady presents…’ I share such an exuberant pride in what we have accomplished in rightfully elevating the creative talent of artists and cultural bearers in our Silver State. This month the Governor and I will again take great joy in hosting the ‘The First Lady Presents…’ 2nd Annual Art Exhibition in the Governor’s Mansion in Carson City.  This 6-month public display honors our featured Nevadan artists from September 2021 through September 2022.  The reception will include a pop-up curatorial presentation of Nevada State Museum artifacts juxtaposed to contemporary artwork from these talented artists.

Later in October, these artists will again be the subject of well-deserved statewide attention when our program Curator, Mark Salinas, will present ‘Sustaining Diversity in Nevada: The First Lady Presents…’ as part of his Keynote presentation at the Nevada Museums Association annual conference in Virginia City.  And friends, there will be more great news to share in November!

This month the Curator’s Corner features a coiled basket made by Emma Murphy, a Mono Lake Paiute basket weaver.  This basket in our state museum collection has extraordinary design and execution and is a rare example of the work of a weaver who died at the height of her creativity in 1925.

Afar from Yosemite, we showcase this month’s featured artist Loretta Burden, who is a Fallon Paiute basket weaver and educator combining both traditional and contemporary approaches to basket weaving. Together as Nevadans, let us study the past, honor the present, and envision the future. This month, it is my pleasure to present… Loretta Burden!

Loretta Burden

Loretta Burden (b. 1945) is a basket weaver, teacher, and a multimedia sculptor. Her basketry was featured in the book Basket Weavers of Tradition and Beauty by Mary Lee Fulkerson (University of Nevada Press, 1995) and exhibited with a statewide travelling art show called Common Thread in the 1980’s. Burden also worked with the Clark County Heritage Museum to create one of the first Native American exhibits and a Native basketry exhibition at the McCarren International Airport, now called the Harry Reid International Airport. Loretta has been featured as one of six “Nevada Women Making a Difference” for the Las Vegas Centennial Celebration in 2005 and as a community leader making positive changes to the cultural fabric of Las Vegas in the documentary “Women of Diversity.” Most recently, she exhibited in the group exhibition Ah’-Wah-Nee at the University of Las Vegas Donna Beam Gallery. Loretta is a member of the Great Basin Native Artists collective and the Great Basin Native Basket Weavers Association.


Sometimes the best description of a person’s character, talent, spirit, and intentionality is given by colleagues. In this month’s essay, I decided to reach out to three cultural influencers in Nevada to honor the artist.

“Loretta is a prominent member of the Indigenous community of Nevada. Her network spans the entire state. She has taken it upon herself to learn traditional basketmaking techniques, all the way from gathering and preparing materials, to weaving exquisite pieces. She has masterfully learned to interweave traditional materials with contemporary materials in her art pieces. What makes Loretta even more special is her willingness to teach. She regularly offers to take those interested to learn how to gather the right types of materials, how to process the materials, and the techniques. Because of thoughtful, forward-thinking individuals like Loretta, these techniques will not be lost to time.”

Josh Bonde, Director, Nevada State Museum, Carson City

“What creative talent! Loretta, who once lived in Las Vegas, never forgot the baskets of her people, even though she was not able to learn traditional techniques early in life. So, she improvised in the most artistic way possible, creating contemporary mixed-media work based on traditional designs remembered from her childhood home in Lovelock. She received a great deal of acclaim with these distinctive pieces, and after returning to Lovelock, her tribal home, she fulfilled a longtime yearning to learn the traditional basket skills of her people. Now, in bravely combining the two styles, old and new, Loretta has reached a unique status for herself and her one-of-a kind work. She has pioneered a style all her own and not duplicated anywhere.”

Mary Lee Fulkerson, Author of Basket Weavers of Tradition and Beauty (University of Nevada Press, 1995), Reno

“I have known Loretta Burden since I was a youth, and she has become a trusted friend and mentor of mine for the past few years. When I wanted to learn about weaving, she was one who was willing to step up into the role of a matriarch and teach. Traditionally, I should have learned from the women in my family. What happens when traditions are broken especially with loss to materials, and separation of ways? The Boarding School era and the ripple effects of those losses in artistic ways kept weaving practices dormant for some time in the Las Vegas area. Loretta is a reminder that they are not lost as we revive artistic practices and find new ways. Loretta is that innovative Native that tries new things through materiality and passion. Joy is woven into her work, color and a love for old style technique mixed with different materials. Each work is a reflection of her- tradition, innovation, humor and beauty.”

Fawn Douglas, Nuwu Art + Activism Studios, Las Vegas

For more information on Loretta Burden follow her on Facebook here.

Fish Trap, 2020
Willow, commercial string
15″ x 27″

Time Made, 2019
Bubble wrap, paper straws
13″ x 8″

Balance, 2022
Commercial material
15″ x 25″

Mark Steel Wool Salinas is a Reno-based public arts administrator and cultural curator. He is the Senior Project Manager at Forecast Public Art developing arts and culture master plans, public art policies, and creative workforce strategies for non-profits, developers, airports, as well as municipal, county, and state arts agencies nationwide. He serves locally as a board member for the City of Reno Arts & Culture Commission (Chair), the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts, the Nevada Arts Council, and Americans for the Arts Public Art Network Council. Alongside Nevada First Lady Kathy Sisolak and the Nevada State Museum in Carson City, he established ‘The First Lady presents…’ in 2019 and serves as its Curator. Follow him on Instagram: @MarkSteelWoolSalinas