Percy "Kai-Sa" Tsisete Sandy Biography

Percy "Kai-Sa" Tsisete Sandy




American Indian painter and muralist Percy Tsisete Sandy, more commonly known by his Zuni name, Kai-Sa ("Red Moon"), was born in Zuni Pueblo, New Mexico, in 1918. He was first introduced to painting and drawing at the Zuni Day School, and after graduating high school, he would go on to study in art programs offered in Albuquerque, the Sherman Institute in Riverside, CA, and the Santa Fe Indian School, where he was influenced by the artwork of Taos Pueblo, Navajo, and Apache artists. 

After marrying Taos Pueblo tribal member Peggy Mirabel, they relocated from Santa Fe to Taos Pueblo, where they would go on to have four children. By 1940 Sandy had begun to seriously pursue a career in art, hoping as well to bring broader attention to the work of Pueblo artists and artisans. He was approached by philanthropist Peggy Wurlitzer whose interest lay in the works of Southwestern indigenous artists. She offered to support him by setting up a credit account at a local art supply store, and in 1947 he held his first major solor exhibition at the Blue Door Art Gallery, which traveled to the Ebell Galleries in Los Angeles. He would later receive a fellowship grant from the Wurlitzer Foundation, as well, allowing him to expand his oeuvre, including murals, his best known of which still graces the walls of the La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe. 

His style ranged from realistic renderings of people and wildflife to more symbolic images that illustrated the daily lives of the Zuni people. This work someone incited controversy within his tribe as he depicted sacred and private Zuni ceremonies not meant to be seen by outsiders. 

In 1959 a serious accident hindered his ability to paint regularly. However, he continued to work on occasion and to exhibit until his death in Taos on May 15, 1974.

Percy Kai-Sa Tsisete Sandy's work can be found in the collections of the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; the School for Advanced Research, Santa Fe, NM; the Minneapolis Institute of Art, MN; the Museum of New Mexico; the Museum of Northern Arizona; the Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, OK; and the United Pueblo Agency, New Mexico, among others.