Connecting people, culture and nature
National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian – Washington, DC 2007
Santa Clara artist Nora Naranjo-Morse, Athena’s aunt, won a competition to construct a group of sculptures outside the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). Nora is a sculptor who works primarily in clay and bronze. Her work can be found in the collections of museums throughout the United States, exhibitions at the White House, the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, N.M. She is also known for her book, Mud Woman – Poems from the Clay.
The project entitled, Always Becoming, consisted of five tower-like forms ranging in height from 8 to 15 feet, created out of local natural materials— clay soil, straw, sand, stone, wood poles, bamboo, reeds and plants. Pueblo pottery carving designs and low-fired shards were also incorporated into the structures. The central idea for the exhibition was that the pieces would be ephemeral in nature, and allowed to weather away gradually over time. In essence, the sculptures would take on a life of their own and would continually be in a process of Always Becoming.
The project was a unique collaboration between all who worked on the sculptures. We were brought into the project because the construction of the pieces would require many of the methods that we utilize in the construction of our buildings, in particular our Mexico projects. A labor force was needed for the project that was familiar with the way we work and to that end we were joined by our friends from Obregon, Mexico – Emiliano Lopez, wife Juanita Morales, their son, Eliaser Lopez and Juanita’s father Don Juan Morales who played a major role in this Native American project.
We spent one and a half months in the basic construction of the pieces, which are located just outside the east entrance to the museum. We returned in August for a couple of weeks for all the finishing details, the pieces were then dedicated in September.
Here’s a link to the Museum’s website for 10 podcasts produced during the construction of the sculptures: http://americanindian.si.edu/podcasts/podcasts_ab.html
The museum will also be releasing a film on the project in the fall of 2011.
During the October 2006 Artistry with Clay & Lime Workshop we built a few prototype sculpture on-site in Canelo. Nora and three of the Smithsonian people came and helped.Click here to view film.
Both movies were made by Dax Thomas from Laguna Pueblo.