Sculpting Her Vision

A photo gallery of Nora Naranjo-Morse's inspiring outdoor designs

(Photos by NMAI photographer, Ernesto Amoroso)
smithsonian.com

The Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian declared Nora Naranjo-Morse the winner of its outdoor sculpture design competition in May 2006. Her sculpture Always Becoming was selected unanimously by a museum committee from entries submitted by Native artists throughout the Western Hemisphere. The work was dedicated on September 21, 2007, and is the first outdoor sculpture by an American Indian artist to be on display in Washington, D.C.

"It really is about the way we look at ourselves and the way we look at our homes and the fact that these are going to melt down and they're going to transform; that is the idea of Always Becoming," Naranjo-Morse says. The five different sculptures that make up the Always Becoming piece will be on display indefinitely and, according to Naranjo-Morse, they will change and evolve with their environment because of the natural materials they are made of.

"In ten years, those pieces will be half the size they are now maybe, or they'll just be something else," she says. "That doesn't make them any less, that'll make them just different."

A Tewa Pueblo Indian from Santa Clara Pueblo, New Mexico, Naranjo-Morse is an accomplished sculptor, writer and film producer whose work has been featured at the White House and can be found at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, and the Minnesota Institute of Art in Minneapolis, among other museums. To begin a photo gallery of Naranjo-Morse's sculptures and her piece Always Becoming, click on the main image above.

"Traditionally as Native people, we have this incredible sensibility about making our homes just practical and beautiful," Naranjo-Morse says. "Pueblo people believe that they came out of the ground, so it would only make sense that they're making their homes, their most important shelter, as a reflection of themselves again." (Ernesto Amoroso, NMAI)
"I was looking at that too as a personal thing as I'm making a transition into becoming an older person, I'm always having to shift and change and adapt," she says. (Ernesto Amoroso, NMAI)
Says Naranjo-Morse: "You see the male being kind of stoic, and the woman is doing the movement. It's very slight, but she has this sense of leaning into him and being curious about him, or wondering about. I was basically dealing with lines. I love the lines in her necklace. The lines are just totally simple, but it's still telling the story." (CHIAROSCURO Contemporary Art)
"I like this piece so much," she says. "It's bronze with a silvery, platinum patina on it. That was important because I wanted to set a mood. Both these people, male and female, are sleeping. She's calling to this guy next to her. It manifests this bird at the top of her head coming out to call the male bird. So it gets surreal and interesting, just like dreams do. It was really kind of an idea of love; when you dream about someone you love." (CHIAROSCURO Contemporary Art)
"Originally this piece was clay and then I had it enlarged into bronze," Naranjo-Morse says. "Really it was the beginning of me thinking about how Pueblo architecture, Native contemporary architecture and ideas, come from where we live, what we used to build our homes with. In a way we really are a reflection of our buildings, and the buildings are a reflection of how we decipher the world, especially a long time ago. That's basically what I was thinking about because the guy is a part of the wall. The simple lines and the latter, they're indicative of the architecture around here." (CHIAROSCURO Contemporary Art)
"That's micaceous and Santa Clara clay, and they're mined in northern New Mexico. I go and dig it myself. I used those clays together because they build up quite high. I think those pieces are about seven and a half feet maybe," she says. "I was thinking about the idea of 'releasing,' because I was getting ready to come to D.C. to make Always Becoming. I basically went into the studio and painted and let out a lot of ideas. The whole piece I think took me about a year and there was another piece except it broke, so originally there were ten." (CHIAROSCURO Contemporary Art)
"It's … my ideas in the basket," Naranjo-Morse says. "Images free-flow when I'm getting ready to make something. It just so happened that I was looking through a magazine where I was seeing women walking, I think it was in Africa, with baskets on their heads, and I made that connection between all the thoughts that are in my head with these women carrying these baskets full of—I don't know what. So I made that connection and that's why I call it Thought Harvest." (CHIAROSCURO Contemporary Art)
A Tewa Pueblo Indian from Santa Clara Pueblo, New Mexico, Nora Naranjo-Morse is an accomplished sculptor, writer and film producer. (CHIAROSCURO Contemporary Art)
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