nook and cranny of the Boulders and its surroundings permeated with
the creative spirit of Native Americans, it's no wonder that the
resort and outlying communities have become a have for Indian art.
Whether crafted by Native Americans or inspired by their cultures,
artwork in this genre is rooted in tradition while striving for
originality. "Native American tradition is a major force, and some
of the most exciting innovations are coming from our Native American
artists," says Blue Sage Gallery owner Susan Totty. From Eugene
Nelson and Gibbs Othole to C.J. Wells, artists working with Native
American subjects create splendid works that echo the majesty and
magnificence of the Southwest and its indigenous peoples.
Splendor in the Desert
Native American Arts
By Kevin Sheh, Kara Sheh, and Samantha Ruckman
L. Eugene Nelson
Most art aficionados believe intricacy and abstraction are mutually
exclusive. However, master metalsmith and lapidartist Eugene Nelson
shows that a Native American artist can push the creative envelop
while honoring his tribe's traditions.
his abstract designs draw on his Navajo heritage - and it is always
fascinating to have him explain what lies inside a design," says
Blue Sage Gallery owner Susan Totty. "He is a part of a select group
of contemporary Native American jewelers whose work is immediately
identifiable without having to inquire who the artist is."
Nelson, an Alburquerque resident, studied engineering, geology,
drafting, and mechanical drawing - traditionally left-brained pursuits.
Nelson developed a unique "sheet and wire construction" process
for his jewelry, which highlights the use of lines, angles, surface
textures, and the shadowing effects of oxidation without cast parts.
Surface texturing is produced by etching, engraving, surface imprinting,
reticulation, and granulation processes. Nelson's mechanical skills
have helped make his Navajo jewelry into some of the most sought-after
"The sheet and wire construction process, all handmade, allows
me to use my mechanical and architectural drawing background to
design a three-dimensional, geometric - sometimes free-form - sculptural
piece of art," Nelson says. "Being self-taught has allowed me the
freedom to design without boundaries that might otherwise be present."
Nelson's "Melt-down/Wire-wrap" series reflects contrasts of light
and dark and rough and smooth surfaces. The initial design begins
with overlapping silver wires that are heated and fused together.
The challenge: Nelson says he has less control over the exact design
outcome, which has a three-dimensional, sculptural effect.
His "Structured Space" series of sculpture utilizes square wire
and twisted metal strips, but relies on the lack of solid material
- negative space - to form the visual contours of the work. "My
goal", says Nelson, "is to produce works of art that are highly
individual and distinctly my own." Eugene Nelson's work is on display
at the Blue Sage Gallery at el Pedregal Festival Marketplace at
The Boulders, (480) 488-1292