WASHINGTON — Santa Clara Pueblo artist, Nora Naranjo-Morse from Espanola, N.M., is the winner of Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian’s outdoor sculpture design competition.
On May 23, the museum announced the that the selection committee unanimously chose Naranjo-Morse’s sculpture, “Always Becoming,” from more than 55 entries submitted by native artists from throughout the Western Hemisphere. Construction and installation will begin next summer and the public dedication is scheduled for September 2007.
The commissioned work will be located on the native landscape at the museum’s south entrance on Maryland Avenue S.W., near 4th Street and Independence Avenue S.W., in Washington, D.C.
“Native culture and the environment served as the inspiration for my sculpture design. ‘Always Becoming’ will reflect themes of growth and adaptation and represent indigenous peoples’ unique relationship to the environment,” said Naranjo-Morse.
Each of the four tipi-like forms will stand anywhere from six to 15 feet tall and will be created out of organic, nontoxic materials — dirt, straw, sand, clay, wood and moss. The artist selected organic materials to enable the forms to take on a life of their own, which allow the natural elements to affect the forms through time. The forms are in essence, “Always Becoming.”
Each of the four molded forms will be clad with layers of organic reed mats and cobb— a building material made from a dirt, sand, straw and water mixture. The walls of each form will be three to four inches deep and the surface will be accented with natural clay in varying colors. Pueblo pottery carving designs and rocks will add a protective element to each of the forms.
All four structures will have caps at the top: two will be capped with low-fired shards made from clays indigenous to northern New Mexico; and two will be capped with moss that is indigenous to the Washington, D.C., area, to emulate a traditional Inuit grass roof.
“‘Always Becoming’ demonstrates the museum’s ongoing commitment to supporting native contemporary art,” said museum founding director W. Richard West Jr. (Southern Cheyenne). “The sculpture’s metaphor of home and family not only conveys a universal theme to all peoples, but also enhances the visitors’ experience that they have entered a native place when they step foot on the museum grounds.”
Nora Naranjo-Morse is a sculptor who works primarily in clay and bronze. Her work can be found in the collections of the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Minnesota Institute of Art in Minneapolis and the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff. She has been featured in group and solo exhibitions at the White House, Portland Art Museum, Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa and the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, N.M.
Established in 1989, through an Act of Congress, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian is an institution of living cultures dedicated to advancing knowledge and understanding of the life, languages, literature, history and arts of the native peoples of the Western Hemisphere.
The museum includes the National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall; the George Gustav Heye Center, a permanent museum in lower Manhattan; and the Cultural Resources Center, a research and collections facility in Suitland, Md.