PRESCOTT, Ariz. - Joe Cajero Jr. is this year's featured artist for the 17th annual Prescott Indian Art Market (PIAM) July 12-13 at Sharlott Hall Museum in Prescott.
The Indian art at the show includes carvings, ceramics, paintings, hand-woven baskets, blankets and jewelry. Renowned American Indian artists jury the traditional and contemporary artwork at the market.
The native artists will demonstrate as they carve kachina dolls, hammer silver and weave baskets and rugs and visitors have a chance to visit with the artists.
Cajero's bronze sculpture "Kindred Spirit: Spiritual Being of the Antelope" will be on the annual Prescott Indian Art Market T-shirt.
"It was an honor to be chosen as the featured artist," Cajero said. "There are a lot of high quality artists at Prescott Indian Art Market so I feel blessed and it's a nice feather in my cap. It's a good quality show at a good venue."
Cajero loves nature and said he feels that through nature, and animals in particular, that people can observe what is important about life.
The featured sculpture is about pronghorns.
"I like the shape of the horns, the agility and the running ability," he said. "I include elements and shapes of the universe. There is a rainbow underneath the walls, just like in the ceremonial walls. The circles are clouds. The circles also symbolize the individuation of our souls. The segmented circles give us guidance."
There are petroglyph images on the back of the sculpture, which show the exploration of spirit in the animal kingdom. Cajero's sculptures start with clay before he makes them into bronze.
Cajero, who hails from Jemez Pueblo in New Mexico, uses many creatures in his art work including bears, horses, quail and hummingbirds.
"My art work encourages quietly communing with nature so that answers can be found through observation," he said.
One of his monumental sculptures is called "Journey" because it shows the metamorphosis from cocoon to butterfly. That is one of two monumental sculptures he will show at PIAM. The other is called "Daughter of the Earth."
"Sometimes I need to escape into nature where there is no cell phone service," he said. "My wife Althea and I like to hike or just sit by a lake."
Cajero started studying painting formally at the Institute of American Indian Art, but soon after that switched to bronze sculptures. The Jicarilla Apaches have commissioned five of his monumental sculpture pieces and the Ute Tribe has commissioned some of his art work as well. Those take about a year including six to eight months for just the sculpting, but he will work on other smaller bronze sculptures and his clay work while the larger pieces are forming.
Most of Cajero's work is by commission and he has a waiting list. For years, he made clay clown figures, but most of those have been put on hold due to his backlog.
"Clay is dear to my heart because it's all natural," he said. "It's molded by hand and painted before it goes in the kiln."
Ten years ago, Cajero's work was 50 percent clay and 50 percent bronze, but recently it has been almost entirely bronze sculptures. Only recently he did his first painting in years.
"It was inspired by my wife Althea and her positive energy flow," he said. "The painting is about spiritual awareness, nature and self-exploration."
Cajero said his sculptures are conceptual - he closes his eyes and comes up with a concept. His paintings are the same way. They decided to keep the painting rather than sell it, although they may sell some prints.
His wife Althea is a silversmith and sells her jewelry. He is happy that she asks for his input about her art.
Cajero comes from an artistic family as his mother Esther is a potter and figure creator and his dad Joe Cajero Sr. is a two dimensional painter.
"Our Pueblo culture has a lot of art intermingled with the religion. Our art is woven into the culture. It's the way we live and what we inherit from our parents," he said.
His maternal great-grandmother Petra Ramero was a storyteller and those stories influenced his work.
According to his website, when he was 15 Cajero went to his mother's shop and she convinced him to create something out of a piece of clay. He made a small bear figure. That same piece sold the same day before it even dried. He continued to make those pieces and sell them, eventually adding claws and faces. His career was underway.
Cajero has a long list of awards, most recently the Living Treasures Award from the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe and last year first place award in the bronze sculpture category from Santa Fe Indian Market. He has won many other awards from Heard Museum, Ft. McDowell Indian Market, Santa Fe Indian Market, Albuquerque Arts Business Association, Eitejorg Museum Indian Market, Gallup Intertribal Indian Ceremonial and Colorado Indian Market.
Native musicians will perform in an outdoor amphitheater while Navajo fry bread will be offered nearby during PIAM.
PIAM will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 12 and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 13. Admission is $10 for the general public or $8 for museum members. There is no admission for children.
Sharlot Hall Museum is located in the heart of downtown Prescott, two blocks west of the Courthouse Plaza, 415 W. Gurley St.
More information is available at (928) 445-3122 or www.sharlot.org.