Saturday, May 1, 2010


The Sante Fe Botanical Garden, located in New Mexico, is a vivid, natural landscape.

The structure houses the Ortiz Mountains Educational Preserve; the Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve; and lovely flora including blue flax and velvet weed. New Mexico is also home to featured jewelry designer Michael Roanhorse.

An expansive, 200-acre ranch, that composes a portion of Crystal, New Mexico's Navajo Reservation, is a special place to Roanhorse; a sanctuary.

Crystal, New Mexico is where he grew up on property passed down from his great-great grandfather who possessed an uncanny skill for "breaking roan horses."

"It's where my father and I built our first studio. It's where he taught me the basics of silver and metalsmithing," he recalls.

"We cut and soldered, and cast in silver and gold. I furthered my knowledge and experiences by researching various techniques of silversmithing." In 2004, encouraged by the prompting of his brother, Mark, Roanhorse left his electrician job to explore his artistic gifts.

Roanhorse's compelling aesthetic reinvents traditional Navajo jewelry that incorporates striking 18-karat yellow gold, as well as time-honored sterling silver.  Metal is combined with red coral, spotted Bisbee turquoise, and the blue haze of Morenci turquoise. The renderings are powerful works of art steeped in soulful and abstract conceptualizations.

"My goal is to push the envelope of contemporary art in silver, metal, and sculpture," he says. "The oral history of my people, handed down to my generation, fuels my artistic pursuits. The old stories give me ideas for each piece I create."

His work is very ambitious reducing something as complex as life into spectacular microcosms. His Trail of Life items, for instance, encompass the challenges and triumphs of life's journey through the passage of time.

A group of items, named Shima, the Navajo word for `mother', is an intricate compilation of his childhood memories. A bracelet from this collection, rendered from sterling silver, holds crinkled waves depicting his mother's hair.

No matter the theme of a collection, each piece highlights a plethora of surface textures, etchings, contrasting metals, and inlaid gemstones. In some pieces, certain portions of a single piece seem to be an outgrowth from the whole.

Stylistically bold and unique, his jewelry clearly displays Roanhorse's sense of purpose. This purposefulness also drives his support of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. "I joined the fight for the cure to help raise money and awareness for breast cancer research. My maternal aunt is a breast cancer survivor," he says.

"As an artist I believe it is important to give back; whether it is helping a local art school, judging an elementary art fair or raising money for a charitable cause."

Roanhorse's exceptional high-end jewelry has garnered him numerous awards including a third place prize for a competition at Indiana's Eiteljorg Museum Indian Market; a second place award at the Cherokee Indian Market competition in Oklahoma; and first place in the 49th Annual Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market in Arizona.
Photo 1 (top right): 18-Karat Gold and Turquoise Tufa Cast Holy One BraceletPhoto 2 (bottom left): Sterling Silver and Turquoise Between Worlds Bracelet
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