September 6, 2012 at 10:26 AM

Michael Naranjo – Inner vision

“The vision of his heart…”

By Tom Maguire

Culture Vulture

Tom Maguire is a musician, arts supporter and a guy who travels the Southwest in a 13’ Scamp trailer, because he couldn’t figure out how the tent poles went together.

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Every article about Santa Clara Pueblo sculptor Michael Naranjo begins with the recitation of the facts surrounding his life before it discusses the essential essence of his life and his work – the vision of his heart. I, myself, have used a brief summary of those facts in a welcoming talk I frequently give to visitors to Santa Fe and northern New Mexico, based on the Navajo “Beauty Way.” In it I give many examples of living the Beauty Way, after I have framed this wonderful expression of a culture in this way: “So begins the Navajo Beauty Way Chant, a song of beauty, an exhortation to not only see beauty in the world, but to bring beauty into the world as well. I have always viewed Santa Fe through the prism of this ancient poem and I hope you will too.”

With this as the backdrop, I give many examples of how one lives the Beauty Way. In Michael’s case I say, “It is the work of Michael Naranjo, Santa Clara Pueblo sculptor, blinded as a soldier in the Vietnam war, who brings to life his wonderful works using only the vision of his heart,” as a slide of one of Michael’s works appears on the screen. For me, his work and his essence are all about “the vision of his heart.”

If you want to know more about Michael Naranjo’s history and background, you will find it all at www.nativewiki.org. But, if you want to experience the work for itself, an upcoming exhibition at Nedra Matteucci Galleries should be on your calendar. The gallery will present a major retrospective of his work from September 14t through October 13, with an opening reception for the artist on the 14th.

Of the work itself, the gallery says it best. From their press release: “The complete collection of limited edition bronzes produced from 1970 through 2010 by Native American artist Michael Naranjo will be featured. Created without the use of his sight (from injuries sustained in Viet Nam), Naranjo’s work presents a stylized narrative of his heritage and life experience in deeply hued and tactile bronze work. His decades-long career offers a repertoire of sculpture that is a display of his extraordinary artistic abilities, uniquely created with an inner vision and remarkably skilled touch.”

I feel that that experiencing any of Michael Naranjo’s work is to be touched by the beauty and vision of his heart. I cannot wait to see so many at one time.

P.S. If you want a primer before the exhibition opens, you might stop by “Touching Beauty” in the Atrium Gallery of the Bataan Memorial Building. This unique space was created in 2006 as a hands-on gallery of 25 pieces of Naranjo’s sculptures. Each piece is at a touchable level and is accompanied by Braille name plates. The Bataan Memorial Building, being the old capitol building, is a rather sprawling structure, so this collection of Michael’s work is best found by entering the building from the Galisteo Street side. Headed north on this one-way street from the Paseo, the building entrance is on the right, about a block after you pass Slurp, the little “food truck” in an Airstream camper on the left. Don’t forget to stop there, also. The food is great.

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