Upton Greyshoes Ethelbah in the News
Coinciding with Santa Fe Indian Market, two artists honor their Native heritages with vibrant, contemporary pieces based on traditional subjects. Sculptor Upton “Greyshoes” Ethelbah and painter/printmaker Raymond Nordwall present Treasures of Native America at Beals & Abbate Fine Art from August 14 to 27. Tribal music, drummers, and refreshments promise a spirited reception on August 17 from 5 to 8 p.m.
Greyshoes—Ethelbah’s ancestral name—creates stylized stone and bronze sculptures of tribal dancers, and he has been a dancer himself since his youth. After retiring as the director of student living at the Santa Fe Indian School at 55, he picked up some sculpting tools after a friend gave him a chunk of red and green alabaster. A year later his first bronze sculpture was judged Best Contemporary Native American artwork at the Colorado Springs Indian and Spanish Art Market. He won first place in stone carving and a score of other awards at Santa Fe Indian Market in 2009.
Ethelbah graduated from the University of New Mexico in 1971 and the Poeh Arts Center in 2000 and lives in Albuquerque. His roots are from the Santa Clara Pueblo and the Arizona White Mountain Apaches. “I find it very inspirational to do dancers,” he says. “The dances are prayers for good water, health, happiness, and long life—not only for Indians, but all people around the world. The dances are religious ceremonies and not done as a performance at all.”
Soft Utah orange and Italian alabasters, rough New Mexico alabaster, and Norwegian and Portuguese marble become corn maidens, harvest goddesses, Apache warriors, spirit gods, strong bears, and sacred buffaloes in Ethelbah’s skilled hands. He also creates bronze sculptures with a range of colorful patinas. “Each plane of his sculptures is smoothed and polished with great attention to line and curve, balanced by the natural texture of the indigenous stone,” says gallery owner Bobby Beals.
Raymond Nordwall’s heritage is the Pawnee tribe of Oklahoma and the Red Lake Chippewa. He attended Oklahoma State University and Bacone College in Muskogee, OK, to study with Dick West. Later he attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, and after graduation studied with Frank Howell. Learning the monotype process and working at Howell’s gallery, Nord- wall became a full-time artist at 22, running his own Santa Fe gallery for 13 years.
“Using a monotype process of rolling oils firmly on the panel, Nordwall applies a soft gradient field of color reminiscent of Japanese woodblock prints,” says Beals. “And like them, the characters in Nordwall’s contemporary works are enthralled in telling their story. In most of his work, the roller movement is revealed along with powerful brush strokes on the war paint; yet the confident figures and forceful animals are blended by the artist to contrast the placement and movement in the quiet landscape.”
“In a lot of the pieces I want to have that monotype look,” Nordwall says. “So I found these clay boards with a slick surface like Plexiglas. Canvas absorbs the inks, but they go on like butter on the panels. I’m influenced by all schools and movements and combine that with my own style. For the show I will do more wildlife along with some figures. With the warriors on horseback and coming right at you, I think that I’m protecting their people,” he says. Nordwall’s fervor for his people, their land, and traditions gallops right off his vivid canvases and into viewers’ souls. —Reed Glenn