Finding the Sacred Within the Profaned

nora and clayA pueblo dump near a holy tribal clay pit inspires a Santa Clara Pueblo Indian artist to honor discarded items in a way that echoes tribal traditions and questions contemporary consumption.

Nora Naranjo-Morse is a Mixed Media Artist. She is a member of the Tewa Tribe and a mixed media artist. Though she lives a traditional life at Santa Clara Pueblo, her pointedly satirical figures and huge conceptual installations make her one of the most exciting artists of her generation. She is a 2014 Natives Arts & Cultures Foundation Fellow.     Nora’s 2007 sculpture ‘Always Becoming” still appears on the grounds of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC seven years after its inception in its ever-changing state of being. In the Fall of 2014 in a neighborhood in southwest Washington DC, Nora and her daughter, Eliza, presented a performance piece, Nonument, for the 5 x 5 Exhibition.  “Our Nonument of dirt, sweat and intention memorialized the incredible social and environmental challenges before all of us.” She has written two books, The Mud Woman: Poems from the Clay; A First Clay Gathering. 

Food For Thought & Conversation

  • Creativity comes in many forms– cooking, exploring, problem solving, flower arranging, gardening, wood carving, strategizing, home décor, fashion, and so many more. What realm is your creativity in?
  • Each member of Nora’s family was involved in “some form of making”.  Was creativity modeled or nurtured in your family?
  • Have you ever had an insight or epiphany when experiencing a work of art?
  • Initially, the school setting was problematic for Nora and she escaped through creating art where she felt safe..  Did you you have a similar experience in school through a creative endeavor or, perhaps, currently in your life?
  • Nora struggled with the split between selling and making. Do you think that this might this be problem in general for artists whose mind/spirit is connected to the artistic creating process more than profit making?
  • Moments occurred that took Nora off on different trajectories such as the awareness that came when she walked the path between the clay pit and the trash pit.  Are you aware of a moment that veered you in a different direction that was a bit of a surprise?
  • Nora believes that artists look at things differently, process differently and then design and/or develop articulations of what they see, hear or feel. Nora’s work reflects her sensitivity to societal disregard of the minority and working poor; wealth inequity; and to materialism and waste. Do you share her sensitivities?  If so, please explain. Do you know any artist’s work similar to Nora’s?

Actions

  • The arts are a powerful conduit for mainstreaming environmental, economic and social issues. There are various ways you can support artists in your community, who are being societal change agents through their work.  (1) Show up at their Spoken Word, theatre performances, concerts and art shows. (2) Organize a performance, concert or art exhibit for artists that are change agents.
  • Advocate for local museums to follow the example of those that are mounting shows that urge visitors to become agents for change. For example, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in February 2017 exhibited a rotation of posters “Political Intent”  from its collection by the Guerrilla Girls, feminist activist arts’ groups, whose members are anonymous. The exhibit offers commentary on gender and racial discrimination and observations on topics like homelessness. Art Works for Change in Oakland asks museum to play a role in outreach and utilizes activist groups that already exist in the community in their exhibits.
  • In Philadelphia, the Barnes Foundation showcased more than 50 international artists engaged with communities in their “Person of  the Crowd:The Contemporary Art of Flanerie” in 2017. The artists touched on issues of gentrification, gender politics, globalization, racism and homelessness. It also included a series of performances on city streets, billboards and street poster projects. They also worked alongside Philadelphia teenagers to create videos documenting their experiences, inspired by visits to the city’s public spaces.
  • Invite friends, colleague or community members to view this video with you and host a conversation.

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Operation Bon Appetit is an initiative of the Cultural Innovations Agency, Inc. (CIA), a 501c3 nonprofit corporation, with the mission to engage ordinary people in sustainability and social change that emphasizes conviviality, arts, conversations and actions. The ethical framework for the CIA recognizes the interconnection of economic justice, human rights, respect for nature and a culture of peace.

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