Artist Spotlight: Oreland C. Joe
An artist with a thirst for knowledge
Oreland C. Joe sculpts Native American figures full of grace, poise, and strength — and occasionally, in the case of contemporary pieces like 57 Chevy (above), with a sense of humor. Focusing on his own ancestors, the Southern Utes and the Navajo, Joe’s statues are both visually exquisite and didactic. By capturing daily life in stone and bronze, and carefully re-creating the moccasins, feathers, and hairstyles worn in the past, as well as the fashions and rides of today, Joe seeks to preserve his peoples’ varied history.
The sculptor’s blend of realism and abstraction is the product of years of study. As a sixth-generation artist, Joe enjoyed a childhood rich in inspiration and opportunity. At age 20, performing as a hoop dancer in Europe, the young artist was exposed to the breadth of the art world. When he returned to the reservation, a fellow artist and mentor told him, “You ask too many questions. I don’t have any more answers. You need to go out.” Joe took his mentor’s advice, headed to New York City, and enrolled in art classes.
Part of Joe’s studies included six months in Italy, where he learned to carve marble using hand tools. While Italy revealed the importance of texture, a later trip to Japan taught him the value of a glossy exterior. “What I learned in Japan,” the artist recollects, “was a polishing technique. You can polish anything until it looks like glass.” By combining these techniques, Joe created a signature style that balances realism with abstraction and rich textures with smooth surfaces.
Joe’s thirst for knowledge and willingness to accept new challenges has led him to great success as an artist. Most notably, in 2006 Joe received the Prix de West Purchase Award, and he is the first Native American to become a member of the Cowboy Artists of America. The future is promising for this sculptor, who humbly shrugs when asked about the source of his inspiration: “Curiosity is a good word for it. I continue to learn, to study.”
ABOVE: 57 Chevy, Utah red alabaster, 11 x 20 x 4.
GALLERIES: Claggett/Rey Gallery, Vail, Colorado, 800.252.4438, www.claggettrey.com. The Legacy Gallery, Jackson, Wyoming, 307.733.2353, www.legacygallery.com. McLarry Fine Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 877.983.2123, www.mclarryfineart.com. Medicine Man Gallery, Tucson, Arizona, 800.422.9382, www.medicinemangallery.com. Mountain Trails Galleries, Sedona, Arizona, 800.527.6556, www.mountaintrails.com.