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Michael Naranjo - May/June 2002


We have a very special opportunity at Camp Brotherhood Symposium this year. Michael Naranjo will be a guest instructor on July 16-18.

“...Regarding ‘tools’ or ‘things to bring’, I always have my ‘tools’ with me, as I basically use my fingers and sense of touch; I rarely use conventional tools because I can’t always tell what the tool “sees”. I need to be in constant contact with my material, and though I encourage participants in my workshop to join me in this experience, participants are certainly welcome to use whatever else they are most comfortable with. Things that you need to bring to my workshop: your thoughts, your memories, your feelings, and, of course, your creative energy are all we really need to create. My wife, Laurie, and I are looking forward to experiencing Camp Brotherhood, and I am sure we will all have a great time...”

- Michael

Michael A. Naranjo comes to us from Santa Fe, New Mexico. He grew up on tribal land in Northern New Mexico.  His mother was a potter, and it was through experimenting with her clay that he began the creative journey that would become his life. Ever since childhood, Michael had dreams of becoming a sculptor.  When not involved with clay, Michael also did a lot of hunting and fishing with his brother, Tito. These natural “anatomy lessons” were to serve him well in later years, after he lost his sight.

In 1967, at the age of 22, Michael was drafted into the US Army, and sent to Vietnam. On January 8, 1968, Michael’s platoon was caught in an ambush in an open rice field.  Michael was hit by a grenade and would never see again.  Both eyes were enucleated and he lost most of the use of his right hand.  Rather than deter Michael, however, his injury made him more determined to fulfill his childhood dream.  He began sculpting again while lying in a hospital bed in Japan, waiting to heal.  Michael began simply, by “creating” a worm —  basically, starting over.

Known as “the artist who sees with his hands,” Michael has work displayed in numerous public and private collections across the country and in exhibitions nationally and internationally as well.  His creations in bronze are representational, each one telling a story all its own.  The patina he chooses is dark - the way he sees them.

Not being satisfied to merely create, Michael has gone on to share his story and his technique with others.  He has served as a mentor for many people, young and old, disabled and not, service connected and civilian, for Michael’s story is one that many can relate to. Michael serves as an example of what can be accomplished if one puts one’s mind to the task.  He has been an educator in the public schools, has presented hands-on workshops to people with disability around the country, and has given numerous talks on his life and his work to a variety of audiences. We at Northwest Stone Sculptors Association are honored and delighted to be able to spend time with him.

Michael has received numerous honors and accolades over the years. In 1976, he was presented with the “Governor’s Award for Sculpture” by Governor Jerry Apodaca.  In1983, he was granted a papal audience at the Vatican where he presented Pope John Paul II with his piece, “Going Home”.  In 1996, he was nominated by President Bill Clinton to serve on the Board of Trustees of the Institute of American Indian and Alaska Native Culture and Arts Development. If the purpose of art is to express and evoke emotion, Michael is an artist extraordinaire.  Through his work, he has touched the lives of many on many different levels.  Michael continues to work in his studio in his home in Northern New Mexico.

Michael will be part of the team of figurative instructors at Brotherhood and will guide us to connect with the sculptural process at a deeper and perhaps a more tangible level. He will be facilitating us with clay exercises, demonstrating how to do portraits in clay, and assist us with new approaches to bring to our work in stone.

You can email Michael directly: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Go Figure - Sept/Oct 2002


The 2002 Camp Brotherhood symposium featured a series of workshops focused on the human figure. Opportunities to learn included the challenge of capturing the human essence in a few strokes of the pencil, composing a piece, transferring a small clay maquette to a life-size block of marble, and feeling our way around the head. Alexandra Morosco and Sabah Al-Dhaher led us through sketching and modeling figures in clay then demonstrated the process of transferring the composition to a life-size column of marble. Their work on the column released a woman’s form as the week progressed. In the afternoons Alflonso Rodriquez demonstrated exquisite portraiture in marble with fluid strokes that flowed through the marble to leave a delicate face and long locks. The result was inspired learning for those who worked with him and a piece that took high bid in the annual auction. Sculptors improved their appreciation and skill with the figure through the variety of opportunities, skill of the teachers, and hands-on experience.

As a special addition to the symposium, a grant from the Washington State Arts Commission made it possible to bring Michael Naranjo from New Mexico. Michael grew up on tribal lands in New Mexico where he developed an intimate knowledge of nature’s bounty and a dream of becoming a sculptor. A hand-grenade he caught during battle in the Vietnam war threatened but did not change that vision. He went on to sculpt in bronze and stone for the next 30 years despite the complete absence of sight and two fingers. Using his hands, heart, and quietly powerful presence he led the Northwest Stone Sculptors through the creation of a clay portrait while blindfolded. Participants felt their way through the face and head to learn the relationship of the parts to the whole and the power of communication through palpation. By the end of their visit, Michael and his wife Laurie brought a warm collaborative spirit to the camp that taught much more than technique.


Silver Falls Magic - Nov/Dec 2002


On August 14, 2002, my mother passed away in Storm Lake, Iowa. After being with her in the hospital, attending her funeral, and cleaning out her home, I returned to Olympia in a somber state of mind. The Silver Falls sculpture symposium was planned for September 3rd and, in light of the uplifting nature of other sculpture symposia I have attended, I decided to attend this one.

When I arrived at Silver Falls State Park, the first person I met was an old friend from previous symposia, Ed Wyand, from California. We ended up sharing a cabin that first night. In the morning, I told Ed that I had had a dream vision of a woman sitting on the ground with her legs drawn up in front of her and with a shawl or veil covering her head.  I suggested that this probably had something to do with processing feelings concerning the loss of my mother. Ed said, “You won’t believe this but I had a similar dream vision!” His vision was of a woman lying on her back with her legs bent and drawn up above her, and a child was lying on the woman’s lower legs peering down at the woman.

I decided that I wanted to try to capture my vision in a maquette. I asked Paul Buckner if he had brought any clay with him. When I arrived at my workstation, a new chunk of clay was waiting for me. I proceeded to make a maquette (my first ever), and it was very pleasing. I shared the story behind the maquette with Rich Hestekind when he stopped by to visit. He told me how he had worked through some of his grief over the loss of his father through working in stone. He asked me what sorts of emotions I had as I was working on the maquette. Without thinking about it, I held my arms out in a circle and said that I had feelings of nurturing, comfort and safety. After Rich left, I realized that I needed to add arms to the simple torso of my figure. Then, it felt complete and very satisfying.

For quite some time, I just stared at the figure. Then, I decided to try to capture it in stone. I selected a piece of barite, a dense stone from Alaska, I had purchased from Gary McWilliams at Camp Brotherhood. After chipping away on the stone for a while, I felt my enthusiasm waning. Penelope Crittenden came by, and I told her my story and how I was feeling. She said that different folks had told her that they sometimes found that the real emotion they were feeling was expressed in the maquette they produced.

As I mulled her comments over in my head, I concluded that perhaps the maquette would be my product from Silver Falls. I started to draw some lines on the stone, which would transform it into an entirely different sort of piece. Paul Buckner paid a visit to my tent.  He patiently listened to my story and calmly suggested that I could consider doing an abstraction of the maquette in the stone. Yes, that made a lot of sense to me, and I picked up my hammer and chisel and returned to the stone with renewed vigor. Whereas I had ventured to Silver Falls feeling low and with no idea of what I might work on, I departed feeling refreshed, productive, and grateful for the magic that had happened there.

After leaving the Silver Falls Stone Carving Symposium, I decided to stop in the nearby town of Silverton. I had heard that an old friend, Larry, might be living there. We had started together at The Evergreen State College in 1970 and, at one time, had even been partners in the Columbia Street Pub in Olympia. Larry had moved to Hawaii several years ago, and I had spoken to him only once on the phone since then.

I stopped in Silverton and parked on a downtown street. The Silver Creek Coffee House caught my eye, so I headed there. After ordering a mocha, I asked the waitress if she might know a Larry. She said, “Would you mean, Lawrence?” “I suppose so,” I said, “We used to be friends in Olympia.” “Oh,” she said, “Did he run a restaurant there?”  “Yes, he did,” I said. “Well, he is in the bathroom,” she responded. I surprised him when he emerged from the bathroom, and we proceeded to have a good visit before he had to run off to take care of some business.

One of the people I sent my little story to, about my experiences at Silver Falls, was a classmate of mine back in Storm Lake, Iowa. She is now a professor at the University of Minnesota, and we keep in touch on a regular basis. Before she opened my e-mail with the story, she went to a website to find the selected daily picture to place on her computer monitor screen.  The photo that day was of the middle north falls at Silver Falls State Park!!  I thought, “Perhaps I should return to Silverton and buy a lottery ticket.”

A few days after this event, I went out to the garage to do some work on the sculpture.  The body and arms were taking shape quite well, and I thought about what I might name the piece when I finished. The title, “Broken Comfort” came to mind. This sounded fitting in light of the loss of the comfort my Mom provided. As I continued to chip away, I pondered the significance of that title coming to my mind, when all of a sudden both arms broke off!! At first I was very distraught and thought that the piece was ruined.  Later, when I regained my bearings, I realized that the event was most meaningful and that I should continue working.  I trust that the question of how I will treat the broken arms will answer itself in good time.