2019 Indian Art Market Honors Bruce Joe

Navajo artist Bruce Joe brought many impressive pieces to this year's Indian Art Market. Credit: NHMU

By Riley Black

Learning to be an artist often starts young. For Navajo jewelry maker Bruce Joe, who won the third place award at this year's Indian Art Market, the process started in an unexpected way when he was a child.

Joe traces his beginnings as an artist to when he was about ten years old. "I didn't know it then," Joe says, "but my grandma and my mom made me into an artist." Some of the initial lessons weren't about craft, but about life. Joe remembers his grandmother knocking on the door around sunrise, asking why he wasn't up yet. It seemed too early to Joe then, but, he says, the nudge set him up for what he does now. "If you greet the sun before anything else starts moving, it's like a spirit world out there," Joe says, when everything seems different than in the day. "If I wanted to do something, I had to get up early," Joe adds, and he keeps the pattern even now.

For the hummingbird bolo that won the third place award this year, Joe wanted to try something new. He had some materials left over from a piece he made for a friend and it was the right time to try a novel project. "The hummingbird is the guy who sends good messages," Joe says, and seemed the perfect subject for a piece. "One of the hardest things to do is something new," he adds, but a lifetime of lessons helped the piece come to life.

Riley Black is the author of Skeleton Keys, My Beloved Brontosaurus, Prehistoric Predators, and a science writer for the Natural History Museum of Utah, a part of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Our mission is to illuminate the natural world and the place of humans within it. In addition to housing outstanding exhibits for the public, NHMU is a research museum. Learn more.


Article tags


Media Type