Show Preview | Nedra Matteucci Galleries: Michael Naranjo

Santa Fe, NM, September 15-October 13

Michael Naranjo, Tranquility, bronze sculpture

Michael Naranjo, Tranquility, bronze, 23 x 9 x 10.

This story was featured in the September 2012 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Order the Southwest Art magazine September 2012 print edition here, or purchase the Southwest Art magazine September 2012 digital download here. Or simply click here to subscribe to Southwest Art magazine and never miss a story!

For more than 40 years, Michael Naranjo has been creating bronze sculptures that captivate and inspire viewers with their simple yet profound beauty and grace—and he’s been doing it all without the use of his sight. This month Nedra Matteucci Galleries celebrates Naranjo’s lifetime of work in a retrospective show titled Michael Naranjo: Inner Vision. The show opens with a reception from 2 to 4 p.m. on September 15 and features more than 70 works that span Naranjo’s career, including two brand-new, never-before-seen pieces. Gallery owner Nedra Matteucci says this is a “long overdue exhibition for a remarkable artist and tremendous human being.”

Naranjo was 22 years old when he lost his sight completely and permanently—the result of a grenade attack while serving in Vietnam in 1968. The explosion also damaged Naranjo’s right hand, and the sensation in two of his fingers never returned. “Anything I see is what those three fingers touch,” Naranjo says. “I see with my mind’s eye, and it tells me whether I need to make adjustments. For large sculptures, it takes tens of thousands of touches to see it in my mind as the complete piece.”

Michael Naranjo, Devil Dancer, bronze sculpture

Michael Naranjo, Devil Dancer, bronze, 29 x 11 x 11.

Larger pieces can take months for Naranjo to complete, but he still thoroughly enjoys the process. “It’s always fun to create something on a large scale because it takes a whole different kind of energy,” he says. The works in the show range from pieces small enough to fit in your hand to monumental sculptures weighing up to 2,000 pounds.

Throughout the years, Naranjo’s work has encompassed a wide variety of Native American subjects, figures, and animals. “I make different pieces depending on what I feel,” he says, adding, “If you create the same subject over and over, you start to lose something inside yourself.” Naranjo says that while the general forms of humans and animals do not change, how we perceive them on a certain day can vary greatly.

Indeed, Naranjo’s works reflect his own various perceptions within his inner world. His use of a rich black patina represents what he sees all the time. “Every day and night is black,” he explains. Yet the artist never lacks for sources of inspiration. “Oh my goodness,” he exclaims, “inspiration comes from so many places.” Sometimes an idea for a piece comes from a dream, or from a book (he frequently listens to audio books while he’s sculpting), or from conversations. Often Naranjo will use memories from when he could still see to help him visualize the form he wants to sculpt. If he has no memory to draw from, his wife or daughters will describe things to him until he has developed an image in his mind.

People often ask Naranjo what his sculptures would be like if he could see. “I guess we’ll never know,” he says. “But I have no regrets because now I have this other life—with a great family and a whole new way of looking at the world. Why would I want to change it? I’m quite happy.” 
—Lindsay Mitchell

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Featured in the September 2012 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
Southwest Art magazine September 2012 digital download
Southwest Art magazine September 2012 print edition
Or click here to subscribe to Southwest Art magazine and never miss a story!



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