National Museum of the American Indian, redux

This is a video from the NMAI about a sculptural work entitled “Always Becoming.”  This is what the NMAI has to say about it.  Thought you’d like to see it.


These clay sculptures, titled “Always Becoming”, range in height from seven and a half to sixteen feet tall. The clay — malleable and forgiving — is built around natural materials to represent origin, family, and belonging in Native cultures. A walk through the sculptures exudes a quiet, peaceful sensation of entering a place rooted in the past, but always looking towards the future.

The pieces, painstakingly crafted by Santa Clara Pueblo artist Nora Naranjo-Morse, are designed to melt back into the earth over time.  But, why?

The inspiration for the figures is drawn from Santa Clara Pueblo oral tradition, and they are named Father, Mother, Little One, Moon Woman, and Mountain Bird. They are crafted from naturally changing and evolving elements of the earth such as dirt, sand, straw, clay, stone, black locust wood, bamboo, grass, and yam vines. The past shaped the sculptures, but they will change and evolve, much like the Native people whose heritage they represent.

Naranjo-Morse drew inspiration from the unique relationship that Native peoples have to the environment, and the Museum’s commitment to educating visitors about this bond. She used the same mud mixture used to build homes and structures in the Southwest to finish the sculptures, emphasizing the idea of the museum and its grounds as a home for Native people and their vibrant cultures. She also used personal touches on the sculptures – the Father sculpture is centered by a viga, or wood pole, from her home. Hand cut by her parents in the 1950s, it represents the ideas of ancestors and family.

As the sculptures transition and become part of the earth, artists, including Naranjo-Morse’s daughter, will return each year to add new elements. An evolving community of artists will conserve the sculptures, bringing their own experiences and stories to life with clay.

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