Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
Upton S. Ethelbah Jr. has dedicated his life to art.
He created masterpieces during his career in sculpture.
His latest – “Pueblo Matriarch” – was chosen as a public artwork to be located in Menaul and 12th NW near the Indian cultural center Pueblo.
The piece is a contemporary, stylized steel sculpture that follows forms inspired by aesthetic patterns and movements found in ceremonial badges and dances from its Native American heritage – Santa Clara Pueblo and White Mountain Apache.
“’Pueblo Matriarch’ is going to be the mother of our cultural center, completing the new expansion on the old Indian school campus,” says Ethelbah, who carves under the name Greyshoes and has strong ties to the area. “I had parents who worked at the Indian school and my mother was a nurse at the Indian health service hospital there. I worked for the Indian Affairs Bureau across the street. We lived on Los Tomases Drive, just a few hundred yards from the roundabout. Now I live less than a mile west. I have a lot of roots, history and life experiences that took place there. It was a natural fit.
“Pueblo Matriarch” will be a fabricated hollow steel sculpture 20 feet tall, made entirely of welded steel beams and panels that will develop a natural red rust patina over time. The sculpture will be illuminated from the outside and the inside, highlighting design elements cut from the panels. These symbols will include corn, clouds, rain, lightning, and the iconic Avanyu or water serpent.
The Albuquerque Community Foundation and the IPCC worked together to secure the public art project. The foundation celebrates its 40th anniversary and recognizes its initial granting of arts and culture grants during the 1980s by partnering with the Cultural Center to commission or purchase permanent works of art from a Native American artist and / or d ‘a team of artists from New Mexico.
Amy G. Johnson, Curator of Collections at the IPCC, explains that one of the reasons the Art Selection Committee chose Greyshoes’ design was that the artwork they offered complemented the IPCC architecture and buildings.
“It was interesting to examine the ideas of the artists and the different approaches they took, their understanding of the IPCC and the idea of the roundabout being the gateway to the Near North Valley and the neighborhood history, “Johnson says.” Artists had to factor in issues of sight lines, circulation patterns, the durability of the room, the materials to be used, etc. The committee’s choice of Greyshoes and “Pueblo Matriarch” was magnificent. “