THE ARTIST WHO SEES WITH HIS HANDS
As a boy growing up in Taos and Santa Clara Pueblo, NM, Michael always had dreams of becoming a sculptor. His early years were spent wandering the hills and mountains of northern New Mexico, hunting and fishing and generally developing a love and respect for nature and for life.
Early on, Michael developed a strong sense of self and a desire to succeed. It was this confidence that enabled him to fulfill his childhood dream, for in 1968, Michael was left totally blinded as a result of a grenade explosion while serving in the US Army in Vietnam.
It was Michael’s self-determination, which helped him to gather the inner strength to carry on the work he always knew he was meant to do. Over the years, Michael has developed an international reputation as “the artist who sees with his hands”. He also sees with his heart, and it is this “inner vision” that has helped him create his stories in bronze, each piece unique, each with a story to tell through its own graceful, subtle movement. His limited edition bronzes are now in many public and private collections around the world.
Early in Michael’s career, he was invited to present a sculpture to then President Richard M. Nixon and was received by him in the Oval Office. He presented the President with his piece, “Dance of the Eagle”. After this presentation, President Nixon got on his knees with Michael so that he could take Michael’s hand and “show” him the Presidential Seal woven into the rug there.
In 1981, Michael created his interpretation of the crucifix in his piece, “Going Home”. Over time, he and his wife, Laurie, had the thought of how wonderful it would be to present this piece to Pope John Paul II, the pope at that time. Two years later, Michael had a Papal Audience at the Vatican City, Italy, where he was personally able to present his piece to the Pope.
This visit to Italy began another chapter for Michael. He found doors there easily opened for him to be able to touch masterworks by so many of Italy’s great sculptural masters. This inspired him to explore carving stone and also sent him on another crusade, for upon returning home, Michael found touching sculpture in the country he fought for and lost his vision for was not always so easy.
As Michael’s work was created entirely by touch, he decided to make sure his work was always totally accessible to all. In 1992, he had his first “all touch” show at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis, Indiana. That led to the continuation of that concept when touring his work around the country. People are delighted to read “Please Touch” as they walk through his exhibits. Michael continues to be an innovator in accessibility to art.
In 1996, Michael 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. He was so pleased to accept this honor.
Michael has gone beyond sculpture – he serves as a powerful example of the human spirit and what can be done. Many continue to be inspired not only by his work, but also by what it represents. In 2014, Michael was selected to have a personal quote from him inscribed on one of the glass panels on the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial on the National Mall, Washington, DC.
For more information about the sculpture of Michael Naranjo, please visit:
Nedra Matteucci Galleries
1075 Paseo De Peralta
Santa Fe, NM 87501
Valley Fine Art
213 South Mill Street
Aspen, CO (970) 920-9193