Stone has been Cliff Fragua’s teacher. His Mother and late Grandmother, well known potters, had a great influence on Cliff in his youth. Thus inspired, he attend the Institute of American Indian Arts in nearby Santa Fe to study painting. While at IAIA, Cliff enrolled in a sculpture class to help him see more of a 3D perspective and there found his medium and teacher--stone. He sold his first piece, an Eagle Dancer carved from African Wonderstone at his first exhibit in Scottsdale, Arizona.
“My connection with the stone involves spirituality and reverence for the spirit that dwells within. It has been on this earth much longer than man and for this reason the stone becomes the teacher, it is simply what my ancestors believe. I am the mediator between the stone and the tools; the stone and the viewer. I visualize what the stone wants to become and I strive to help it blossom.”
The name of Cliff’s studio, Singing Stone Studio, reflects the ringing, or singing Cliff hears from the stones. Located on the Jemez Pueblo, NM, Cliff’s studio represents his love for his family, culture and community. Inside Cliff works on stone, clay and bronze, with a little drumming on the side. Outside you are greeted by a traditional garden, and the stones from around the world waiting to be reworked by this master sculptor. Cliff proudly notes that the Jemez Pueblo has one of the few programs in the U.S. that teaches Native language immersion.
Each piece Cliff creates is infused with his desire to help this generation strengthen their connection to Spirit, self, and nature. Using a variety of marble and stone, Cliff gives life to the traditions of his culture. His unique blending of marble was discovered in his early years when the young carver finished a bear sculpture that he was sure would astound the art world. Tripping and breaking the piece, he contemplated what the stone was teaching. He found that the spirit of the bear was still there and wanted to be complete, so he gently continued and learned to compromise, blending several stones into one piece. He was humbly on his way.
Cliff’s work now reside in private collections, galleries, museums, as well as many large public installations. Cliff has received the most prestigious commission for sculptures in the United States, representing the state of New Mexico in the National Statuary Hall in Washington D.C with his seven foot Tennessee marble sculpture of Po’pay, the leader of the 1680 Pueblo Revolt against the Spaniards. He continues to be the recipient of numerous honors and awards.