Cliff Fragua, Jemez Pueblo, Sculptor
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 attended 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. After attending IAIA, he transferred to the San Francisco Art Institute. Following this, he attended the Pietrasanta Stone Workshop in Italy, where he studied stone carving as well as laborious layering of marbles, pinning, laminating and polishing pieces for what would become his signature multi-stone pieces.
Each piece Cliff creates is infused with his desire is 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, the young man 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.
“My connection with the stone involves spirituality and reverence for the spirit that dwells within. It has been on this earth much longer than humanity 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/musical tones Cliff hears when he works sculpting the various marbles, alabasters, calcites and granites of his works. Located on the Jemez Pueblo of New Mexico, Cliff’s studio represents his love for his family, culture and community. Inside the studio, Cliff works with stone, clay and bronze--with a little drumming and music on the side. Outside you are greeted by a traditional garden and fields. Stones from around the world surround his space, waiting to be reworked by this master sculptor. He is a father, teacher, and leader in his community, with a deep love for his heritage and culture.
This has led to a continuing flow of select work into galleries, museums, private collections, 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, and considered a ‘standard bearer’ as a contemporary sculptor.