Silver master's work reflects imagination, humor and whimsy - Albuquerque Journal

Silver master’s work reflects imagination, humor and whimsy

The gleam of molten metal rivers through Norbert Peshlakai’s veins.

His last name means beeshligaii, literally “white metal.”

The winner of countless ribbons at both the Santa Fe Indian Market and the Heard Museum Indian Fair, this silver master stars in his first one-man show at Santa Fe’s Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian opening Sunday, May 13.

“He’s a perfectionist,” the Wheelwright’s Case Trading Post Manager Ken Williams said. “It shows in his work.”

The artist made his first silver pot in the early 1970s. He makes his own stamps (so far, he boasts more than 300) from concrete nails. He developed his own style of textures and overlays.

Countless critters scamper across his pottery and jewelry: Mimbres figures, dogs, cats, quail, owls, deer, goats and fish. His often whimsical pieces spill over with imagination.

“It’s just like painting to me,” Peshlakai said in a telephone interview from his Gallup home. “You can do landscaping or figures; you can do all kinds of things with your stamps.”

Some designs resemble intricate mazes of figures and textures. Others incorporate stones and gold.

“A lot of his work contains humor and whimsy,” Williams said. “That’s how he is as a person.”

The rounded silver seed pots provided some shaping challenges. At first they collapsed. Through trial and error, Peshlakai learned to shape two cup forms from flat sheets of silver, then solder the halves together, leaving no trace of a line.

A single animal involves several stamps, he said; one for the body, another for the face, the ears, the eyes and the legs.

“He doesn’t have one single stamp that stamps quail,” Williams explained. “His hummingbird is 12 different strokes.”

Peshlakai’s trademark Cowboy Slim figure was born in the early 1980s, often surrounded by a swirl of horses and horseshoes.

“That Slim Cowboy went through many variations,” he said. “Some didn’t have a cowboy hat.”

Then his wife, Linda, offered a suggestion. “My wife said, ‘Slim Cowboy looks lonely,’ ” he said. “You need to make him a girlfriend.”

The result was a cowgirl with curly hair cascading from her hat.

His “Peyote Dream” seed pot features a hallucinating face bookended by soaring birds and peyote buttons.

“I’m not really in the peyote ceremony,” he said. “I went to one ceremonial. That (piece) was from a magazine (article) and I was trying to understand the symbols.”

Sometimes regular customers ask for commissions, like “Woof’s Catch,” a dog catching a Frisbee.

He’s already working on his Indian Market pieces, including a pin of a woman driving a pickup, her dog’s ears soaring in the wind.

A graduate of Albuquerque’s Highland High School, Peshlakai attended what is now Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan.

A misunderstanding with an adviser landed him in a commercial house painting class, complete with overalls and a pail, instead of the painting class he wanted. All of the arts classes were full, except for a jewelry class, so he signed up to fulfill his credits.

He never took the jewelry class seriously, disliked soldering and had been skipping class when his teacher Clint Leon confronted him.

“He came up to me and said, ‘I miss you in class; you’re failing’,” Peshlakai said.

Leon told his student to bring his sketchbook, learn all the basic tools and create six pieces of jewelry. The teacher then photographed all of the student work and invited Peshlakai to look into the camera lens. The artist finally spotted his own nascent talent.

“It caught my eye,” he said. “It was through the lens of the camera that got me.”

The exhibition runs through Oct. 7 concurrently with “Memory Weaving: Works By Melanie Yazzie.”

Home » Entertainment » Arts » Silver master’s work reflects imagination, humor and whimsy


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

1
True Story House provides listeners with songs about real ...
Arts
Band is set to release first ... Band is set to release first full-length album this fall
2
Santa Fe Opera wins international recognition as 'Festival of ...
ABQnews Seeker
The International Opera Awards named the ... The International Opera Awards named the artistic nucleus just north of Santa Fe 'Festival of the Year' at a ceremony in Madrid, Spain.
3
Artist Sandro Gebert's 'Ideogramer' an homage to street artists
Arts
'Ideogramer' will hang at Santa Fe's ... 'Ideogramer' will hang at Santa Fe's Gebert Contemporary through Dec. 31.
4
Looking at the New Mexico heroines that left their ...
Arts
Photographs of five women are on ... Photographs of five women are on the cover of 'New Mexico Heroines of the Twentieth Century' and they are a multicultural sample of the ...
5
Named for San Ignacio, church has called Santa Barbara-Martineztown ...
Arts
Just west of Interstate 25, San ... Just west of Interstate 25, San Ignacio Catholic Church sits within the Santa Barbara-Martineztown neighborhood minutes away from Albuquerque High School.
6
SF poet Arthur Sze awarded honor for lifetime achievement
Arts
Arthur Sze was awarded the Ruth ... Arthur Sze was awarded the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, which is given out by the Poetry Foundation in October.
7
Buen Vieje returns to the North Fourth Arts Center ...
Arts
North Fourth Art Center resident company ... North Fourth Art Center resident company Buen Viaje Dance is back with two performances at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, and 2 p.m. Sunday, ...
8
Upstart Crows to perform 'A Christmas Carol' resplendent in ...
Arts
The Upstart Crows will stage their ... The Upstart Crows will stage their own annual readings of the classic Christmas fable on Dec. 17, 23 and 25 in Santa Fe.
9
New Mexico Gay Men's Chorus singing 'Scrooge!' with a ...
Arts
Based on the 1970 film musical ... Based on the 1970 film musical of the same name, 'Scrooge!' will play at the Lensic Performing Arts Center in Santa Fe on Friday, ...