Indian Pueblo Cultural Center adorned by statue - Albuquerque Journal

Indian Pueblo Cultural Center adorned by statue

“Pueblo Matriarch” is a metal sculpture designed by Upton S. Ethelbah Jr., known as Greyshoes. The piece will reside near the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in the North Valley. (Courtesy of the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Upton S. Ethelbah Jr. has dedicated his life to art.

He’s created masterpieces during his journey in sculpture.

His latest – “Pueblo Matriarch” – has been chosen as the public art piece that will be located at Menaul and 12th NW near the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center.

The piece is a contemporary, stylized, steel sculpture that follows the forms inspired by the aesthetic motifs and movements found in the ceremonial regalia and dances of his Native American heritage – Santa Clara Pueblo and White Mountain Apache.

bright spot“‘Pueblo Matriarch’ is going to be the mother of our cultural center, complementing the new expansion on the old Indian School campus,” says Ethelbah, who sculpts under the name Greyshoes, and has strong ties to the area. “I had relatives who worked at the Indian School, and my mother was a nurse for the Indian Health Service hospital that used to be there. I worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs across the street. We lived on Los Tomases Drive, only a few hundred yards from the roundabout. Now I live less than a mile away to the west. I have a lot of roots, history and life experiences that happened right there. It was a natural fit.”

“Pueblo Matriarch” will be a 20-foot-high, fabricated hollow steel sculpture made entirely of welded steel beams and panels that will develop a natural red rust patina over time. The sculpture will be illuminated from without and within, highlighting design elements cut out of 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 get the public art project. The foundation is celebrating its 40th anniversary and is acknowledging its initial grantmaking in arts and culture during the 1980s by partnering with the Cultural Center to commission or purchase permanent artwork by a Native American artist and/or artist team from New Mexico.

Amy G. Johnson, IPCC curator of collections, says that one of the reasons the Art Selection Committee chose Greyshoes’ design was that the artwork he proposed complemented the architecture of the IPCC and buildings.

“It was interesting to look at the ideas the artists came up with, and the different approaches they took, their understanding of the IPCC, and the idea of the roundabout being the entry way to the Near North Valley and the history of the neighborhood,” Johnson says. “Artists had to consider issues of sight lines, traffic patterns, the durability of the piece, what materials to use, etc. The committee’s choice of Greyshoes and ‘Pueblo Matriarch’ was a beautiful one.”

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