Jewelry artist Anthony Lovato (Kewa/Santo Domingo Pueblo) pours molten silver into carved tufa casts to conjure glittering symbols of his beloved culture.
That work can be found in “Down Home,” open at the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture to celebrate his winning the 2023 Living Treasure award. Lovato also will be selling his pieces at the annual Native Treasures Art Market taking place Memorial Day weekend, Friday, May 26, through Sunday, May 28, at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center. About 185 artists will be selling jewelry, pottery, weavings, sculpture, paintings, fashion and photography.
Jewelry flowed through Lovato’s DNA. His grandfather, father and brother all made it.
“I was set up for this,” he said. “I’m a fourth generation jeweler.
“Santo Domingo is known for its arts and crafts,” he continued, “all the way back to Chaco Canyon. Of course, they found jewelry back there, so personal adornment has always been there for the pueblo.”
A graduate of Bernalillo High School, Lovato attended Santa Fe’s Institute of American Indian Arts, where he focused on metalwork and museum studies. He also worked at the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff in exhibition design.
“I always knew the processes of my work, but I wanted to go back to school to learn more technique,” he said.
His trademark corn, horse and hand motifs river back to the petroglyphs and ancient sites such as Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde.
Horses date back to the Spanish invasion, Lovato said.
“We used to have 14 horses. Now we’re down to eight,” he said. “Some Spanish things have been incorporated into our culture.”
“Corn is my clan sign,” Lovato continued. “The hand denotes human presence.”
He does not draw out his designs. First he travels 300 miles west onto the Hopi Tribe reservation in Arizona to harvest the tufa sandstone.
“I pull it out of the ground myself,” Lovato said.
He slices the tufa into Cracker Jack-sized boxes with a hand saw.
“We carve a design into the sandstone,” he said. “Then we pour molten silver into the block.”
It cools in five minutes.
“Carving it takes more than a day,” Lovato said. “The best part is it relates to pueblo history. People say my pieces talk to them. I say I talk to them so they can talk to people.”
He creates no multiples; everything is one-of-a-kind.
The necklace “Corn Clan Child” shows a mother cradling her child while carrying a pueblo pot on her head. The baby is made of citrine. The pottery symbolizes growth and nourishment.
“Cosmic Corn,” another necklace, nods to Lovato’s clan with stalks of corn and night sky symbols.
“That’s a whole celestial scene, with the stars and the moon and the clouds,” he said. “I refer back to what we know. At Chaco, there are paintings of Halley’s Comet. I’m also fascinated by what the archaeologists found in those areas. It’s all there; I just put it all together like a cook. I put things in silver while my ancestors put it in rock.”
At first, a gold corn ring seems like an anomaly. But Lovato calls it a “happy ring.”
A divorced customer asked him to turn an old wedding ring into something new.
“I’m a jewelry surgeon, I guess,” Lovato said. “I kind of know what people are looking for. They’re looking for their spirit that they’ve lost.”
Major art markets have showered Lovato with awards, including the Santa Fe Indian Market, the Red Earth Nation Show, the Eight Northern Indian Pueblos show, the Heard Museum Guild Indian Market and more. A fourth generation jeweler, he cites his major influences as Allan Houser, Charles Loloma, his grandfather Leo Coriz and his mother Mary Coriz Lovato.