Mr. Byron K. McCurtain
Native American of Kiowa Tribal Affiliation
Born February 14, 1958, Lawton, Oklahoma, USA
…who I am is but the result of where I have been.”
My name is Byron and I am trained in the contemporary style and art coming from Santa Fe in the state of New Mexico, USA. I have over 26 years of experience with both native and modern styles, applications and materials.
Formerly introduced to the jewelry and lapidary arts in 1978 while employed in Dallas, TX. within a native arts program under a Mr. Elmer Milford (Red Streak Water) of the Dine’ (Navajo) people who himself was taught by a Mr. Charles Loloma (Hopi).
Mr. Milford presented to me the foundation to stand upon and gaze out at the galaxy of jewelry and stonework (lapidary), primarily the jewelry artworks of Mr. Loloma. Upon this foundation he told me “…anyone can acquire metal and stone, they can cut it, pound it, shape it, but it takes someone to put it together.”
I took this to mean only those observantly taught, trained, experienced with torch flame, with assemblage to be that someone.
In 1979 I began my higher education in the arts in Santa Fe, NM. at the Institute of American Indian Arts by seeking an Associate of Fine Arts degree.
It was here that the significance of where I have been takes the greatest precedence for upon entering this school I was informed that I may not have a school to graduate from as this school was embroiled in a struggle for its very survival which was approaching a decision as to its continuance. This decision was based at the local, state, and national level.
Being Native American I could of chose to ignore the current event and try to get my education and maybe graduate. And yet I chose to become embroiled, if not fully enamored, to enjoin this struggle for this schools’ existence and continuance. By such a choice I incurred and accepted the self-sacrifice of my academic life for the worst grades on my record.
It is in and of itself a very long complex story deserving respectfully a full count, but for the sake of brevity it unfolded placing me into a position of leadership. By those gathered eternities of wounded heart-felt moments painted in black and white I did manage to save our art school. Granted the changes made were intense and questionably necessary for this school.
This confrontation, this event, should never of happened…but it did. And as yet, still, the struggle continues for this schools future.
My degrees earned are Three Dimensional/Jewelry with Mr. Milliard Holbrook, and Two Dimensional/Photography with Mr. Eric Moyers. By the degree in photography comes the ability to organize, arrange, and find the best presentation for ones’ work. This works well along with my degree in jewelry.
After graduating, I gained further experience in the lapidary arts working at the lapidary gift line manufacturer Santa Fe Stone Works. I gained production stone cutting skills, production grinding and finishing. The stone style applications used were overlay, and channel set inlay.
By such skill and applications I was approached by a Mr. Gibson Nez of Dine’ (Navajo) and Jicarilla Apache. He sought me out to become his apprentice and do his inlay and stonework according to his style.
Under his strong tutelage my abilities flourished in his studio workspace.
And strong was the spirit of this man, a notable jeweler lapidarist, who I was apprenticed to. By his example of dedication, strong work, application, and thought in the extreme did I gain my example. He earned his standing and right to be as he is, and so too by that strength did I seek mine.
That day for me came when he called to me and said, “Byron, you have to go.”, at which I asked “Why, what am I doing wrong?”, he said “Nothing, your too good to be working for anyone.”
I became an independent artist who further gained influence, inspiration, and association within the arts by Yellowhorse Art of Albuquerque, wonderful Dine’ women. Here I was introduced to a fine stone high gloss polishing technique by a Mr. Mike Carter which resulted in a major change by my entry into the Santa Fe Indian Market of my finished works.
Quality stone materials can and should be polished to a high gloss. They should be made ready for entry into a fine collection or stored for viewing within a museum. It is what ardent collectors want and expect. By such application upon stone finish I have helped move the native lapidary arts forward.
Shared with you I have the outside influence of my work. Now I share only but a glimpse of the inner, the personal, the heart of what I favor or am influenced by, it is vast.
Design, form, function, symbology, mythology, architectural, symmetrical, asymmetrical, balance, intent, representative, contrived, imagined. My native inspiration, along with the local and world inspiration is vast. From pictographs, painted buffalo hides, Inca stone and jewelry works along with the many Mesoamerican peoples, to the far shores of Egypt, Russia, Italy, England, Asia and their respective peoples works in not just jewelry but stone buildings, tapestries, sculptures and manuscripts. I have great love of the respective arts of this world that I am come from and placed amongst.
Collectors of my works are more than pleasantly pleased in a strong way for what they tell me after wearing my art is that the attention received, if not called for, is noticeable in a wonderful way. Wonderful enough that a collector complimented my works with “…it looks as if it comes from an Atlantean Priest-Kings tomb”.
Who I am now is but the result of the experiences of where I have been, and still there remains the hint of what I have yet to become. Yes, an on-going process.
Indeed there are those who say their work speaks for them, and that is true. In truth my works sing for me.” Quote by Mr. Byron K. McCurtain.