Cliff Fragua, Jemez Pueblo Sculptor Returns to Central Oregon with Leah Mata

(Artwork above: Three Sisters of the Earth)

Cliff Fragua’s first visit to Central Oregon last spring provided a two-way flow of solid positive energy. The mountains, big trees, snow and blue skies, and this was just the view from the B & B outside of Tumalo, along with a sincerely curious and courteous public reception, struck such a strong chord within him that he offered to make a return visit. His sculptures—sometimes refined and elegant, sometimes bold and noble, other times abstract and graceful, his two-man band, and Cliff’s buoyant nature left people asking if he’d be coming back soon. Given this appreciation on both sides, Cliff will return for a show and workshop on Memorial Day weekend. To use Native American phraseology, a good hoop was made and now that circle must be honored and walked.

One of Cliff’s recent works, Gift from the Sea, received a Best of Show for Sculpture at the 2018 Heard Museum Show in Phoenix, Arizona. This prestigious event, one of the two most honored and acclaimed annual shows for Native American artists, is juried. Every artist has to apply and be accepted; there are no exceptions for former entrants or award winners. Of the thousands of artist applying each year, only 500 are chosen. Cliff has been chosen for over 30 consecutive years. In the sculpture division for 2018, he was one of 75 artists who competed.

Joining Cliff this year will be his wife Leah Mata, who is a diverse mediums artist of the Northern Chumash People of Northern California. Leah works as a traditional artist while creating contemporary living forms of regalia and jewelry, allowing collectors the opportunity to experience the California Indian arts. In addition to a B.A. in Anthropology and a Masters in Cultural Sustainability, she is an instructor at the Institute of American Indian Art (IAIA), the four year art college for Native American students. Two years ago, at the other most prestigious annual Native American art show, The Santa Fe Indian Market held in mid-August, Leah and Cliff were married upon the main stage in a Sunday morning ceremony.

Cliff also has been a leading force for art education within the American Indian cultures. From president of the iconic and standard bearing Indian Arts & Crafts Association (IACA) to being a sculpting instructor at IAWA and other venues, much of his life has been dedicated to preparing the next generation to carry forward the traditions of The Peoples through their respective artwork. However, his knowledge and guidance is not limited to Indigenous cultures, which is why he will be holding a basic level, stone carving workshop Memorial Day weekend as part of this year’s show. Only ten spaces are available and the class is intended for adults.

Cliff and Leah will be holding their show, along with the workshop, at Raven Makes Gallery in Sisters during the Memorial Day weekend. This coincides with the Sisters 4th Friday Art Stroll, which is when their works will go on display.

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