Cliff Fragua’s work signifies Jemez Pueblo culture through and through with a deep cultural understanding of the spiritual aspects of his artistic medium in stone. Although stone was not historically used as a traditional sculpting material, Fragua’s traditional upbringing embedded in cultural knowledge and respect for life has led him to understand the quality of stone. Through the shape, feel, and sound of the stone he can come to perceive what he believes the stone wants to become. Working with stone takes an immense amount of patience and skill so as one can hear its voice.
For Fragua, the stone speaks by its color and sound. He looks at the color and characteristics of the stone and then taps it for a ringing sound. If it rings, then the stone is solid and he interprets the ringing as singing, hence the name of his workplace, Singing Stone Studio. His studio space is a haven to teach and share the advancement and preservation of Jemez cultural art and sculpture through an intergenerational knowledge exchange of traditions, history, education, story, research, as well as technical assistance.
For the 2020 Mentor Artist Fellowship, Fragua and his apprentice, Anthony C Wright-Romero (Ohkay Owingeh/Cochiti/Jemez Pueblo), will produce a stone sculpture, reflecting a current, modern theme possibly concerning contemporary social topics, such as, Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women, climate crisis, or environmental and land issues.
Pueblo elders . . . taught me to honor the stone.
– Cliff Fragua