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Monty Claw

Posted on May 8, 2015 by Jason

Navajo artist Monty Claw just finished an interview with Native Peoples Magazine that will be released during this year’s Santa Fe Indian Market. The road to artistic recognition was a long one that started when he was five years old.

 

Monty Claw Navajo Painting, Bead & Tufa Cast Artist Monty Claw Navajo Painting, Bead & Tufa Cast Artist
Perry Null Trading
You grew up in Gallup?
Monty Claw
Yes, I grew up here and graduated from Gallup High School.
Perry Null Trading
So how did you get interested in art? Did you have family members who made art?
Monty Claw
My dad did bead art, but he was always busy working so I wasn’t around it at home.
Perry Null Trading
When did you get interested in art?
Monty Claw
Well I was already interested in art when I was five years old. I would do drawings in high school. I had two teachers who inspired me to concentrate more of my energy towards art.
Perry Null Trading
Who were the teachers, and what kind of art were you doing?
Monty Claw
Kathy Noe and Tom Hall taught art at Gallup High School and really got me serious about art. I was doing some two-dimensional and three-dimensional art at this time.
Perry Null Trading
When you say serious what do you mean?
Monty Claw
I thought about it as a career and enrolled in the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe after graduating high school.

Available art from: Claw, Monty

Perry Null Trading
You first became well-known for bead work, is this when you first started experimenting with bead work?
Monty Claw
No, I was studying two-dimensional art and museum studies.
Perry Null Trading
So, how did you get interested in bead art?
Monty Claw
My father did bead work and that is how I was introduced to it.
Perry Null Trading
I think of bead work coming from the Plains Indians, how does it fit into Navajo culture?
Monty Claw
We use it in Native American Church ceremonies that we have adopted from the Plains tribes. You will find fans, rattles, staffs and cedar bags decorated with bead-work in NAC ceremonies.
Monty Claw Beaded Native American Church Fan Monty Claw Beaded Native American Church Fan
Perry Null Trading
So here you are in school working on paintings and not doing any bead work yet. Are you creating pieces that you're selling or just studying?
Monty Claw
I have some private clients that are buying a few paintings from me, but nothing significant.
Perry Null Trading
How do you make the transition from school to making a living as an artist?
Monty Claw
I didn’t. After my second year of school I went to work. The idea was to make some money to keep going to school, but that didn’t work out.
Perry Null Trading
What did you do?
Monty Claw
I found a construction job. It took me all over the country. I was a welder.
Perry Null Trading
How long did you do this for?
Monty Claw
I left school in 1998 and did construction work for the next seven years.
Perry Null Trading
Are you doing any art at this time?
Monty Claw
I tried. I would start a project but nothing would happen, serious artist block.
Perry Null Trading
What else is going on during this time?
Monty Claw
I met Kareen my wife in 2001. We would get married in 2002. After we had our first child it motivated me to do art again and brought me out of the funk.
Perry Null Trading
So you are still doing construction work and begin to create again?
Monty Claw
Yes, I always knew that art was what I was going to do. I entered some paintings in the 2002 Inter-Tribal Ceremonial and sold a few. Then in 2003 I was accepted into the Santa Fe Indian Market.
Perry Null Trading
You had finally made it?
Monty Claw
Not really. I was back in the grove of painting and getting my work out there. However, I didn’t sell anything at that Indian Market. I shared a booth with a jeweler and everyone wanted to see the jewelry.
Perry Null Trading
You've really become known for your bead-work, when does this start to happen?
Monty Claw
I wasn’t doing construction work anymore and concentrating on my art full time by 2006. In February of that year I entered a fan into the Southwest Indian Arts Fair in Tucson. That piece won an award and created a little bidding war between two collectors. I hadn’t had the same response with my paintings so it got me excited to create more bead-work.
Perry Null Trading
You win an award in Tucson, what kind of response did you get in Santa Fe?
Monty Claw
It wasn’t until 2007 when I was back at the Santa Fe Indian Market and able to show my bead-work. I took five fans with me that year and sold out on the first day. I also met the museum curator from the Brooklyn Fine Art Museum. She was a judge and let other collectors know about my work, which was a turning point.
Perry Null Trading
Did she commissioned a fan for the museum?
Monty Claw
She is still waiting for the right piece. Her influence on other collectors really gave my work respect. It is very difficult to have a museum collection and that's the quality of art I wanted to make.
Perry Null Trading
Do you now have your beaded fans in a museum?

Available art from: Claw, Monty

Monty Claw
Yes, I have 9 pieces in different museums.
Perry Null Trading
So you've become a recognized bead artist, what made you want to work with silver?
Monty Claw
I was winning awards for my bead work, but not the big awards. I noticed that the judges really liked collaboration pieces. So I approached a few jewelry artists to see if they would be interested in working on a collaboration piece. Unfortunately that never worked out so I started messing around with silver and really enjoyed the feel of crafting the metal.
Monty Claw Tufa Cast Rings with Multi Stone Inlay Monty Claw Tufa Cast Rings with Multi Stone Inlay
Perry Null Trading
Did it work?
Monty Claw
Yes, in 2014 I won the Native Peoples Creativity Award at the Santa Fe Indian Market. It was a selection among all the entries. I had incorporated silver work into the beaded fan.
Perry Null Trading
You're still very young, what do you see your art becoming in the future?
Monty Claw
I always think that I would like to incorporate painting, beadwork and silver into one piece. I am not sure what that looks like, but I see it as something I will attempt..
Perry Null Trading
Thank you, and I look forward to reading that interview in Native Peoples Magazine

Available art from: Claw, Monty

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