Master Artists

Part of the Totems to Turquoise exhibition.

A Living Tradition

Influential Innovators of the 20th Century

Contemporary Native jewelry combines individual styles and innovations with long-standing traditions.

In the 20th century a handful of gifted master artists served both as caretakers of Native jewelry traditions and as innovators who paved the way for those who followed. They not only achieved technical excellence but also introduced groundbreaking new ideas and new approaches to traditional forms. Some, such as Bill Reid and Charles Loloma, adapted elements from the art world at large into Native jewelry.

Today's Native artists, like the master artists before them, balance traditional forms with individual styles and new ideas. For Native people with talent and enthusiasm, being an artist provides both status and respect in society and a way to make a living. In the Southwest Pueblos, many families are supported, at least in part, by working artists. And as in the past, Native jewelry nurtures the identity of the people, connecting them with their history and ancestry, and providing inspiration to future generations.