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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Native American Artist Dies Of Liver Disease

An amazing artist's life was lost last month, but it seems like her legacy will continue to live on and not just with her art. After a long struggle with liver disease due to alcoholism, the award-winning Navajo potter Kathleen Nez has died. Known by just "Nez'' by most, she took part in Santa Fe's annual Indian Market show beginning in 1983, winning a number of awards for her creations, such as her stoneware. Her work has been renowned all over the country due to her participation in mainstream ceramic shows, including the "Objects for Use'' show at the American Craft Museum in New York. Collectors and museums all over the country feature her work, according to Robert Nichols, who for the last few decades has sold Nez's work in his gallery on Canyon Road.

Born in Tuba City, Ariz., in 1954, Nez was adopted and raised in Los Angeles away from the reservation of which her people live on. Since she did not have a strong cultural background she ended up drawing on influences from the Mimbres and Anasazi people, transforming their themes and patterns into her very own style of art according to Nez's daughter, Nicole. "Which is unusual for a Navajo today and a little controversial among my family on the reservation because the Mimbres were historically enemies of the Navajo people,'" Nicole Nez said.

Alcoholism is a major problem among the Native people and especially the Native American artist community, who like many artists from all cultures often get caught up with drugs and alcohol. Hopefully, the loss of Nez's life will not go in vain and people will see that there is a better way to live, one which will allow them to live to old age free of drugs and alcohol. Nicole Nez claims that she will be working on several projects around her mother's legacy, such as a book; the hope is that this will help raise funds for assisting Native American artists struggling with alcoholism.

"Part of the project is honoring her and her legacy but not ignoring that alcoholism was something that took her life,'' said Nicole Nez, who said her mother suffered from liver disease for about five years before she died. "I think it's important, because I think the whole Native American artist community at large struggles with alcoholism.''

Native Times

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