L. Eugene Nelson
"I'm the first to admit that being Native American has helped me in the art world," Nelson says. He says shows such as the Santa Fé Indian Market, Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Arts and Crafts Show and the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market gave him the vital contacts he has in the art world today. These shows still are important to him, but he says more than winning prizes he enjoys his contact with his customers and their feedback.
"I just say that I'm an artist. I don't even say that I'm a silversmith or goldsmith. I don't have that type of technical education or training," Nelson says modestly of his work, which exhibits an extraordinary amount of precision and detail.
"The challenge is to create designs that no one else has thought to make. However, when you do become successful with your designs, then the challenge is to continue to be creative and not to be satisfied with your past successes.
"I grew up with kids that were Hispanic, black and Anglo. We all 'just played together. I was growing up in the '50s and we all loved Westerns. And I know this sounds wild, but when we played 'cowboys and Indians' my brothers and I usually wanted to be the cowboys!" He says he actually dealt with major culture shock when the family moved back to Shiprock. As a youngster, he felt isolated because he didn't know how to speak Navajo and struggled to be accepted by other Navajos.
"My approach is not simply to make jewelry, but to create art. Enjoyment and creativity are both necessary in this process. In designing, I approach my artwork as a three-dimensional object with details that only complement the overall piece. This allows me to highlight certain parts of the work without overdoing the piece and ending up with an ornate, and sometimes, gaudy appearance."
Today, he still works in a small converted utility room using many of the same tools from years ago. "Perhaps, because I had such simple tools it forced me to be more creative and precise in my work."