Joe Cajero, Jr. was born in 1970 in Santa Fe, New Mexico and raised in the Pueblo of Jemez. He is a descendant of a long line of Pueblo artists, including his father, a painter, and his mother, Esther, a potter. As a child, Cajero would often accompany her to Indian art shows throughout the Southwest.
Cajero knew early on he would be an artist and assumed he would follow in the lines of his father and become a painter. At fifteen years of age, while sitting in his mother's shop one day, she convinced him to take a piece of clay and try to create. That turned out to be a small bear figure. That first figure sold the same day before it had even dried. His mother encouraged him to continue work in clay. Cajero made several more bear figures and sold them. Eventually those bears began to stand upright and take on human characteristics. Hands emerged from claws and faces began to form. He knew then he had graduated to the next level.
In 1990, this next level took him to the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe after high school, where he studied two-dimensional art with a few classes in traditional pottery making. His mentor and cousin, Felix Vigil, was teaching there at the time and provided the young artist with priceless insight; "He taught me how to look and where to look inside myself, so that I didn't have to draw from other artists in order to find inspiration. I admire the work of other artists, but I look only to myself to create." Although Cajero continues to make the smiling koshare figures he is internationally known for, he is not one to rest on his laurels. He constantly strives to satisfy his need for fresh ideas and subject matter by challenging himself to try new techniques and imagery.
Cajero enjoys working with commercial clay and traditional Jemez clays, as well as, the process of selecting the patinas which are used in the finish of bronze sculptures. This has led to the opening of new creative doors for the artist. "It seems I've been developing my skills in clay to lead me to work in bronze, and working with bronze has enhanced my skills with natural clay." He is also creating a line of jewelry inspired by images taken from his bronze sculptures. He is excited about the creative possibilities that each medium has to offer.
2014 Living Treasures Award - Native Treasures - Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, Santa Fe, New Mexico
2013 Santa Fe Indian Market, First Place, Bronze Sculpture
2009 Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market, 1st Place, Bronze Sculpture