Melanie and Michael Lente
Melanie Kirk-Lente and her husband, Michael Lente carry on a contemporary fine jewelry design philosophy established by Melanie’s late father, Isleta Pueblo artist Andy Lee Kirk. He is considered one of the fathers of the genre, the person for whom the SWIAA Indian Market awards committee created the Contemporary jewelry category for in the late 1970’s.The couple have carried Kirk’s vision forward and evolved styles of their own. They both studied with him and are graduates of GIA as well.
The Lentes live at Isleta with their three daughters and participate in all pueblo ceremonials. This experience is reflected in every work of art they create. “Our jewelry represents a way of life, says Kirk-Lente. “It is a mixture of our past and the modern world. It has come from many teachings, not only in technique and skill but in finding ways to connect our rich heritage with contemporary design. We believe it is really about many defining moments. As artists, we see these moments occur daily, influencing world as they progress to completion. Defining moments happen outside the studio, and can change who we are as artists.”
The Lentes consider the best part of their job to be attending the gathering of artists in any arena, gallery or market. This provides an opportunity to enjoy a vast array of design and techniques as well as to enjoy the accomplishments and hard work of everyone involved. Their own work always wins high praise and noteworthy awards. They work in gold and sterling silver, and incorporate such stones as opal, sugilite, turquoise, lapis coral and diamonds in their exceptionally strong designs. They create textures that evoke nature, bringing to mind bark, clouds or flowing water and conveying a message of reverence for the natural world.
“Indigenous heritage is the key to ancient wisdom,” says Kirk-Lente. “We must hold onto it and fight for it, because our past is what makes us who we are as people. Keeping our traditions alive through language and art is vital. Listen, learn and continue to share your message.”