Gallery Artists > Oreland C. Joe, Sr. Biography :

Oreland C. Joe, Sr. (b. 1958)  Artworks >>

Organizations* : CAA

“Ideas come to me in several ways. At four in the morning, I might hear a song and put it down quickly. There may be a sudden stance of a dance I must capture. Walking alone I see a caprice of nature I can use or I have a feeling of déjà vu. I visualize the final state and put it down.” Oreland C. Joe grew up on the Navajo Reservation in Shiprock, New Mexico. When his first grade teacher encouraged his crayon drawings, he decided that art was what he wanted to do with his life. His family also nurtured his talent; his father gave him drawings to copy, especially in church to keep him quiet. His mother supplied plenty of Big Chief notebooks.

After high school, Joe became an illustrator for the school print shop. But a 1978 trip to Paris was the turning point in his artistic career. He was there to perform as an Indian Hoop Dancer, but “During the day, I visited the art museums and galleries and was most struck by the gardens of Versailles. Something clicked in me when I saw the statuary. I had to know how it was done, how to use marble.”

Without any kind of formal training, Joe taught himself the rudiments of sculpture, often inventing his own tools to create the results he wanted. Today, his works in stone reflect simplistic styling and deep emotion. His own family, and the Southern Ute culture of his father inspire many of his pieces.

Of the evolution of his work, Joe says, “My philosophy is that it matters little how large or small a piece is, as long as each one has its own individual quality. As a stone carver, I work in alabaster, marble and limestone. My work is continually evolving – it is becoming more representational or realistic all the time. As a beginning artist you search for your ground and I used to depict any Indian – Blackfoot, Cheyenne – they all fascinated me. But my talent developed and I began to develop personally. These past few years I’ve concentrated on my own people, the Southern Ute, and have found that there is a massive amount of knowledge to be shared by these people. Some people feel that one Native American is much the same as any other, but each tribe is totally unique, and I feel the Southern Utes are special.”

Reference:, NAWA publication

  • CAA = Cowboy Artists of America
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