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September 28, 2015

Always Becoming: Nora Naranjo-Morse's Vision of Change and Renewal

Since the summer of 2007, Always Becoming—a group of clay sculptures artist Nora Naranjo-Morse (Santa Clara Pueblo) describes as a family—has graced the landscape of the National Museum of the American Indian. Nora's work, selected unanimously by the museum from proposals offered by Native artists from throughout the Western Hemisphere, has become a popular, and unusually humble, Washington landmark. 

From the beginning, Nora embraced the idea that the environment would collaborate in shaping her sculptures, although she and members of her non-metaphorical family have returned to the museum each year to provide stewardship for the work. Between now and October 1, they are here to see Always Becoming into a new phase. "The proposed second phase allows us not only to revisit the original concept of Always Becoming," she says, "but to understand and articulate the knowledge of change and renewal." 

The museum will update Nora's photo diary whenever she takes a break to talk about the work. —NMAI

Day 1—A new generation of people is working on Always Becoming, phase 2. Benito Steen was 16 when he worked on the original project. He is now 26. Eliza, my daughter, and her partner John Cross are also on the team, and they bring their important skill sets. It's exciting to be back and to be looking and working on Always Becoming again, it's like coming back to family. —Nora Naranjo–Morse 

Always Becoming day 1-1

Day 2—Forming foundations, collecting materials, connecting community. —NNM

Always Becoming day 2-1

Always Becoming day 2-2

Always Becoming day 2-3Day 3—The cool air and encouragement of passersby made today an easy and inspiring work day. NNM


IMG_1748 IMG_1751

Day 6—Part of the Always Becoming team went on a collecting trip to gather poles from a 100-year-old tobacco barn 50 miles south of the museum. Glenn Burlack, a museum staff person, generously offered his time and efforts to help us locate and collect 15 poles to use in the sculpture known as Taa. 
While part of the team traveled to cull poles, other Always Becoming team members stayed on site building the new sculptures. Our work, all of it, is labor intensive, but truly satisfying.

Always Becoming 6-1 Always Becoming 6-2

Always becoming 6-3 Always Becoming 6-4 Always Becoming 6-5

Day 7—Benito's blueprints and collections of clay.

Always Becoming 7-1 Always Becoming 7-2 Always Becoming 7-3

Days 10 & 11—Moving to the tee pee form known as Taa, John and Benito worked shaving and charring the inner ring of posts. 

Eliza, Emily, and I worked on adding more clay balls and refining the lines in the mud forms.

Always Becoming 10-11-1 Always Becoming 10-11-3 Always Becoming 10-11-4Always Becoming 10-11-2

Always Becoming 10-11-5 Always Becoming 10-11-6 Always Becoming 10-11-7 Always Becoming 10-11-8 Always Becoming 10-11-9


Photos by Nora Naranjo-Morse and her family
and colleagues on the Always Becoming project team. 




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