From baseball dreams in the East, to studying art in Santa Fe, this premier clay artist has had a journey with unexpected twists.
Once he took a class in clay, at the Institute for American Indian Arts, his destiny was clear.
“To tell the truth, I began working in clay because I needed a couple of credits to stay in the dorms. After the first clay class I was hooked.”
Many, many awards and avid collectors later, he is known as a “storyteller ceramicist”, passing on the lore of his Choctaw tribe, through turtles and, as here, bears.
Instructions from tribal wisdom keepers were to protect and preserve the spirit of the people through the ages, which is what Randy’s work tries to do – in a most delightful way.
As a “foreigner” to the southwest, he does not have access to harvesting natural, local clay, so he uses commercial clay to form his engaging animal figures.
Instead of a pit, they are fired inside a large oil can, over a wood fire, and blackened the traditional Pueblo way: the wood fire is smothered at its hottest, by dried horse or sheep manure, producing that indelible black color.
This happy bear has found a whole load of firewood, and is cheerily bringing it home, one leg raised, as she takes a step forward.
It is a she, because women gathered firewood, among the Choctaw. Around her neck, she wears a buckskin medicine bag.
According to Choctaw lore, warriors carried some earth from their homeland in those bags, when going into battle. This made sure their spirit would find a way home, if they were killed.
Although this merry bear is totally unwarlike, she follows that custom.
After all, you never know what will happen, right? And she wanders far off, looking for wood…. Better safe than sorry.
Wonderfully expressive, this winsome bear is cuddly, despite being made of hard-surfaced clay. Her rounded form, and compact proportions, emphasize the adorable effect.
Big paws, big ears, a stubby tail, and round muzzle, are all charmingly lifelike, yet, without many details, she – and that gleeful grin – is immensely endearing.
Randy’s work has earned him several prestigious fellowships, as well as many prizes, at Native art shows.
His pieces are in museum collections, including The National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC, The Denver Art Museum, and the Heard Museum in Phoenix, AZ.
This joyful bear will lighten your heart, all year long!