Word into Art, £16.99
Length: 5.000 cm (truck)
Room 26: North America
Clarence's Truck, by Clarence Lee
Navajo (Dine'), AD
Twin Lakes, New Mexico, USA
This ring is typical of the work of Clarence Lee: nostalgic and humorous in tone, it evokes the everyday life of the Navajo in a narrative style. It depicts a driver in a truck carrying a full water butt, with dogs in the back and running alongside. The truck is modelled on a Chevrolet pick-up truck, which in the 1950s (during Lee's childhood) replaced the horse and cart as the means of crossing the extended Navajo reservation. As made evident here, they greatly simplified the vital process of collecting water.
Clarence Lee (born 1952) is the son of part-time jewellers, whose father was the first Native American in the New Mexico legislature. After a brief rodeo career, Lee took up jewellery full-time. He works on sheet silver (and sometimes gold) using handmade dies and stencils to create the body of the piece. He then enhances it with semi-precious stones. Here he has used coral, turquoise and tiger's eye.
The tradition of Navajo silver work is around 150 years old, but has developed many different styles. Although at first it was mainly purchased within the community or traded for goods, it is now a popular art form. Silver was the primary material used in Navajo jewellery, though often enhanced with turquoise, which has great ceremonial and religious value. Turquoise is accorded properties of protection and healing, and is a component of all Navajo rituals and a central ingredient in offerings for rain. It is also associated with creation, one of the four directions (south) and the sacred Mt. Taylor in New Mexico.
D. Pardue, The cutting edge: contemporary (The Heard Museum, Phoenix, 1992)
J.C.H. King, First peoples, first contacts: (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)
D. Cirrillo, Southwestern Indian jewelry (New York, Abbeville Press, 1992)