Considering Native artists are underrepresented in artists-in-residency programs, the Institute of American Indian Arts Artist-in-Residence program, has just named accomplished Navajo jeweler and sculptor Fritz Casuse the newest resident, bringing in a total of 28 artists from the Pacific Northwest, the Upper-Midwest, and the Southwest.
Fritz Casuse is a well-known and respected artist in the Santa Fe Native art community that has won top awards at the SWAIA Indian Art Market and the Heard Museum Indian Fair and Market. He is also a sculptor and brings this expertise to his handcrafted jewelry-making, creating highly dimensional, complex and textured jewelry pieces that are elegant, fluid and full of movement.
His family is from Twin Lakes outside of Gallup, New Mexico. He attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in 1996 taking studio arts in painting, sculpture and clay but soon got the jewelry bug. In 1998 he went out and started his new career by buying used equipment from a pawn shop and basing himself in a work ethic learned from his welder-carpenter father.
From 2000 on he started to participate in the Santa Fe Indian Market and the Heard Museum Indian Market and later with Native Treasures in Santa Fe, the Autry Museum Market in Los Angeles and Oklahoma markets.
Fritz Casuse said the road wasn’t easy. “It’s hard going on the road and ending up having to ‘educate’ buyers and potential clients about my designs. They don’t get it, my designs are out of the box. I can go out of my way for a concept.” He also discovered that traveling would also take away from his new found interest in teaching students.
It seems his upbringing and self-taught background was conducive to teaching. He had a regular teaching position at Poeh Cultural Center in Pojoaque, New Mexico, which has had a good reputation for local artists to come and share their knowledge with native and non-native students, while producing their own work.
Fritz Casuse has a presence on retail jewelry sites such as Shumakolowa at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque and the major retail site QVC where he creates lines just for that outlet. He can also be found at Towa Artists, which is based at Pojoaque Pueblo and whose artists teach and exhibit at the Poeh Center.
Fritz Casuse just started teaching at Arizona State University in Tempe and actually commutes between that new teaching position during the week and his one month residency with IAIA around the weekend. Most artists may prefer to remain in their studios or homes or a home base of operation, but Fritz is always on the go and he imparts this energy and passion to his students.
Student Tiffany Adams (Chemehuevi/Maidu) said, “I learned a lot from Fritz over the last four weeks. We’ve just been bugging him and picking his brain. He’s an awesome teacher.” Stephanie Alie (Santa Clara) has been able to follow Fritz from Poeh Center to IAIA because “He is such an amazing teacher. I studied with him at Poeh and I’ve been persistent and followed him to IAIA.”
Indian Country was at the IAIA jewelry studio and found out that Fritz and some of the IAIA jewelry students would be conducting a gold casting session later in the evening, and we have the photos to show you. Casuse ends his IAIA residency on February 19 and will be found teaching at ASU-Tempe on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
To see designs by Fritz Casuse, visit the Towa Artist's website.