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The very essence of Mother Earth

TUCSON, Ariz. – Apache artist Craig Dan Goseyun is able to bring to life his love of nature, American Indian heritage and spirituality.

A humble man with a brilliant talent, he has become one of the top American Indian artists in the state of Arizona, as well as internationally. One of his most recent bronze sculptures, the “Watercarrier,” graces the entrance to Arizona State Museum on the campus of the University of Arizona – Tucson.

The larger than life sculpture, donated to ASM by Arnold and Doris Roland, is female – the very essence of Mother Earth. She is swathed from head to foot in a garment through which graceful swirls, cut through the fabric of her bronze gown, show the relationship between the earth and sky. On her head she carries a vessel used to haul water.

“I have always been interested in stylized simple pieces and abstract art,” Goseyun said. “The ‘Watercarrier’ is a very simple shape. From the beginning of time, and to this day, there are cultures that still carry water vases on top of their head. Water is one of the most important resources that we have.”

To create a bronze sculpture, Goseyun must first make molds from clay, which can take three weeks or more to complete. Depending on the size of the sculpture and how complicated the piece is, the mold may require two or three parts.

Even though marble is less durable and flexible than bronze, he enjoys carving it into realistic life-size pieces that take about three months to finish.

“Being back home on the San Carlos Apache Reservation watching the spirit dancers and traditional dancers, I get goose bumps all over and my hair stands up. The powerful songs they sing, along with the ceremonies, the strength, fill the air with something like electricity. It is very exciting to me,” Goseyun said.

He brings those feelings to life in his bronze Apache Mountain Spirit Impersonator Dancers; realistic full movement sculptures depicting coming of age and healing ceremonies.

His parents were both from the same tribe and were fluent speakers of their language.

“My maternal clan is called the Black Water Clan and my paternal clan has a meaning like the natural erosion on the side of a hill. When I see these natural formations in nature on my reservation, the wind, water, natural elements and sculpting where the water flows in the canyons, lighting, shadows, colors and textures, that really excites me a lot. The ‘Watercarrier’ is similar to that; there is a lot of free form.”

Commissioned by his reservation in the late ’90s to design a 16-foot bronze sculpture, the “Hoop and Pole Game Dancer,” he was also contacted by Haskell University in Kansas who purchased the second bronze in the series which sits at the entrance to their university.

Gaining international fame, in 2000 he was contacted by Disney World Productions in Japan who selected him as a special design artist to work on the “Tree of Life” in the new Animal Kingdom.

Goseyun began his career in art at the age of 13.

“The teacher gave our class an art project. Mine started with a big blotch of black ink and I used a straw to blow the ink in an upward direction. It became a tree. I used a sponge with a really bright orange pink color to blot the tree with and it looked like a cherry tree in the spring time. The art teacher was so enthusiastic about it she showed it to the principle who hung it in his office. From then on I was interested in looking at books full of photographs of portraits and sculpture. I was fascinated by it, especially by the more realistic pieces of Michelangelo.”

Beginning his studies at Arizona State University in Tempe where he majored in drawing, he transferred after one semester to the Institute of American Indian Art in Santa Fe, N.M. Two years later he graduated with high honors and a degree in three-dimensional sculpture and photography. He spent an additional five years at IAIA, and six years as an apprentice with the late Apache master sculptor Alan Houser, experimenting and learning the art of sculpture. “I went from drawing to painting, to jewelry and photography, and finally sculpture.”

“I went from drawing to painting, to jewelry and photography, and finally sculpture,” Goseyun said.

The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe will be displaying seven to 10 large pieces of Goseyun’s sculptures beginning in May 2009. To view more of his work, visit the Craig Dan Goseyun Studio located at 3 Avenida Maya, Santa Fe, in the community of Eldorado, or call the gallery at (505) 466-3546.

Goseyun’s artistic creations serve as an inspiration and reminder to many American Indians of their heritage. He described his art as, “An expression of the quiet ancient part of American Indians still alive in a fast and changing world.”