Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fred Nahwooksy

While working on the sculptures of Always Becoming on the Smithsonian Mall, Fred Nahwooksy often stopped by the site to talk with the crew. At one point he brought a rock from his house and asked that it be incorporated into the one of the forms we were building. We planted Fred's rock inside the female form hidden within one of the tee-pee shapes. One day Fred invited me to the Smithsonian's National Gallery to look at a Jasper John's exhibit. Fred had an hour for lunch so the exhibit walk through became a sprint through Jasper John's years of work. That lunch hour was also an introduction into Fred Nahwooksy's thought process. While we looked at art Fred spoke about the state of Contemporary Native Art, ideas he had for a painting and the projects he was working on for NMAI, Fred's thoughts, articulated with lightning speed and clarity made the hour pass far too quickly for me. After that day whenever we had time Fred and I would visit a different exhibit and each time it was an exercise in keeping up with his train of thought and his walking pace and I loved it. I was inspired by the way Fred looked at the world and the people in it, he was a practical thinker and yet he took his love for art into his work, emphasizing a creative approach to more administrative and mundane details. Fred was smart and at times sarcastic as hell. Fred thought about things and was not afraid to speak his mind which was energizing and at times intimidating. He loved intellectual banter and few did it better with him than his friend, Rick Hill. A couple of times I had the opportunity to hear Rick and Fred spar. The verbal volley was fast and competitive, the jokes rolled easily and woe to anyone standing in the way of their rollicking discourse, whatever the topic.  

Last Spring while filming at NMAI for Always Becoming, I asked Fred if we could interview him. Of course Fred had a lot on his mind and was more than willing to share his thoughts with us. Below is a good part of the interview. I'm grateful for the opportunity to have interviewed one of our best and brightest on that early Spring lunch hour when he was full of life and of course, just a tad ornery. 

Fred, you will be missed.

The Always Becoming sculpture called, Mountain Bird has a red mud, female form in it's center.  Several days ago, shortly after Fred's passing, Mountain Bird lost part of it's bamboo siding. Heavy rains washed away a layer of Mountain Bird exposing the red mud form. When this happened I thought of Fred's rock buried in the foundation of the sculpture now visible.     

Part II of Strong Women
will return next month