In 1975, I was invited by the buyer from the University of California, Northridge, bookshop to do a week long trunk show, with Indian jewelry and Navajo weavings. This was during a time that turquoise jewelry was a hot commodity and it sounded like a great idea.
About a week before I headed West, the buyer called and said they had some requests for Native American paintings. At that time, we did not sell paintings, but I said, "Sure, we can do that." Then I had to figure out how.
I called Ellen Cargile, an art professor at Fort Lewis College, which has a large Native population, and asked her if she had any students who would have work good enough to sell at the show.
She sent Clifford Brycelea, a senior Navajo student who was a couple of years younger than I am, down to the old Pepsi building where we had our business back then. He brought in a group of really nice watercolor paintings that all had sort of a spiritual side to them. It was the beginning of a long friendship.
"Chasing Star Kachina" 9 inches by 12 inches $1075
We started selling Clifford's paintings to galleries and shops around the country and, when my sister and I started our art publishing business, he was one of the first artists whose posters and prints we published and distributed.
"Long Hair Kachina" 9 inches by 12 inches $1075
My dad introduced Clifford to Louis L'Amour who hired him to do the illustrations for a story in American Way magazine. He later did the painting for the cover of L'Amour's book, "The Haunted Mesa."
Soon after that, at a show we were doing at the Utah Museum of Natural History, he met Terry Tempest Williams and she asked him to illustrate the book, "Pieces of White Shell."
Brycelea's work evolved and changed over the years, continuing to evolve. He went from simple watercolors and acrylics to more and more detailed work.
"We're Under One Nation" 24 inches by 30 inches $2400
Initially, many of his paintings dealt with Kachina's, Yei's (the Navajo Gods) and other spiritual themes. These are spectacular paintings!
"We're Under One Nation" detail
Eventually, on the advice of a medicine man, he began to move away from those themes to landscapes.
"The Rain Storm" 12 inches by 12 inches. $425
One of these won him the Indian Arts and Crafts Association Artist of the Yearaward and another painting of the Cathedral in Santa Fe was chosen by that city to create a fine art poster promoting the area.
"Quiet Time" 23 inches by 17 inches $800
Clifford won blue ribbons at the Gallup Ceremonial and Indian Market. His watercolors of "Navajo land" became famous for their incredible details and spirituality. While most watercolor artists have a loose and flowing style, in Clifford's work you can see the detail on the tree branches and the wings of birds in flight.
One style that Clifford created over the years depicted ancient stone windows. Two of these pieces were my favorites from this period of his work. One is in the collection of the Center for Southwest Studies at Fort Lewis College and the other was sold to a collector who lives on the East Coast. Recently, that collector consigned this great piece to the gallery to sell. We are proud to offer it to you.
The title of the painting is "Solstice Morning". The painting shows a stone window, opening on an ancient land. The view looks over a Navajo Ceremonial basket filled with sacred corn meal. The land and the sky fill the opening with a sense of wonder and the basket and it's contents create the link between mankind and the Spirit.
his acrylic on canvas painting is exceptional! It measures 48 inches by 30 inches and is priced at $3,000.
We have also included photographs of some of his watercolors that are lovely, small examples of his work.
Today, Brycelea lives in Santa Fe with his wife Edi and concentrates on doing a few shows every year.
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Jackson Clark II