Charles Lovato from the Kewa (Santo Domingo) Pueblo learned to make traditional jewelry at an early age and continued to make beautiful and unique pieces until his death at 51.
He worked with silver and gold and ground his stones into tubular beads (heishi) as well as anyone ever has, but his unique talent was painting. He is the only major painter to come from his pueblo. During his career he also did murals and illustrated books, including his own book of poetry, Life Under the Sun, which now sells on Amazon for $920.00!
Charles used to sell us beautiful jewelry and occasionally, a small painting. He was an easy-going man who liked to visit, and we spent a lot of time in my office talking about his family and his life. It was not an easy one and he had his challenges, but he beat them all except cancer, which led his death.
He was usually accompanied by his wife, Clara, and his son, Sonny.
During the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, Charles began to work with lithographers to create limited edition prints. They were immediately successful and helped him build a reputation among people who had never seen his original work.
Before the internet, one way an artist spread his reputation was by creating prints of their most popular work and having those prints distributed by publishers. People loved the prints and it led to their being interested in the artist’s originals. At least that was the theory. And it worked.
Charles’ booths at the Santa Fe Indian Market usually sold out and it was fun to visit with him and Clara and Sonny. He was the brother of Henry and Paul Rosetta and the whole family was usually together at the market. Those were good days.
At his last Indian Market, Charles was very sick and had left the booth when I got there that morning. Clara had one painting left of Charles that was a self-portrait. It was a painting with his back, wrapped in a blanket and walking away from a group of people, fading into the paper. It was his last painting and one that I will always cherish.
He gave me a painting the year before he died, and I had it hanging in my office for years. Then, about six or seven years ago, I got a call from Sonny. I had seen his mom but had not seen him since he was about 10 years old. He was calling to ask me to come to his wedding, which was a real honor.
One thing about artists who pass early in life is that they seldom keep any of their own work, they always assume that they will have time. I thought of the painting in my office and knew where it belonged. It was the perfect present for Sonny and his new bride.
We have two beautiful lithographs by Charles that were printed in the 1980s. I think they were two of his best.