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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


January 11, 2003 - Issue 78


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Youngster's Jewelry, Sculpture Winning Competitions

by Jan Biles The Capital-Journal
credits: Anthony Bush The Capital Journal

David NietoLAWRENCE, KS -- Lawrence artist David Nieto knows that age doesn't matter when it comes to art.

The 12-year-old Central Junior High School student is an up-and-comer in the American Indian art world.

He has won numerous awards for his sculpture and jewelry at the Red Earth Art Show in Oklahoma City and the Lawrence Indian Arts Show in Lawrence. He makes workshop presentations on such topics as silversmithing with children; entreprenuership, marketing and motivation; and Santo Domingo pueblo silversmithing.

He has participated in the Kansas Sculptor's Stone Symposium and the Haskell Indian Art Market. Last May, he created and donated a limestone sculpture to Prairie Park Elementary School, where he was attending classes.

Why he is drawn into art is simple.

"It's something I can do, and it feels good to do it," the young artist said.

Nieto, a member of the Santo Domingo tribe, made his first brass bracelet with stamped designs when he was 4 or 5. He learned the skill from his father, Don Nieto, a versatile artist and lab technician for the physics and astronomy department at The University of Kansas.

By the time he turned 9, David Nieto was using hand tools to carve in stone. One of his first stone projects was a bird bath titled "Weeska," which means "robin" in his native language. He wanted to create the bird bath to provide water for a robin that often appeared in the family's front yard.

The bird bath is decorated with images of a flute-playing kokopelli (to harmonize with the robin's song), a bear (for strength and healing power so the bird could fly) and a cliff dwelling (to acknowledge the artist's Anasazi ancestors).

When he was 10 or 11, Nieto mastered power tools enough to carve a buffalo from a chunk of Kansas limestone quarried at St. Marys. The buffalo had eyes of turquoise and horns of acoma jet.

At this year's Lawrence Indian Arts Show, the adolescent sold all of his jewelry on the first night and was being sought out to do commissioned works.

"Now I'm working on a Kansas limestone bear," he said. "I'm also working on a ring with red jasper."

In addition to his artwork, Nieto plays piano, clarinet and bassoon; referees for a summer youth soccer league; is a member of the North American Indian Tennis Association and Central Junior High School tennis team; and has piloted a single-engine airplane.

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