Naranjo was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1944. He grew up in
the Tewa Indian pueblo of Santa Clara, New Mexico. He developed
an interest in clay and sculpting as a young boy. His mother was
a potter and young Naranjo often helped her prepare her clay by
blending various types of clay together with his feet. Later he
made figures of animals and sculptures with the clay.
January 8, 1968 while Naranjo served in the army in Vietnam a hand
grenade exploded near him causing him to loose his vision and partial
use of his right hand. Luckily, Michael was born with a sixth sense,
an inner vision which helped him to retain vivid mental pictures
of things he had once seen before him, and as with any "muscle"
when put to good use, he began to perfect this inner vision and
fulfill his desire to become a sculptor.
sculpt he does! Be it with a shapeless piece of wax, or a massive
chunk of stone, Michael is able to put life into each of his creations.
His work shows beauty, form, grace, and strength, all elements which
are a part of Michael Naranjo. The patina he chooses is dark, the
way he sees each creation, telling a story which is theirs alone.
recuperating in a hospital bed in Tokyo, Michael nearly gave up
his lifelong dream of becoming a sculptor. But, when he fashioned
a tiny inchworm with his left hand from some clay given him, the
flames of his dream were rekindled. He began to sculpt and mold
other figures as he healed. Just as the tiny inchworm moves steadfastly
forward, the sculptor's journey began again.
1969, Michael completed training at the Western Blind Rehabilitation
Center in Palo Alto, California and returned to New Mexico to begin
a career as a sculptor. In the more than 30 years that have followed,
Michael, has become a sculptor of note. His works are collected
by museums and private collectors worldwide. Along the way, he has
inspired countless people as a living example of what the human
spirit is capable of.
as the "artist who sees with his hands," Michael has achieved
worldwide recognition for his sculpture, to be sure. He also has
become a light in the darkness not only for those with a disability
aspiring towards the arts, but to all humankind, as to why it is
so important to follow one's ideals. He hopes that through his work,
he can stand as an example of what can be done and encourage others
to go on.
not only creates works of art for sale, but he has his sculptures
on display in US museums, the Vatican, and the White House. He also
leads sculpture workshops for children and adults and has a sculpture
gallery in which he encourages all people to touch the pieces on
addition to world wide recognition, Naranjo was named the Outstanding
Disabled Veteran of the Year in 1999 and during that same year he
received the LIFE Presidential Unsung Hero Award.
Heard Museum Online Exhibition