Photo courtesy Thosh Collins,
Catching up with the artist, Cannupa Hanska Luger, at the Blue Rain Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 2015.

Luger: Artist Cannupa Hanska Talks ‘Nature & Nurture’

Chelsey Luger

To be a reporter during the Santa Fe Indian Market and the Indigenous Fine Arts Market in New Mexico is just plain overwhelming – so many beautiful stories, so many incredible artists, and so little time. Not quite sure where to begin, I decided to go with what I've always known: family first.

Cannupa Hanska doesn't usually like to describe his art – he’d rather leave it up to the viewer's interpretation. But I'm his little cousin, and I came with questions, so he did me a solid.

I followed him into the Blue Rain Gallery already feeling small next to his 6-foot-something frame. A few steps in, we looked to the right, and there it was – “Nature.” Suddenly, we were all small. To be in the presence of this sculpture felt just like the way real life nature makes you feel. Humble.

Cannupa explains:

"I wanted her to be above us all. She's like the giving tree. No matter how much you take and take and take, she's just going to keep going. She's going to outlast you. She's built out of three essential pillars: steel, clay, and textiles. Her hair is made of unspun wool like a predecessor. She has a masculine posturing, pulled from a muay thai defensive stance, with feminine aspects as well, just to blur the idea of sexuality with mother nature. The aspect of her being steel and transparent is a process which allows us to recognize that she is a part of everything. You can see through her, but you're not actually seeing through her. You're just seeing that she is a part of everything. She's open and protected. Animal and human. Not existing in any certain time or place other than right now."

We go to the other room to find Nature's companion: “Nurture.” There they were: A playful young boy next to an unexpected caregiver, the deer.

Cannupa explains:

"If you take your hands and put them on your head like the little boy is doing, it looks like deer antlers – it’s the same form. That's why I chose the deer over an elk or any other animal. I thought about a bear, but the deer is more elegant and less expected as a nurturing figure - especially because he's male. The materials are along the same lines as Nature, and I built them all simultaneously. The textile, steel and ceramics represent pillars in civilization. Nature and Nurture both raise us. I wanted to emphasize the idea of nurture as not to be strictly left in the realm of human compassion. Nurture doesn't necessarily mean your mother and father. So I used this large deer form to be the parenting aspect of the child that runs with him."

The Denver Art Museum has already purchased Nature, but until it moves there, it will be hanging out with Nurture and several of Cannupa's other sculptures at the Blue Rain Gallery in Santa Fe.

Some of Cannupa's other work can be found in museums in various parts of the world such as the North America Native Museum in Zürich, Switzerland; the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico; and the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art in Norman, Oklahoma.

Cannupa himself can be found next month in Alaska, where he has been invited as the 2015 Rasmuson Foundation Artist in Residence at the Native Art Center at the University of Alaska.

For more, go to or like his artist page on Facebook.

Chelsey Luger is Anishinaabe and Lakota from North Dakota. She hopes to be a strong link in a long chain of ancestors and descendants by spreading ideas for health and wellness. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter. Ideas for articles? Email her: [email protected].

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