When a silversmith pours molten metal, keeping one’s balance is key to avoiding a potential catastrophe. Anthony Lovato has a surprising secret to maintaining good body coordination: karate expertise.
Lovato, a master of tufa metal casting, has a brown belt in the discipline and says it teaches many lessons that can be applied elsewhere in life. While the belt reflects karate skill, he has garnered numerous other awards and recognitions for his work during a four-decade career as a jewelry maker. The latest is the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture’s 2023 Living Treasure Award.
Lovato, of Santo Domingo Pueblo, was announced recently as that award’s recipient, and sisters Lynda Teller Pete and Barbara Teller Ornelas, both Navajo tapestry weavers, were named the winners of the Native Treasures Legacy Award. Both awards recognize people who have made outstanding artistic contributions to the field of Indigenous arts and culture, according to MIAC, and the recipients will be recognized at the Native Treasures Art Market over Memorial Day weekend.
Lovato joins a heady group of winners; last year’s Living Treasure Award recipient was renowned artist Virgil Ortiz (Cochiti Pueblo). Ortiz will also be recognized at this spring’s market. Past winners include Lonnie Vigil (Nambé Pueblo) in 2010, Tony Abeyta (Navajo) in 2012, Dan Namingha (Tewa/Hopi) in 2016, and Diego and Mateo Romero (Cochiti Pueblo) in 2019.
Tufa metal casting involves carving stone in preparation for pouring molten silver, then creating texture and polishing. Lovato is known for corn design jewelry and canteens.
“You’re never a master at what you do, even if they tell you that,” he says. “You’re always learning, the rest of your life. It’s a never-ending process.”
Teller Pete is a 2022-23 Luce Indigenous Knowledge fellow and the director of equity and inclusion on the board of the Textile Society of America. Teller Ornelas is a 2023 United States Artists fellow and has received numerous awards for her work.
“Lyn and I are sisters and best friends,” Teller Ornelas writes via email. “We travel a lot, and we are in New York right now for our opening of the exhibition Shaped by the Loom.”
She adds that the sisters are grateful for the recognition. Both are natives of Two Grey Hills, New Mexico; Teller Pete now lives in Denver, while Teller Ornelas lives in Tucson, Arizona. They often are together, traveling.
“Lynda and I have been teaching for 24 years; we’ve taught in Toronto, Canada, and Oaxaca, Mexico,” Teller Ornelas writes. “I’ve traveled for teaching and doing workshops in Peru, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan. I also did a residency in London at the Museum of Mankind, which is part of the British Museum. It’s fun to meet other Indigenous weavers from all over the world and see similar work. I’ve bonded with a lot of them.” England’s Museum of Mankind closed in 1997.
Lovato was a tribal official for Santo Domingo Pueblo in 1993, 2008, and 2020, and he thinks often about how to improve conditions at the pueblo.
“As you get older, you begin to realize your surroundings — especially living in kind of like a Third World country,” he says. “You begin to see things after serving several times as a tribal official. The negative stuff, so you try to start turning things around in a positive way. I’m trying to do that through the arts.”
How can art help?
“Because it leads to life, rather than the wasted life that I see sometimes,” he says. “You’re paving the road for a career. You’re opening the gates into the art world.”