NBC's Bob Dotson profiles blind American Indian sculptor Michael Naranjo.
Blind American Indian Sculptor Michael Naranjo Values Art Over Sight
TOM BROKAW, anchor:
On CROSS COUNTRY, which it is now time for, Bob Dotson takes you to one of the world’s most beautiful valleys where you’ll one of the world’s most unusual artists.
BOB DOTSON reporting:
The Sangre de Cristo Mountains, an inspiration for generations of artists. Each morning the paint pot tips and spills over, the sun casting its beauty for the artists below. Life in the valley is paste with that beauty. Sculptors work in the morning light, moving with the sun. Michael Naranjo has lived in these mountains all his life, but for him, they are only memories. Michael Naranjo is blind. Naranjo lost his site in Vietnam. Took up sculpturing to find new visions. Now he is creating a twelve-foot, 4,000-pound statue, all from touch.
Mr. MICHAEL NARANJO (Sculptor): I was sitting in the living room one day and saw this gray shadow moving across in front of me. It was my mind’s eye that was looking at it. And suddenly it formed as it moved across and it was an eagle dancer. And when I looked at it close, then it disappeared, but I had, at that time, seen it so that I could bring it back to my mind’s eye.
DOTSON: The sculptures that he makes are vivid shadows of his Indian heritage. Naranjo grew up in the pueblos that line the valley. His life in the reservation left an enormous wealth of memory. In the eleven years of his blindness, he has cast forty bronze sculptures.
Mr. NARANJO: They are my children. I struggled with them in thought, in their creation, and suddenly it’s very strong within. It has to come out.
Mrs. LORI NARANJO: You just sit there, we’re just going to work a little bit longer.
DOTSON: Michael’s loss has intensified his appreciation of life.
Mr. NARANJO: OK, let me look at that shoulder blade again.
DOTSON: Last year, he married. His wife Lori is his model and his eyes.
Mr. NARANJO: I’m happy, I’m very happy with my work. My life is full because of sculpture. If I had a choice of sight or sculpture, I wouldn’t take sight.
Mrs. NARANJO: How about right over here?
DOTSON: Michael Naranjo lost one gift, but found another.
Mrs. NARANJO: Let’s just go a little further.
DOTSON: He sees more deeply than most. For he has learned that life has both happiness and pain. You must have one to know the other. For TODAY, Bob Dotson, NBC News, in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, of New Mexico.