Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
February 12, 2000 - Issue 03

Urshel Taylor

Urshel Taylor, who lives in Tucson, was one of three Native American artists named as an Arizona Indian Living Treasure for 1998.

The awards, given since 1988, honor Native Americans, age 60 and over, who have had a lifetime of producing art inspired by traditional art forms.

Honorees also are chosen because they are held in esteem both inside and outside their tribal communities.

Tipi Village by Urshel Taylor

Tipi Village by Urshel Taylor  

Urshel was born at the Phoenix Indian School and is of Ute/Pima descent. He is a memberof the Pima Salt River Community Indian Tribe. When Urshel was just two years old, his family moved to a working ranch on the Ute Reservation in Utah. It was on this ranch that he, along with two sisters and a brother, spent their growing up years

In 1956, planning to make the military his career, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps where he served for eight years. However, by 1963 having children to consider, he decided that the transient lifestyle of the military was not what he wanted for his family so he resigned from the service.

Urshel then took a position teaching art at the Intermountain Inter-Tribal School in Brigham City, Utah. Where, at the same time, he continued to work on his own skills by studying with such noted artist as Kent Wallace and Professor Linstrom at Utah State University.

During his years at the Intermountain Inter-Tribal School, in addition to his teaching duties, he was Director of Cultural Affairs which included the pow-wows. Through this, he became more deeply involved with the traditional native American dances. He and his three sons Keith, Tony and Dan danced in competition for fifteen years. The dancing proved to be an important element in he personal and professional growth.

Call of the Weasel Clan

Call of the Weasel Clan

Urshel described the feeling of being dressed in traditional dress and dancing to a good drum ...

"I recognize the song and who is singing by the style and the drum they use ... it makes me feel very connected to the past and the traditions of my people ... it makes me feel Indian".

Needing a way to express the emotions he experienced when dancing, Urshel began to carve dolls representing the traditional Northern type of dancer.

Urshel says he wants his work to be so authentic that it carries an aura of "Indian" ... so identifiable that when someone looks at his work they will know, without asking, that this piece was created with love and pride by an Indian. Urshel's years of study and research in historical Indian culture and crafts has served to reinforce his dedication to the authentic presentation of the American Indian. He says,

"I always try to capture the dignity and majesty of what my people have been and what they continue to be today".

Perhaps, due in part to his early ranch experience of working with horses and cattle, he painting style was greatly influenced by C.M. Russell. Urshel expressed great respect for Russell who, unlike some other artists, had first-hand knowledge of the life and activities depicted in his paintings. Many times, particularly in his early years as an artist, Urshel said he could spend a little time looking at Russell's work and come away inspired and encouraged to continue by the authenticity and realism he found there. Presently, Urshel's work reflects both traditional and very contemporary styles.

When asked what he considered his most important accomplishment, Urshel responded that he was most proud of his family ... he said they are well and happy and leading productive lives and, most importantly, they have always stood together. Through both hard times and good, they can count on one another for support in their individual efforts. Urshel and his wife Jackie have three sons of whom they are very proud. One of their sons, Tony, is beginning to work seriously at his art.

After more than thirty years in the art world, both creating and teaching, Urshel's desire to "give something back" was his motivation for opening The Owl Ear Gallery in Tucson, Arizona. As he knows only too well how difficult those early years can be for young artist, he would like to give them a little assistance by promoting their work. The artists featured in the gallery will include painters, sculptors, jewelers, potters, basket weavers and bead workers who's work will represent both traditional and contemporary styles.

"I would most like people reading this article to know and think of me as, a good man ... an honorable man who is proud of himself, he work, his family and his heritage as an American Indian."

Urshel Taylor
Urshel Taylor's Owl Ear Studio
2901 West Sahuaro Divide
Tucson, AZ 85742
(520) 297-4456
(800) 478-0180 Orders ONLY

back to the What's New page

Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.

Canku Ota is a copyright of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.

The "Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America" web site and its design is the Copyright © 1999 of Paul C. Barry. All Rights Reserved.