Canku Ota logo

Canku Ota

Canku Ota logo

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


August 25, 2001 - Issue 43


pictograph divider


10-year-old American Indian finds Success Carved in Stone


 photo of petroglyph in Arizona

LAWRENCE, KS -- David Nieto expresses himself in a different way than most young people -- through limestone, silver, copper and brass.

The 10-year-old artist gains inspiration from his American Indian heritage. Pride in his family background flows through his hands into works of sculpture and jewelry.

Though still young, the Prairie Park Elementary School student is beginning to attract the art world's attention.

In the past few years, David -- the son of Don and Jeannette Nieto of Lawrence -- has earned the admiration of professional artists, as well as awards in a major American Indian art show.

It appears that artistic talent runs in David's family.

Don Nieto is an accomplished artist, too, creating jewelry from silver, copper and brass, as well as carving sculptures from limestone.

"'I've learned almost everything that I know about sculpting and jewelry-making from my dad," David said. "My dad just gave me a stone and said to sculpt anything I wanted to out of it. I made a birdbath. It turned out pretty good."

That limestone birdbath sculpture won second place in the youth division -- artists ages 9-12 -- of the 2000 Red Earth Art Show in Oklahoma City.

Made of limestone, the birdbath has a small, bowl-shaped depression carved into the top of it to hold water.

On the sides of the birdbath, David chiseled the outline of a bear, a tiny carving of an Anasazi Indian cliff dwelling and the figure of Kokopelli, an American Indian symbol of fertility.

Kokopelli, who is always shown playing a horn, is also known in Indian mythology as "the trickster."

But David calls the symbol "the music man." He put the design there to provide "music" for birds using the bath.

He carved the cliff dwelling because the Anasazi were ancestors of his family's tribe, the Santo Domingo Pueblo of New Mexico.

David's artwork again found success at this year's Red Earth Art Show. His limestone sculpture, "White Buffalo," placed first in the 2001 youth division. The sculpture has an inset turquoise stone for an eye and a piece of black jet stone for a horn.

He worked on the buffalo for two years, using hand-held chisels and pneumatic air tools that chip away stone mechanically. Several elements of the sculpture's design have cultural significance, he said.

"The buffalo represents the survival of my people," he said. "They used it for housing, clothing, food and tools."

Variations in the sculpture's texture are also significant.

"The smooth side represents the city American Indians who are looking for identification and belonging," David said. "The textured side represents tradition for my people."

David's pleased that the buffalo was judged a winner in Oklahoma City. "I feel kind of confident about that," he said. "I like how it turned out."

Also at this year's Red Earth Art Show, David won a third-place youth award for his sterling silver "Paua Shell Shadow Box" pendant.

His artwork has received compliments from artists in the Kansas Sculptors Association, a group Don Nieto belongs to. During the association's symposium last October in Council Grove, sculptors complimented David on his work.

"They came up to David and said, 'We look forward to the day when we can read about you in art magazines,' " Don Nieto said.

David said it was a good feeling to have other artists recognize his efforts.

"It makes me inspired to do more," he said.

The hardest part of carving limestone sculptures is trying to figure out what to create next, he said.

"You have to think almost until your brain strains," David said. "I get my ideas just from looking out the window, the things I learn in school and my imagination."

   Maps by Travel

Red Earth Festival
June 7-10 . Red Earth, America's Greatest Native American Cultural Festival is excited to announce the winners of its 2001 Art Competition, held June 7th at the Myriad Convention Center in Downtown Oklahoma City.

pictograph divider



pictograph divider

  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 © 2000, 2001 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


Canku Ota logo


Canku Ota logo

The "Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America" web site and its design is the

Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2001 of Paul C. Barry.

All Rights Reserved.