Those believing in the possibilities of the “preordained” might have thought fate had a hand in the chance meeting of three indigenous makers at the Pilchuck Glass School in 1984, an occurrence virtually unheard of at that time. Larry Ahvakana, Preston Singletary, and Tony Jojolo arrived at the school separately but quickly found a kinship in their common histories. As a result, together, they’ve ushered in a time of new creative possibilities for fellow indigenous artists. Although there still remains room for more, many opportunities for indigenous artists to use glass as a means of artistic expression were born from this fortunate summer meeting.
This exhibition, Native Influence: The Life and Impact of Tony Jojola, explores the history of glass as an artistic medium within the indigenous community and, specifically, how Tony Jojola’s philosophy and practice worked in service of that impact. At the heart of much of the growth in studio glass is the willing nature of the individuals preceding to contribute to those who follow. And in that spirit of giving – in that hand-me-down practice of making, sparked as a child learning at the side of his grandfather, a potter, and silversmith –Tony developed a body of work spanning five decades that continues to inspire by example and to motivate from a place of cherished pride.
Tony did it his way. His life’s work was a celebration of the confident self and, for those he chose to share it with, a self geared to giving and supporting his community of makers. Be it on the teams of Dale Chihuly, and Lino Tagliapietra or in teaching youth in Taos, New Mexico, where Tony worked with indigenous teens, Jojola shared his knowledge and skill with passion and, through it, found an avenue to his own joy and creative expression.
It is with great appreciation that I mount this exhibition in loving memory of a dear friend. Supported by the Traver Gallery and with the kind contribution of a group of participants who share my enthusiasm, this commemoration of solidarity, valued mentorship, and honored influence shines a light on the profound and permanent impact of our friend, Tony Jojola.
The Isleta Pueblo gave us Thur-Shun, our principled Tony, who in a relished manner, shared his unique heritage and lore in longevity and light.