Jemez Pueblo Artist Estella Loretto Receives Regional Development Corporation Tribal Economic Diversity Fund Award

Works by artist Estella Loretto. Photos Courtesy RDC


Estella Loretto (Jemez), currently the only Native American woman working in monumental bronze sculpting, was the recipient of a Regional Development Corporation Tribal Economic Diversity Fund award in September 2020.

Loretto, a student of Allan Houser who is also a jeweler and a painter, is especially well known in Santa Fe for having created the bronze statue of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha that was commissioned by the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and was erected in the courtyard at St. Francis Cathedral.

Loretto is using the RDC award funds to update her e-commerce website, and for marketing and photography. Since the pandemic has caused the cancelation of so many art shows, Loretto said “It’s been challenging. As artists, we are already alone in our studios, and we get together at art shows, but we’ve had no art shows, so we haven’t been able to sell our work or see our friends and other artists.” Normally, she sells her work at both Summer and Winter Indian Markets, the Heard Show, and during balloon fiesta at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. Loretto has had many one-woman shows over the years, and is hoping that there is a way she and her daughter Fawn Loretto Eagleday, also an artist, will be able to have an open house around Christmas time.

Currently, she is working on a series of jewelry pieces called “Re-alignment 2020,” which incorporates the moon, stars, the earth and other cosmic elements into gold and sterling silver pieces with rubies, white sapphires, garnets, and other precious stones, all incorporated into earrings, bracelets, and bolo ties.

Loretto’s spirituality guides her,  her art is an exploration and a partnership with the divine, and she works in a studio that is a kind of kiva and sacred space.

When she was commissioned to create the bronze sculpture of Saint Kateri, the Archbishop scheduled a meeting with her the day after Jemez feast day. She took a basket of bread, tamales, cookies and a candle as a gift upon meeting him. He told her that, “for the love of the Native people, and what has transpired in the past, we want to commission you to do this bronze sculpture”.

Loretto asked Kateri to guide her, saying to the Saint, “You knew me before I knew you.” Ultimately, she felt that the statue should be about kindness, compassion and love.

In December she will be featured on the cover of “Luxury Edition” magazine in Santa Fe and Albuquerque.