Tribal Affiliation: Navajo
Sand Girl, as Lucy is known, was raised by her grandparents and other older relatives near Sheep Springs, Arizona. In the 8th grade she moved to Gallup, New Mexico, to live with her mother and attend high school. She received a degree in education from Brigham Young University and taught for many years on the Navajo Reservation.
The recipient of numerous awards, Lucy is known as an innovator in the Native American art world. On her personal website, she gives the following artist statement:
“I am mostly a self-taught potter who has spent the last 44 years trying to make the art of Navajo pottery evolve up into a fine art form that goes beyond tradition but still uses traditional native materials and methods. I am known for making very large, polychrome pots in a great variety of shapes that are painted with almost outrageous detail. Most of my work tells a story and contains design elements from the ancients, ceremonial sand paintings, baskets, and rugs that have been stylized by my own imagination and inspiration.
The whole philosophy of Navajo culture is one of beauty and harmony. That is what I am doing with my pots; this is what my girls are doing. We are creating Navajo beauty from Navajo materials. Everything you see on a pot has come from Mother Earth, from the clay to the paint – everything. The pots don’t look like traditional Navajo pots, but the uses for those are not needed as much today. There is always a need for beauty. Especially Navajo beauty.” says Lucy Leuppe McKelvey.
Raised by her grandparents –her grandmother a Navajo weaver; her grandfather a Navajo medicine man, Lucy did not learn to make pottery until she was in college in 1973. After returning to the reservation, she would invite neighboring potters and learn by watching them as well as examining pottery shards she would find outside her grandmother’s house.
Lucy still gathers her clays, minerals, and pigments near Low Mountain, Arizona. She hand-mixes her clay with temper to develop the paints with materials from Mother Earth. Intricate modified sandpainting designs with graceful curves added to the vessels are the hallmarks of her pottery.
Lucy’s designs are quite a break from the traditional Navajo pottery, which is plain and coated with pinion pitch. Sand paintings are sacred to the Navajo People. Lucy says her grandfather, who was a medicine man, “told me that it was okay to paint these designs as long as I did not exactly reproduce a sandpainting figure. That is why, while I take some inspiration from a sandpainting, I always change it and add something different.” — Lucy Leuppe McKelvey
Lucy has been an exhibitor at the famed Indian Market since 1975 and has won numerous awards at various art shows around the country, including the Santa Fe Indian Market. Her pottery can be found in a number of museums and in the finest private collections.