Preston Monongye

   Preston was born on September 6, 1927, in Los Angeles. When he was seven, his family moved to the Hopi Reservation, and there he was adopted by the Monongye family and attended reservation schools. His apprenticeship in his craft began at the age of nine. Under the guidance of his Hopi uncle, he helped to pump the bellows while melting down the Mexican silver pesos and American silver coins, then used in silversmithing. Later, he helped to hammer the silver into small bracelets. He recalled that these often took days to make and their quality, he felt, was far below the standards of today's silver. In 1943, during World War II, he joined the Army Paratroopers, serving in the South Pacific. Following the war, he returned to the reservation and became a Kachina painter. He also did odd jobs and painting for Fred Harvey hotels and for the well-known Indian trader Roman Hubbell. When he began making jewelry, it was Hubbell who urged him to continue. In 1953, he again went into the service and was sent to Korea. Upon his return, he took law courses under the GI Bill at Occidental College in Los Angeles, and then went into law enforcement, serving with the Bureau of Indian Affairs among various tribes. During this time, he continued to do painting, woodcarving, and silver work; in the latter, chiefly the making of gun grips, buckles, and tie clasps for his fellow officers.

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   Early in the 1960's he decided to pursue his interests in art full time, and concentrated on the silver overlay style for which the Hopis are noted. But in 1966, he began doing what he refers to as "the new Indian art". This approach proved to be an immediate success, for that same year he took a Grand Prize and several others at the Gallup Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial. His real breakthrough as a major artist came in 1970: he took another Grand Prize at the Ceremonial with a silver box, the first all-cast box ever entered, in addition to Best of Show and fifty-three ribbons. At the Museum of Northern Arizona's annual Hopi Show, he took a First and Second Prize in painting, and a Special Award for his ceremonial painting and sculpture. His entries in the New Mexico State Fair were awarded the Grand Prize and Best of Show in Indian art, plus a number of ribbons. It was also in 1970 that he became the second Indian to be elected to the Ceremonial Board of Directors, and he was the first to be chairman of the Exhibit Hall Committee. As a director, he taught art techniques at Manuelito Hall in Gallup. In 1972 his article on the Ceremonial's history appeared in the July Issue of Arizona Highways. Another, "The New Indian Jewelry Art of the Southwest", appeared in the June issue, and his jewelry has been featured in the magazine a number of times since.

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   In 1972 he moved from his Gallup home to Phoenix and in 1973 he had a large show at the Heard Museum, several at private galleries in the area, and another at the Gila River Arts and Crafts center in Sacaton, Arizona. One of his bracelets won a First Prize at the 1973 Heard Museum guild's Annual Indian Arts and Crafts Exhibit. His work was also exhibited along with that of Zuni, Pima, and Papago artists, in Brussels and Paris. Throughout 1973 and 1974 he continued to take top awards at the Gallup Ceremonial, the Museum of Northern Arizona's Hopi Show, and other major competitions. He had often been asked to speak at civic clubs and schools, and in 1974 he lectured at the University of Cincinnati, Ohio, and the California Institute of the Arts at Valencia. Early in 1975 he began teaching courses in silversmithing at the Phoenix Indian Center under the auspices of the Manpower program. When lecturing or touring, people always wanted to know where he got his designs or what techniques he used. Preston replied, "I was taught by my uncle Gene Pooyouma, one of the finest men I ever knew. He taught me to love my work, and make the best of everything I do, whether it be painting, silversmithing, or whatever. He taught me how to live the 'Hopi Way'. To me, most Indians who have been exposed to their cultural heritage have an inner understanding of life. Therefore, if they go into the arts, something unique emerges".
   Preston did the design and metal work for his pieces, but on several occasions his friend Lee Yazzi created the stone inlays. Later, his son Jesse did much of the stone inlay.
   His work continues to be exhibited and is in the collections of the Denver Art Museum; the Museum of Northern Arizona, Flagstaff; Heard Museum, Phoenix, and the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Preston passed away in 1987.

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