Preston Monongye (1927-1987) Biography
Preston Monongye was a leader in the “The New Indian Jewelry” movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Born in 1927, in Los Angeles he was abandoned at Hopi at age seven and adopted by a prominent Hopi family. Monongye attended reservation schools and became a full participant in Hopi religious and social life. At age nine, Monongye began apprenticeship with his uncle, the master silversmith and painter Gene Pooyama.
Following his service as a paratrooper in World War II, Monongye became a Kachina painter, working occasionally for trader Roman Hubbell and the Fred Harvey Company. Monongye re-enlisted during the Korean War and later worked in law enforcement for the Bureau of Indian Affairs while continuing to paint and make silver jewelry.
After leaving his job in favor of jewelry making in the early 1960s, Monongye quickly became recognized as an innovative designer and technician, immersing himself in “the new Indian art,” using traditional techniques and motifs to create a contemporary new look. He was best known for cast silver set with stones that often were cut by his friend Lee Yazzie, and later by his son Jesse. Monongye taught his art at various schools and workshops and lectured widely on contemporary Native design. He won many awards at shows and competitions and his jewelry appears in museum collections such as the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff and the Wheelwright Museum in Santa Fe.