Published online courtesy Southwest Art, July 2007
Susan Kliewer, Changing Woman, Bronze, 57 x 18 x 12
Dressed in a striped robe, her black hair flowing over her shoulders, the native woman causes many visitors on the sidewalks of Sedona, AZ, to pause in mid-stride, so lifelike is her presence. Though cast in bronze, Changing Woman radiates an aura more of flesh and blood than of metal, and a presence far greater than her 5-foot stature. Those qualities bespeak the talent and vision of Susan Kliewer, the woman who sculpted her.
A California native who has lived in Arizona for almost 30 years, Kliewer fell in love with Navajo culture while running a trading post on the tribe's reservation back in the 1970s. She went on to work in an art-casting foundry, and her initial passion for painting blossomed into sculpting in1987. Her first commission for a public monument came over a decade ago, when she was asked to sculpt Sedona Schnebly for the Arizona community that took as its own the first name of the beloved postmaster's wife. That 10-foot-tall bronze stands proudly in front of the public library in Sedona, where Kliewer herself lives and works.
She based the mythical figure of Changing Woman, her sixth large public project, on her own Navajo daughter-in-law and on a friend from the reservation, combining their features to capture a timeless beauty. "In Navajo culture," Kliewer explains, "she's supposed to be still alive and around us, always young and radiant." The artist has also created limited-edition bronze busts based on the sculpture, which join the many small-scale gallery editions she sculpts on Native and western themes. Kliewer's works are on view at Medicine Man Gallery, Tucson, AZ and Santa Fe, NM.