Native Artist Jordan Torres, Mescalero Apache
The Mescalero Apache stares with hardened eyes. Carrying a shield and blanket, he wears face paint and a war
cap, his long hair disheveled by the wind, anger and hardship etched into his face. It's a vision of history that will
last, as its name implies, Forever. It's hard to believe that months earlier the Mescalero was just a chunk of
alabaster or that Jordan Torres had no idea what he would create when he began working on the sculpture in his
shop on the Mescalero Reservation near Ruidoso, N.M.
Forever, which took 40 hours to make and sold for $1,300, has similarities to other sculptures by Torres. The
Indian men wear vests, probably taken during a raid, and carry medicine bags, knives and blankets. Some have
ceremonial feathers or rattles. "The Apaches always carried a medicine bag with them," Torres says, "and from
what I've learned they were taught to keep a blanket with them at all times. There was always a knife, and the
Mescaleros carried shields, but the Chiricahuas were more on the run."
Ranging in price from $75 to $3,500, Torres' sculptures illustrate the Apache people's way of life. Even his
sculptures of animals-bears, buffaloes, horses and eagles--pay tribute to the culture and heritage of the Apaches,
the culture and heritage of Jordan Torres himself. A descendant of Cochise and Naiche, the 35-year-old Torres
was born, raised and still lives on the Mescalero Reservation. He is part Mescalero, Chiricahua and Lipan Apache.
One of only a few Mescalero artists, the self-taught Torres has no formal art training. Yet his first sculpture,
a white buffalo titled On the Edge, won grand champion first place 10 years ago at the Alamogordo Art Show in
Torres has kept at it. His sculptures are now available at Spring Canyon Gallery in Ruidoso and Hon Dah House in
Tombstone, Ariz. One is displayed at the Inn of the Mountain Gods resort near Ruidoso, where Torres works. His
bases, made of carved maple budwood from Oregon, are created by Jim Mauritsen at Freestyle Studio in Ruidoso.
"All of the pieces I do are related to my history and my culture," Torres says, although he doesn't do many
sculptures related to the Lipan because he is least familiar with that side of his heritage. Blessing the Warriors
represents a medicine man preparing Apache warriors for battle. Broken Promises is a Chiricahua Apache going
into battle. Beauty Within shows an Apache girl coming into womanhood and wearing her ceremonial dress. Apache
War Cry, a bust of an Apache warrior made of Utah alabaster, took 60 hours to create and sold for $3,500 at the
Ruidoso Art Festival.
"I look at realism with some abstract," Torres says, but he keeps his faces realistic. "When you look at the face,
you kind of wonder what people like that go through," he says. "I do warriors because they fought for their land,
fought for what they thought belonged to them." The faces are the strongest and most detailed features of his
art. "Some people get so emotional over some of my pieces," Torres says. A few have even cried, Torres adds,
"because they just feel the stone and the spirit in the piece."
Although he has used limestone, he usually works with alabaster, some of it from as far away as Utah and
Colorado, or even Italy, but a lot from the Mescalero Reservation. He spends 15 to 60 hours working on each
sculpture. Yet when he starts he has no sketch in front of him. "I tried that," he said, "but found it just slowed
Torres is not sure if he'll be creating a warrior, animal or woman when he starts working with his carbide drill
bits, chisel, carving knife and rasp. "When I first get started, it's just a raw piece of rock," he says. "I just
start chipping away at the rock and whatever comes out, comes out." When finished, his sculptures have a
marblelike quality, but Torres doesn't smooth everything. "I leave some rough because the Apache people had it
rough," he says.
"I think his sculptures are very representative of the Apache people," says Karl Devere of the Hon Dah House.
"On top of that, he's a very, very nice young man."
Torres sculpts on weekends and for a couple of hours after his day job. Eventually, he wants to sculpt full time,
and his wife of 14 years, Anette, sons Jordan, Jr., and Theodore, and daughter, Tanis, are all supportive. Jordan,
Jr., 13, likes to sketch and has already won some awards.
Torres himself isn't exactly sure how he became an artist. "I'm the only one in my family who pushed my art," he
says. "Naiche, when he was a prisoner of war, did some paintings, and they do have them displayed over the
country. Maybe that's where it comes from."
When people view an alabaster Apache warrior or woman, Torres wants them to come away with a better
understanding of his ancestors. "I want them to be put in [my ancestors'] shoes and to see and feel the way they
felt when they were on the run," he says. "I want them to see the way they lived and to appreciate why they had
to fight for what they believed in." Copyright 2012
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