Ehren Kee Natay – Walter Studios

Ehren Kee Natay

Special thanks to David Dupree and Nomas Amaya for their consultation, creativity, and collaboration; and to Robert Doyle of Canyon Records. 

I never met my grandfather, Ed Lee Natay.  He passed away in 1967 long before I was born, yet, I feel a palpable connection to him.  “You sound exactly like your grandpa!”, I have been told by my elders, relatives, surviving friends of his, and by those who simply admire his legacy of music.  Ed was the first Native American commercial recording artist to be played on the radio and was the first artist signed to the Canyon Records label in 1951. His album, Natay: Navajo Singer, is an iconic masterpiece of American music and is a direct link to my past and lineage.  When I sing along with my grandfather’s songs, I am transported through time and can feel his presence and spirit with me.

This creative work seeks to visually fortify that connection.  At its inception, I wanted to create a physically tangible vehicle to transport me to the past.  Inspired by science fiction noire of the 1950’s era, I began fabricating my “time machine”.  Utilizing traditional materials and skills of a Navajo silversmith, I created a traditional wearable wrist cuff, or “Ketóh” – made of sterling silver, leather, turquoise, coral and black jet – stylized in the likes of Flash Gordon or Star Trek.  This small-scale, wearable sculpture took more than one hundred hours to create when, at last, I fastened the finished cuff around my wrist. I closed my eyes and imagined a spectacular journey through time and space which landed me side by side with Ed Lee Natay in year 1951.  I’ve depicted my journey through images and sounds in an experience entitled, Listening to Future Pass.  With this work, I breathe new life into a markedly significant, yet widely unrecognized treasure of our shared American history.