In 1973, when we decided we wanted to open a gallery, it was very important to us to go and meet some of the artists. We admired the work from the Santo Domingo Pueblo in New Mexico, so my wife Carol, Jody and I traveled to the Southwest. Upon arriving at the Santo Domingo Pueblo, we were immediately surrounded by artists wanting to sell us their jewelry. Angie Reano squeezed through the crowd and said, “You come with me.” She took us to her house where she invited family members to come over and show us their work. What we didn’t know at the time was that the Reano family happened to be the most well-known traditional heishi and mosaic jewelry family in the Santo Domingo Pueblo. From this first experience, we all became good friends.
When the gallery opened in ’74, we wanted to invite some of the artists we met to come and do a show. Our very first show at Four Winds Gallery was with the Reano family. They all hopped in a van—seven adults and four children—and drove to Pittsburgh. No one had much money then, so they all stayed with us in my very small house. People slept on the floor. The entire floor was covered with people. It makes me smile now when I think of this. The show was fun and successful, and cemented my relationship with the Reano family—they have been represented in our gallery ever since.
Shortly after our first show, Frank Reano married Charlene and in 1980 they begin to design and make jewelry together. Charlene majored in art at the New Mexico Highlands University where she began to develop her own style of inlay using silver and gold. When she married into the Santo Domingo Pueblo she was encouraged by her mother-in-law, Clara Reano, to hone her skills in traditional jewelry making in the Santo Domingo style. Santo Domingo jewelers have an incredible history of creating essentially the same type of jewelry for thousands of years. Charlene collaborates with her husband, Frank, and together they specialize in authentic handmade jewelry, using methods that have been passed down by the Reano family for many generations.
|Percy Reano (left center) and Bernice Reano (right center) during their wedding at Reano family home at Santo Domingo Pueblo New Mexico.
Charlene’s work looks contemporary, but she combines her designs with ancient symbolism. Part of Charlene’s exceptional talent, in addition to technical skill, is her sense of color. I love how she uses intuition to translate multiple colors in one piece into image and beauty. Speaking with her about where she gains her inspiration she tells me, “I think about the colors and designs for my pieces. I like to make and find unique materials to bring my ideas to life and much of my inspiration stems from the jewelry worn during the traditional dances.” Charlene continues “I take pride in my work and strive to continue to grow in my designs and within my own spirit.” Mosaic shell work is based on prehistoric traditions, before the introduction of silver. People would gather stone and shell, taking pine pitch (the original glue) to create designs onto shell or wood. Charlene and Frank have discovered their own style of mosaic inlay and as award-winning artists, their work has been recognized throughout the United States and around the world.
|Some of Charlene’s pieces on our website. Click here to see more.