Always Becoming

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Always Becoming
Always Becoming Facing West.JPG
ArtistNora Naranjo-Morse
TypeDirt, sand, straw, clay,
stone, black locust wood,
bamboo, grass, and yam vines.
National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C.

Always Becoming is an artwork created in 2007 by Nora Naranjo-Morse, a Native American potter and poet. The artwork groups five sculptures made with natural materials, which allows them to gradually change over time. The National Museum of the American Indian selected and commissioned the artwork to be exhibited by one of its entrances in 2006.


The sculpture consists of five separate sculptures, that make up a family.

Grounded in figures from Santa Clara Pueblo oral tradition the sculptures are named:

  • Father
  • Mother
  • Little one
  • Moon Woman
  • Mountain Bird

The sculptures were built in-situ over the summer of 2007. Nora Naranjo-Morse worked with her niece, Athena Swentzell Steen, and her husband, Bill Steen, natural material sculptors, and the family of Don Juan Morales (Tepehuan) from the Mexican state of Durango, as well as many volunteers including museum staff and visitors.

Being strangers at the beginning of this journey, we came from distant places with the intent to build sculptures, and in the process built a family as well.

— Nora Naranajo-Morse, 2007 [1]


The sculptures are made entirely of natural materials: dirt, sand, straw, clay, stone, black locust wood, bamboo, grass, and yam vines. These natural elements were selected to take on a life of their own, allowing the sculptures to change over time. In this way the materials ensure the forms are 'always becoming'.


The five sculptures range in size from seven and one half feet (7.5' / 7 1/2') or seven feet six inches (7' 6") to sixteen feet (16') tall.

History and Location[edit]

On May 24, 2006, the National Museum of the American Indian announced that Naranjo-Morse had won its outdoor sculpture design competition. "Always Becoming" was selected unanimously from more than 55 entries submitted by Native artists from throughout the Western Hemisphere.[2]

During the summer of 2007, on the grounds of the National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, DC, Naranjo-Morse built a family of clay sculptures. The commissioned work is located on the 'Native landscape' at the museum's south entrance on Maryland Avenue S.W. near 4th Street and Independence Avenue S.W., Washington, D.C.

A public dedication, officially opening these public works of art, took place on September 1, 2007.

The sculptures are intended to disintegrate over time. The lives of the sculptures, from conception throughout the continued process of stewardship, are being documented by filmmaker Dax Thomas (Laguna/Acoma). As the sculptures disintegrate, the films of their lives will form a more permanent record of their existence and are therefore an essential part of the artistic process and the work of art itself.[3]

Native culture and the environment served as the inspiration for the sculpture design. 'Always Becoming' will reflect themes of growth and adaptation and represent indigenous peoples' unique relationship to the environment, ... The sculpture's metaphor of home and family not only conveys a universal theme to all peoples, but also enhances the visitors' experience that they have entered a Native place when they step foot [sic] on the museum grounds.

— Nora Naranajo-Morse, 2007 [4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "NMAI: NORA NARANJO-MORSE-ALWAYS BECOMING MALL SCULPTURE PROJECT". Archived from the original on 2017-01-06. Retrieved 2017-01-10.
  2. ^ "Press | National Museum of the American Indian" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-01-13. Retrieved 2017-01-10.
  3. ^ "quatica". Vimeo. Archived from the original on 2022-10-20. Retrieved 2017-01-10.
  4. ^ "always becoming". Archived from the original on 2016-07-21. Retrieved 2017-01-10.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 38°53′17″N 77°0′59″W / 38.88806°N 77.01639°W / 38.88806; -77.01639