Laura Fragua-Cota grew up at Jemez Pueblo in central New Mexico where both her parents have lived all their lives. When she told her grandmother that she wanted to be an artist, she was admonished to find a secretarial job instead where she could dress up and have a nice office. Alive today at 94, Cota’s grandmother has been a proud witness to her granddaughter’s commitment to that dream. In the early 1980s, Laura Fragua Cota was a student at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe and a pioneer of sorts, entering the male domain of stone sculpture. Her instructors were skeptical at best and, at worst, downright patronizing. “I don’t know if [it was because] the faculty felt intimidated by women sculptors, but they’d say sarcastic things,” Cota recalls. “The attitude the men had really turned off a lot of women. But it didn’t weaken my spirit.” Some male artists on the faculty provided support and mentoring, including Ottilie Loloma, Charles Daly and celebrated Apache sculptor, Allan Houser. Her years at the Institute were formative, and they continue to influence her life and work today. Cota has painted and sculpted elegant pieces in limestone and alabaster. Some are traditional depictions of Indian figures, but she particularly enjoys working with abstraction because of its universality and emphasis on emotion and movement.
Ms. Fragua-Cota embodies the struggles between being a mother and an artist. She writes, “In my art, as in my heart, there is a marriage of the traditional and the contemporary. As an artist, a woman and a Native American, my eyes are focused inside on what I feel and outside on what I perceive to be the realities of today. Each year of my life, it has been a blessing to be able to share my vision through various media.”
Laura Fragua-Cota currently teaches art education at the Institute of American Indian Arts. She has won a number of awards for her work and has pieces in personal collections and museums throughout the United States. In 1994 one of her works was given the Patrick Suazo-Hinds Award for creativity. In 1998, she received the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in New Mexico.