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An amazing McKee Platero Navajo silver “Skyscraper” architectural-style bracelet, c. 1995-97
Only the incredible contemporary Navajo silversmith, McKee Platero (b.1957) could imagine, let alone successfully succeed, in making such an extraordinary piece. The level of artistic imagination and extreme technical virtuosity contained here is simply beyond the scope of virtually every other artist in the field; this is where Platero exists on a singular dimension of his own making. This particular bracelet is a product of what in our opinions was Platero’s very finest creative period, that of the mid-to-late 1990’s and we had a front row seat for it having been close colleagues and longtime friends with the late great Navajo and Pueblo jewelery collector and dealer, Teal McKibben, whose La Bodega Gallery on Santa Fe’s Canyon Road was the exclusive Ground Zero for McKee Platero’s work at that time.
During this time period, his imagination and technical skills were at a remarkable high point and we remember well the excitement of seeing and regularly purchasing new pieces of his work when they came into Teal's gallery. As he often does, McKee worked in suites, creating a group of perhaps eight or ten of these architectural-type elaborately-constructed fabricated silver bracelets, meticulously and traditionally crafted yet wildly imaginative and sculptural beyond anything that has ever been created in Navajo silver before or since. We recall when most of these pieces arrived at Teal’s gallery and the photos below are ones that we personally took of several closely related bracelets to this one which we also recall seeing at the time although we did not purchase it then but many years later.
At left and right, McKee Platero and Teal McKibben at Teal McKibben's La Bodega Gallery in Santa Fe, c. 1996. At center, part of the suite of Navajo silver “architectural” type silver bracelets by McKee Platero on display at La Bodega Gallery, c. 1996.
“Platero comes from a family of silversmiths, his grandfather and his uncles were known for their heavy silver jewellery with deep and precise stampwork, and Platero continues this tradition.”
-The British Museum
The details of the bracelet’s construction are unique and wonderful and are well worth discussing in some detail from the thick double split-silver shank upwards. The bracelet's turned backwards on themselves end terminals are just outrageous, never before or seen since. And, to be truthful, we still don’t know exactly how he did it except what we do know is that it took prodigious strength and exceptional control. It has nothing to do with modern methods of manufacture either. We have been to Mckee’s small studio out on the wilds of Manuelito Canyon in far western New Mexico and it is a spartan and primitive affair indeed; an old stone Navajo hogan with an antique wood stove for a forge, a large iron anvil and a selection of simple tools, many of them handmade. There is no commercial machinery whatsoever, no hydraulic press, no machinist’s lathe, no centrifuge or tool and die machine. Everything is done completely by hand exactly as it would have been done in the late 1800’s Classic-Period of Navajo silver. Atop the bracelet’s silver shank extends a horizontal base platform and a vertical superstructure of thick silver bars (or girders, if you will) rising upwards to a skyscraper like vertical tower which rises 3/4" above the top of the bracelet’s shank. There’s also a series of twelve graduated applied round silver “raindrops” extending from the bracelet's center tower down the length of the silver shank, six on each side.
The bracelet measures 3/8" in width at its widest center point and tapers down to slightly over 1/8" in width at the terminal ends. The inner circumference end-to-end is 5 3/4" and the gap between the terminals is 3/4" for a total interior circumference of 6 1/2". The bracelet's silver tower rises approximately 7/8" in height above the wrist. The bracelet’s silver shank is 1/8"
in thickness and it weighs an extremely comfortable and easy to wear 47 grams or 1 5/8 ounces.
The bracelet is in excellent original condition with some age-appropriate wear in the form of slight abrasions and scratches. The silver has developed a fine, soft patina from age and use. The bracelet is properly signed on the interior with McKee Platero’s characteristic signature of a row of three stamped circular dots, symbolic of the belt of the constellation Orion in the night sky which Platero has admired since his childhood.
We have been enthusiastically buying and selling McKee Platero’s work for going on 35 years now and in our experienced view this is one of the most uniquely original and exceptional pieces of his that we have ever seen and that is saying a great deal. This remarkable bracelet is an exceedingly rare and beautiful three-dimensional piece which would be a superb addition to any collection anywhere, any museum or private collector should be extremely proud and fortunate to call it their own.
Price available upon request