Historical Society hosts artist reception for Andrew “Chief” Alvarez

By: Monica Lambert
Special to the Sun

Photo by: Monica Lambert

An Artist’s Reception was held on Saturday, September 7, featuring local silversmith, minerals and metal’s artist, Andrew “Chief” Alvarez. His works will be on display at the museum throughout September. The unique pieces are made using minerals such as Sterling Silver, copper, walrus tusk, iron, stone, sapphire, and several types of turquoise from famous mines around the Southwest including Spider Web Turquoise from Kingman Mine, and man materials from the mines known as Blue Moon, Royston, Bixbee Morenci and Godber.
At age fourteen, Alvarez became interested in silver-smithing while watching his uncle, a silver engraver, work. As the metal was engraved, small, shiny flecks fell to the table, and his uncle gathered them into a small jar for him to keep. The sparkles were beautiful, and Andrew was hooked.

He began making rings, and selling them at two native stores on the Redondo Beach pier. Soon the two shop owners were competing to buy his silver and turquoise rings. He says his mother provided his greatest support and encouragement, and at ninety-four, encourages him to this day.

Focused on Native American Western art, Alvarez uses rare turquoise mined from all over the southwest. Many of the mines are now closed which makes the turquoise even more desirable.
He didn’t always earn a living from his art. After a career in aircraft mechanics, and just selling his art at weekend art shows, Alvarez found himself laid-off in 1991. He decided to follow his love of silver-smithing and rely soley on art shows to make his living. He did well, and eventually partnered with QVC Shopping Network to mass produced and sell some of his designs.

He won awards at juried art shows, and Cowboys and Indians Magazine did a feature article on him. After the article, he got very busy, and has his works on display in The Autry Museum, The Heard Museum in Phoenix and the Museum of Man in San Diego.

Owning his home in Wofford Heights since the early seventies, Alvarez decided to retire full time to the valley. He and his partner, sculptor and artist, Louise Camille, bought a home on Big Blue Road in Kernville, and converted the garage into The Starhorse Gallery, a small art gallery. Within six months they knew that they were outgrowing the space. They then purchased the current location, a previous bank building, also on Big Blue Road in Kernville.

As President and Vice-President of the Kern River Valley Art Association (KRVAA) Alvarez and Camille say their plates are very full. They are working with the local members of the association to promote their artworks, and have featured several local artists in the Starhorse Gallery.

It’s their hope that the KRVAA will thrive and new members, not only artists, but crafts people as well, will join. “There is an amazing amount of talent in this little valley”, Alvarez said. “We are here to support and encourage them”.

If you are interested in learning more about the KRVAA, stop by the Starhorse Gallery and chat with Andrew Alvarez or Louise Camille.