Fragua-Cota Mother Earth’s blessing

Mother Earth's Blessing by Laura Fragua-Cota

acrylic on masonite, n.d.


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 she wanted to be an artist, she was advised to find a secretarial job instead, where she could dress up and have a nice office.

After high school, Cota became interested in art therapy as a way to use her creativity to help people. While studying in the social work program of the now-defunct University of Albuquerque, she decided she needed more hands-on experience. “I thought if a client comes to me and he’s a sculptor or a painter, I need to understand the language of the medium.” So, she enrolled at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe.

Her years at the Institute were formative, and they continue to influence her life and work today. Some male artists on the faculty were condescending to women students, but others provided support and mentoring, including Ottilie Loloma, Charles Daly and celebrated Apache sculptor, Allan Houser.

Cota paints and sculpts pieces in limestone and alabaster. Some of her works are traditional depictions of Indian figures, but she also works with abstraction because of what she considers its universality and emphasis on emotion and movement. Occasionally working with social commentary, she created a mixed-media construction for a Christopher Columbus-themed exhibition. Made on a piece of animal hide shaped like the United States, “A Pathway of Our Future” depicts a line of dying babies, men and women rising to the sky. At Santa Fe’s 1994 Indian Market, the work received the Patrick Suazo-Hinds Award.


In my painting, which is part of a collaborative public art project, I depict a woman symbolic of “Mother Earth” praying as she gives us a grain offering of corn meal. She smiles upon all that the Creator has blessed us with. The water flowing from her onto the earth sustains all that grows on the earth, those that crawl or walk the earth and the abundance of the fields and plant life that nourishes our bodies. She sees the clear blue skies that offer a home to those that fly and present the stars at night. She hears our songs and feels the pounding of the drum as dancers’ feet move in unison, bringing their prayers in dance and song and giving thanks as the eagle carries our prayers to the heavens. We, as humans, must be guardians for all of this. It is through sustaining this balance that we can be nourished and healed. I believe Mother Earth’s prayer is that we continue to care for and maintain that balance so we can walk in wellness as one with all of our brothers and sisters including both our human relatives and all other beings that share this world. 

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