Alex Maldonado is of the Pascua Yaqui Nation. For the past twenty years, Alex has been balancing his time between his family, his artwork and performing his music. He has four recordings to his name, Messages From The Past, Desert Breeze, Maso (which is a collaboration with his daughter Melissa) and the most recent Path. He has performed throughout the country either solo or with collaborators. Alex has released the majority of his musical catalog independently, his third release being nominated for Best Duo and Best New Age at the 2003 Native American Music Awards. Alex has also conducted flute making classes, lectures and demonstrations for various groups.
His Yaqui heritage is a big influence in his life.
"While researching my Yaqui heritage, I sensed a loss of identity, because my ancestors would sometimes disguise their identity in order to survive. Many traditions were lost because of this. In playing the flute, I feel a connection in finding out more about my people and myself. One of the many victories in life is knowing who you are and being proud of it."
Beginning as a flute maker after a chance reintroduction to the native flute in a truck stop in Oregon, Alex decided he should better his craft by learning how to play the native flute himself.The flutes Alex creates have won many prestigious awards in various art shows, including First Place at the Santa Fe Indian Art Market. Utilizing his skills as a player, Alex has taught himself how to make each flute sound as beautiful as they look.
Looking to become more of a versatile artist, Alex began work on other instruments used by his tribe. His secondary art form became native drums. He makes the drum rims out of various woods in different widths and depths. This variety creates drums with many different tones. The hides he uses on the drums are a combination of commercial hides such as cow, deer or elk or non-commercial buffalo hides that he hand scrapes. He stretches the hide over the rim and attaches it with strips of hide that, when they dry, create a tight fit that perfects the sound of the drum. The look of the drum by itself is very eye catching as the hide alone has a certain texture and look to it.He makes his own drumsticks with leather heads and stuffs them with buffalo hair to go with each drum.With larger drums he is able to play with the space a bit more and create sculptures that double as working drums. He currently has a drum carved into the shape of a turtle on display at The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona.
From his want of continuing the practices of his tribe's art Alex has become a source of cultural knowledge. The Heard Museum commissioned a Yaqui Harp for their Yaqui Exhibit. Alex makes Yaqui rattles out of gourds and carves the handles out of cedar, cottonwood, maple and other miscellaneous woods. He fills the gourds with a combination of glass beads, seeds and pebbles to create just the right sound. He further adds to the unique appearance of some of the rattles by burning and painting contemporary and traditional Yaqui designs on them. He also makes rattles out of wood in the shape of various animals, adorning them with paintings of contemporary and Yaqui designs. He also carves Pascola masks which are used by Yaqui traditional dancers. Handmade out of various woods they resemble human faces or animals. Each mask has a unique design carved or painted onto them and is adorned with horse hair. Since these masks are created individually by hand, no two are alike.
Alex is featured in the Musical Instrument Museum's Artists of Arizona in the North America section of the museum.
The Home Exhibit at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona has the following art pieces made by Alex on display: Yaqui Harp, Pascola Dancer carving, Pascola Mask and Gourd Rattles.
The Yaqui Exhibit at the Heard Museum in Surprise, Arizona has on display a Pascola Mask, Pascola Dancer carving, and Gourd Rattles all made by Alex.
Alex has a Flute on permanent display at the Phoenix City Hall in Arizona.
Previous exhibitions of Alex's art include Music to My Eyes 2007 - 2008 at Tohono Chul Park in Tucson, Arizona and Winter Camp 2002 at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, OK.
Many of his art pieces have been purchased by the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC.