Archive for Saturday, September 9, 2000

Spencer exhibit features works of clay

September 9, 2000


The exhibition "American Indian Traditions Transformed" features pottery by American Indian artists who use invention and humor to create contemporary art that also reflects a traditional heritage.

The exhibition, held in conjunction with the 12th annual Indian Arts Show, is at the Helen Foresman Spencer Museum of Art on the Kansas University campus through Oct. 22.

The Indian Arts Show is a program of KU's Museum of Anthropology, Haskell Indian Nations University and the Lawrence Arts Center.

"American Indian Traditions Transformed" calls attention to artists whose work represents their pueblo or culture, but also responds to the inspirations of contemporary life.

Artists in the show come from pueblos or Navajo and Hopi cultures, which have important pottery-making traditions.

Andrea Norris, director of the Spencer Museum, organized the show. The works that appear in it have been loaned from a Santa Fe, N.M., gallery and several private collections.

Several of the artists represented are from the Conchiti pueblo. At the start of the 20th century, Conchiti potters made figure sculptures from clay that often depicted Anglo subjects.

Seferina Ortiz and her children resurrected this standing-figure tradition and updated it at the end of the century.

Best known of her children is Virgil Ortiz, whose work "Siamese Twins" shows the bizarre and otherworldly aspect of his style.

His sister Janice creates large-scale figures of Indian spirits and a range of subjects, while sister Joyce creates fanciful hippies and band members.

Politics and family

Diego Romero is prominent among the new generation of potters. Rather than work in traditional Conchiti styles, he started by imitating forms and motifs of prehistoric Mimbres pots. Into them he inserted scenes dealing with contemporary political and cultural subjects.

Two other artists in the exhibition have Hopi roots: Nathan Begaye and Les Namingha.

Namingha, whose father is Hopi and mother is Zuni, is the grandson of Hopi potter Rachel Namingha Nampeyo; the nephew of potter Dextra Quotskuyva Nampeyo; and the cousin of potters Hisi Nampeyo and Steve Lucas.

Surrounded by a rich and varied contemporary and traditional artistic culture, Namingha moved from traditional vessel design to creating vessels that use a pueblo basis to play on European modernist idioms of painting and sculpture.

Begaye makes traditional Hopi shapes in some instances, but he uses nontraditional colors for his glazes, preferring shades of green, white, red, gold and black to the more traditional brown and terra cotta of Hopi pottery.

In other recent work, Begaye plays on contemporary art literature ideas, creating a "deconstructed" bowl, or forming an exploded vessel that's put together like a puzzle.

Everlasting styles

Santa Clara Pueblo is known for its variations on black-on-black and red-on-red pottery, particularly for its carved surfaces, large shaped jars and melon jars.

Virginia Garcia creates elegant, highly polished sculptural forms in subtle variations of traditional Santa Clara shapes.

Expanding on the characteristics of Santa Clara, mother and daughter Jodi and Susan Folwell create simple pots with a combination of matte and polished surfaces, as well as pots with etched or finely carved pictures and designs.

Santo Domingo is known for its large, simple bowls and jars with geometric decorations in black and white on a red background.

William Andrew Pacheco began to make pots when he was 10, depicting dinosaurs rather than the geometric and vegetable designs permitted by his pueblo. Humans and most animals are prohibited in Santo Domingo pottery for religious reasons.

While Pacheco continues to depict dinosaurs on his pots, his recently earned bachelor's degree from the University of New Mexico has opened new routes of exploration, and his latest work reflects an interest in Zen Buddhism.

The Friends of the Museum will host a reception for members and the public for "American Indian Traditions Transformed" from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. today.

This follows the 2:30 p.m. lecture at the Spencer Museum by Santa Fe gallery owner Robert Nichols.

Spencer Director Norris will give a Tour du Jour at the museum at 12:15 p.m. Thursday.

And at 7 p.m. Thursday, Cornel Pewewardy of the KU faculty will give a flute performance, and there will be a lecture "Seeing Ourselves: Creating, Viewing and Preserving Indian Visual Identity in the 21st Century" by Jennifer Brathovde of the Library of Congress.

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