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This utilitarian vessel is a typical example of Pueblo pottery from the pre-contact American Southwest. The distinctly Tularosa design is characterized by the use of longitudinal and diagonal hatching within geometrical patterns that suggest a stylized rain cloud, an important symbol for desert dwellers. The potter painted her designs over a polished white slip. Because contemporary Pueblo people still live on ancestral lands, they frequently discover pre-contact shards near their homes. This makes ancient Pueblo pottery designs readily available for inspiration and transformation.
Form follows function in a traditional Pueblo water jar: wide mouth, swelling volume, and an underbody depression that allows it to be balanced on the head while walking. This jar well represents characteristics of old Acoma pots - extremely thin walls, perfectly formed bodies, and dynamic polychrome designs meant to be seen in motion. Its chipped rim tells us that it has been used extensively. The overall interlocking decoration creates a fluid and graceful feeling, almost like the water that is kept inside it. In the years following this piece, the Pueblo's utilitarian pottery making diminished as fine art creations for Anglo collectors grew.
Lucy Lewis was one of Acoma's greatest innovators; she nevertheless always adhered to traditional Acoma materials and methods of pottery making. According to her daughter Dolores, "none has done it as long or as well as Lucy." In the 1950s, Lucy began to incorporate Mimbres designs of the past. Here she replicates the heartline deer characteristic of Zuni Pueblo. Lucy exhibits her innate ability to create emptiness in just the right places. The result is an artwork with stunning elaborations that catch the eye as well as define the traditional - although atypically small - form of a water jar.
Along with her mother Lucy, Emma was a pioneer in rediscovering Mimbres designs. Emma grew up reading books on old Mimbres designs under the guidance of Lucy and Pueblo pottery expert Kenneth Chapman. For Emma, Mimbres iconography became as influential as her Acoma heritage itself. She abandons traditional polychrome decoration for repeated figures isolated in a pure white field, here enhanced with an inverted stepped design. Her charming bears in miniature form - directly quoted from an ancient Mimbres bowl - make this piece particularly precious. The jar exemplifies the Mimbres revival tradition associated with the Lewis family.
This work exemplifies the shift that Acoma pottery undergoes in the twentieth century from functional to "fine art." Juana Leno's water jar lacks the concave base that facilitated placement on the head. Typical of the Acoma pottery revival, however, it features an ancient Tularosa design, similar to the adjacent pitcher, with the addition of the curvilinear scroll. This symbol suggests water, an essential element, especially for survival in the American Southwest. The Leno family in particular is noted for the revival of pre-contact pottery styles and motifs in their pottery.
Dorothy Torivio uses traditional Acoma pottery techniques to make vessels that defy space with thin walls, exaggerated forms, and mathematically precise, hypnotic designs. "My brain is my computer," she explains. Here she transforms the traditional Pueblo seed jar - typically squat with a small mouth - into an expressive, elongated form. The "eyedazzler" design evokes a complex Navajo weaving style. Dividing the jar into infinite fractions using the naked eye, Dorothy paints the designs freehand using a traditional yucca brush, a special plant chewed to a desired width. Her dynamic patterns have become her impressive trademark.
By the 1890s, the legendary Hopi potter Nampeyo realized that archaeologists and collectors valued ancient wares more than the contemporary designs of her Pueblo. She began to reinterpret earlier styles and became a leader in the Sikyatki revival on First Mesa. Use of stylized ancient motifs, birds' wings especially, made her work wildly popular with tourists and museum professionals, who wanted objects redolent of a pre-contact Native past. Other potters followed her lead, making Sikyatki iconography a part of Hopi identity. Nampeyo is remembered as one of the greatest Pueblo potters, and her legacy continues with over forty artist descendents.
Al Qöyawayma (b. 1938), Hopi
Harmony Vase, with carved ancestral Hopi designs and cut out in the form of an ancient Puebloan doorway, 1996
"I have roots in two worlds," explains Qöyawayma, an artist trained in Hopi tradition, a scientist with advanced degrees in engineering, and a co-founder of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society. As a researcher, he analyzed the composition of Sikyatki pottery until he found a similar Hopi clay mixture that allows for his vessels' complex, thin forms. Harmony Vase is original, but its significance is timeless: the abstracted motifs of three eagle feathers on one side, and a cut out of a tiny key-shaped Pueblo doorway on the other, honor the origins and culture of his people.
Born on Third Mesa but raised in Phoenix, Preston Duwyenie rediscovered his Pueblo heritage and experienced an artistic awakening while visiting the Santa Fe Indian Market. Since then he has been balancing traditional techniques with unexpected style. His art forms fuse an interest in metalwork with the mineral-rich micaceous clay once used to make Native cooking ware. For Duwyenie, the clay's visual and textural effects recall Hopi sand dunes. The silver, cast from cuttlefish bone, represents a pebble he once saw caught in shifting sands. He realized then that peoples' lives, too, can be tossed about and rippled by the wind.
This classic "migration" design, made of interlocking, repeating birds' wings, is one that Nampeyo herself usually lacked the patience to complete, but many of her descendants have since adopted and mastered. As great-granddaughter of Nampeyo and daughter of famed artist Tom Polacca, Fannie creates art that is an accomplished tribute to her heritage. The warm golden tone of her Hopi clay and precision of the design's hand-painted fine lines speak of true virtuosity. On the clan's collective artistic accomplishment, fellow great-granddaughter and potter Dextra Quotskuyva Nampeyo says it best: "We have been blessed as a family."
Born the great-great-grandson of Nampeyo to a Zuni mother and a Hopi/Tewa father, and raised and schooled by a Mormon foster family in Utah, the artist's extraordinary background manifests itself in his remarkable art. A self-described painter at heart, he cites Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, and Joan Miró as inspirations. He created this jar using numerous patterns and designs characteristic of the Hopi and Zuni Pueblos. He recalls discovering old shards as a child while shepherding with his grandfather, an experience that we are privy to through his jagged and collage-like composition that melds an array of ancient and invented pottery designs.
In about 1918, Maria and her husband, Julian, developed black-on-black pottery, a style achieved by applying matte paint over the pot's polished surface before firing. This elegant style immediately captivated collectors and catapulted Maria to fame. Ironically, although she was an innovative artist, Maria was seen as an embodiment of the Pueblo tradition. While Maria formed, polished, and fired the pots, other family members - in this case, her daughter-in-law Santana - painted them. Today, the black-on-black style is synonymous with San Ildefonso pottery.
Dora Tse Pe learned to make pottery from her mother at Zia Pueblo and later mastered the art of polishing when she married and moved into the San Ildefonso pueblo. In this jar, she used an innovative two-firing technique that, through a re-oxygenation process, selectively changes the color of the fired clay from black to sienna. The small size, refined form and inlayed turquoise stone of this jar demonstrate the increasing refinement and elaboration that each new generation of innovators has brought to Pueblo art pottery.
At the encouragement of archaeologist Edgar Hewett, Maria and Julian Martinez revived the ancient avanyu design in their earliest experiments with black-on-black pottery. Tafoya, a man working in a traditionally woman's medium, adopted the motif from his mother, who taught him to make pottery. While Tafoya's work exemplifies the changes pottery has seen since its revival in the early twentieth century, he is committed to maintaining tradition. "The art of pottery," he says, "has been a part of my culture for hundreds of years and continues to be an expression of artistic creation as a way of life for us today."
Lois Gutierrez, of the famous potting family, straddles innovation and tradition as she explores beyond Santa Clara's familiar black and red wares. Her pots are a canvas for depicting detailed scenes of Pueblo life. In this Winter Deer Dance associated with hunting, Gutierrez captures the dancers' controlled repetition as they enact this public prayer. Shadeh, the Tewa word for dance, means "to be in the act of waking up": rhythmic dancers wearing symbolic dress awaken a deep connection to their heritage and the natural world.
Traditionally, Santa Clara potters excelled at making polished black vessels; in the twentieth century, they developed polished red-on-red jars, undecorated, carved, or incorporating incised lines. Smothering the fuel toward the end of the firing process prevents oxygen from reaching the pots, creating the random fire-cloud design seen here. Polly Rose Folwell, a sixth-generation potter and sister of Susan Folwell, innovates by varying the vessel form and employing novel decoration, yet remains within her family tradition. "I think Mother Earth works through each of us - through my grandmother, mother, my sister, me, and now through my daughter."
By using acrylic paint and non-Pueblo imagery, Susan Folwell pushes pottery beyond the domain of "Native Arts" into the broader context of "Contemporary Art." After spending a summer in Alaska, Folwell began incorporating the Native art of the Northwest Coast into her work. This jar, while resembling the form and style of a totem pole, includes Pueblo icons such as the wing and the cross, a symbol of the four cardinal directions, often used in Folwell family pottery. Thus, while challenging expectations of Pueblo pottery through form and medium, this jar - like the one by Polly Rose - affirms Folwell's personal and familial identity.
Although this pot resembles a jar for cooking ceremonial foods - a form that features a rounded bottom for immersion in fire - Williams has flattened the base so that it can function as a decorative vase. The fillet below the rim, by facilitating the binding of leather over the jar's mouth, indicates that this type of pot also could serve as a drum. The break in the fillet helps orient the jar in the proper direction during use. "Fire clouds" occur when flames touch the clay during firing. Adhering to traditional techniques and innovating for new markets, Williams has contributed to Navajo pottery's transformation from ritual function to medium of exchange.
Cling learned pottery making from her mother, Rose Williams. She uses the coiling method to construct her vases, and Navajo pottery's traditional finishing techniques are evident in the randomized fire clouds and rich luster. When compared to her mother's work, Cling's vases appear significantly more modern, with their clean lines and elegant, untraditional shapes. Perhaps for this reason, her wares have met with greater commercial success than Williams' jars. Cling's work asserts her Navajo heritage within the contemporary art world.
Sahmie learned pottery from her husband's Hopi family, and she combines Navajo iconography with Pueblo techniques. The Yeibichai are human dancers representing the Yei, the Holy People of the Navajo, and corn is the Navajo's most sacred cultivated plant. Creation stories tell of the Yei making First Man and First Woman from two ears of corn. Sahmie's work has been criticized by some Navajo who consider such representations of sacred symbols taboo. Yet her pottery allows Sahmie to mediate her multiple identities and aesthetic sensibilities; it also appeals to collectors drawn to Native spirituality.
For nineteenth-century American tourists visiting the U.S./Canadian border, the designs of stars and flags depicted on this pouch represented obvious symbols of American identity. On the reverse, imagined scenes of Native life represented by a non-Iroquois headdress and a teepee address White preconceptions about indigenous peoples. During this time of profound change, the Iroquois proved adept in navigating new modes of self-presentation while maintaining older forms of iconography. For example, the American eagle simultaneously conjures notions of patriotism and deeply embedded associations with the Iroquois thunderbird.
Iroquois beadwork especially appealed to Victorian women as gifts for loved ones and as fine examples of embroidery, a popular feminine art form. Women's magazines included instructions on how to copy Iroquois overlay, which involved pinning several beads down with one stitch, and embossing details, seen here on the owl. Although Victorian women thought they were purchasing something exotic, these purses represent the Iroquois' innovative adaptation of floral design from calico fabric prints and missionary instruction into a new art form, complementary to both Iroquois and non-Native taste.
Versions of the chief's headdress, the gus-to'-weh, were standard formal wear among Iroquois men in the late nineteenth century. The souvenir trade, however, led to a secularized form, which excluded the spiritually significant feather. The oriental-inspired fez shape of this cap is one version, which evinces Victorian obsessions with the exotic. Floral motifs on men's clothing indicated use for domestic interiors, such as the study, where men could dress up and escape from the conformity of drab business attire. This blending of forms, or transculturation, is evidence of the Iroquois genius for survival in the face of attacks on their traditions.
The romantic notion of the noble savage was a popular way to envision Native American life in the nineteenth century. Their perceived closeness to nature was so intriguing that male tourists even imitated the Native lifestyle for recreation. Often caps such as this one served as souvenirs from hunting or fishing expeditions led by Native guides. Some saw the replacement of geometric patterns with floral imagery in beadwork as an indication that the Iroquois could become "civilized." Glass beads, rather than the traditional porcupine quills, allowed for this "sophisticated" naturalism, shown here by the flat-multicolored style with monochromatic shading.
For the Tuscarora and Seneca of the region, Niagara was an important center for the sale of their beaded novelty objects, or "whimsies." Tourists flocked to the falls in search of the sublime and found in Native beadwork a connection to America's quickly disappearing past. The objects often served as remembrances of a visit, seen here in the beaded inscription. The creativity of the Native makers allowed for the adoption of new forms, such as this boot-shaped pincushion, that favored a female clientele. While also providing economic support, beadwork actually preserved communal identity. The beadworkers' gifts of endurance resonate in Iroquois art today.
During the nineteenth century, new materials such as glass beads, metal needles, thread and fabric made it easier to experiment with style, while a demand for souvenirs motivated beadworkers to adopt Victorian fashions. Lorna Hill's contemporary revival of the chatelaine purse, a popular item of women's apparel worn at the waist, and the dramatic Iroquois embossed style, visible in her treatment of the white flower, illustrate a fusion of influences. Her artwork contributes to a tradition of self-adornment for both Iroquois and non-Native women, while simultaneously commanding respect for her technical and aesthetic mastery.
In response not only to new materials and markets but also to forced cultural assimilation, traditional Iroquois objects, such as the medicine bag, were refashioned, in this case after the British soldier's bandolier bag. However, the iconography of birds and fruit, spiritual gifts to Native people, still communicate Iroquois beliefs. Says Samuel Thomas, "The creation and wearing of beaded attire helps to express that these arts are not dead, that they flourish today as the creation of a contemporary people who have roots in a deep past." This prize-winning masterwork exemplifies the vibrancy of Iroquois beadwork today.
Since they became involved in the Iroquois beadwork revival, Sam and his mother Lorna Hill have studied earlier objects as models of an Iroquoian aesthetic. Each maker's individual creativity expands upon the existing visual vocabulary used in beadwork, allowing artists of different generations to communicate through a common language. Here, Sam has chosen the hummingbird and strawberry to adorn his oversized boot, symbols that express the balance and harmony of Iroquoian life. His exaggerated reinterpretation of a nineteenth-century form of pincushion is a playful comment on the tendency to see souvenirs or "whimsies" as mere trinkets and not as valuable, collectable objects.
Large utilitarian Iroquois baskets have a long history, but the Mohawks are famous for their innovative fancy baskets. For many Akwesasne basket makers like Mary Leaf, fancy basketry allows for artistic creativity, transmission of tradition, and economic survival. Strawberry baskets were first used to hold fruit; as the tourist market developed, they took on the actual form of a strawberry with brightly dyed green and red ash splints. Leaf's virtuosic miniature basket expresses both remarkable skill and an appealing playfulness. Completely non-functional, its miniscule size paradoxically enhances its value as an art object. The strawberry motif deftly balances Iroquois symbolism with market appeal.
Basketry is social at Akwesasne; Cree gathers weekly with friends to weave. Although it is the intricate final product that viewers appreciate most, material preparation - logging ash trees, pounding until the annual rings loosen, and soaking and preparing these "splints" - consumes the most time. Sweetgrass, prized for its pliability and aromatic scent, is also gathered locally and used for ornate baskets. Weaving on a mold, Cree uses a "shell weave twist" for surface decoration. Seasonally harvested materials and techniques learned from her grandmother are powerful links to Cree's heritage while each basket bears her own unique artistic signature.
In this witty basket, Tremblay, film professor, poet, and artist, shows how Native people "dance in two worlds," juxtaposing traditional weaving learned in her childhood with the modern medium of film stock. Tremblay explains, "I enjoyed the notion of recycling film and gaining control over a medium that had historically been used by both Hollywood and the documentary film makers to stereotype American Indians." Tremblay's work resonates as well with the concept of memory. The evocative title Remembering Wild Strawberries recalls Ingmar Bergman's great film, itself an inquiry into the nature of memory. Simultaneously, the basket's strawberry form conjures ancient Iroquois symbolism.
POV's sculpture of a woman stretching sealskin is a powerful narrative of Inuit life. Wearing a traditional heavy parka that is essential in extreme climates, she carries out a task reminiscent of "the old ways." POV's mastery of sculptural form heightens the woman's expressive pose and features. The sculpture's carefully modulated surface accentuates bulky masses, unique angles, and rounded planes creating a complex, merging shape. A piece this sizeable would not be produced for personal consumption but rather for White buyers who wanted art representative of Inuit style and subject matter.
"I wanted to show others what a woman's body is like and I didn't want to be shy about it." Working in a medium traditionally dominated by men, Tunnillie is from a community famous for both printmaking and sculpture. Her strong, innovative pieces stand apart from the typical focus on identifiably Inuit subjects. Carved from a single piece of locally quarried serpentine, Torso alludes to Classical prototypes, an influence perhaps first encountered when the artist was hospitalized for tuberculosis in Manitoba. The jade-like stone identifies the work as specifically from Cape Dorset, while the subject reveals Inuit art's growing cosmopolitanism.
Although most Inuit people have embraced Christianity, shamanism remains a source of artistic inspiration and subject matter for countless artists. In societies wherein shamanism is not discussed openly, the arts allow for a visual exploration of the religion. Practitioners of shamanism believe that all people once had the ability to change into animals, although over time, only shamans (priest-doctors) retained the power to do so. The sculptor ingeniously and seamlessly integrates the form of a calm shaman with that of a seal. A moment of dynamic action is therefore represented within a single shape, effectively communicating Inuit beliefs in artistic form.
Realizing the marketability of pre-contact imagery, James Houston encouraged Inuit artists to depict "the old ways." A pioneering artist in the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative, Saggiak here portrays traditional hunting activities, no doubt drawing on first-hand experience. Engraving, introduced in 1960 by then co-op general manager Terry Ryan, allowed artists to "draw" their design directly onto a copper plate, thereby exerting more control over the final image than with the more collaborative stonecut process. These kinds of subjects, as well as the flattened stylized forms and disregard of Western visual conventions, delighted early collectors who were seeking "authentic" Inuit art.
"To make prints is not easy. . . . But I am happy doing the prints." Pitseolak is one of the best-known and prolific Inuit artists of her generation. This engraving manifests her energetic, detailed style and a subject that recalls her earlier semi-nomadic life. A mother in her parka holds her children, with a load on her back and tent poles used to dry kamiik (Inuit boots). Other tools illustrated in the foreground are a fishing leister and a bird's wing used to ward off mosquitoes.
Among the first Cape Dorset graphic artists, Kenojuak remains one of the most prominent because of her expressive, colorful style, unique sense of design, and appealing subjects, including Arctic animals, birds, and fish. The bold two-dimensional patterns and confident black outlines seen in Deep Blue Sea derive no doubt from the appliqué technique she employed when making extraordinary parkas and other clothing. Inuit women successfully moved from domestic crafts, such as sewing, to the graphic arts. They could draw at home while still caring for their families.
Kananginak presents a wry critique of the non-Native photographer who sees the Inuit woman as an exotic specimen. The introduction of printmaking at Cape Dorset by White advisors was in some ways paternalistic, but Kananginak and others soon demanded greater autonomy in artistic and marketing matters. He served for many years as president of the community graphic arts co-operative. Fellow artist Iyola Kingwatsiak explained, "We Inuit have to speak our minds and not allow ourselves to be patronized anymore. . . . We would like to be given more of an opportunity to speak about our art and our work, for the sake of all Inuit."
Son of an illustrious camp leader and brother-in-law of Napachie, Kananginak is one of the four original printmakers in Cape Dorset. Using lithography, he demonstrates his skill as an artist and printmaker by drawing the image directly onto a limestone block. The sensuous lines and fine detail allow this monumental print to mimic closely the effects of drawing. His experience as a hunter enables Kananginak to depict the Arctic wildlife with such power and precision.
Napachie shares the same interest in visual autobiography as her mother Pitseolak. However, Napachie's art often conveyed a pointedly female perspective, which sometimes depicted the troubling aspects of Inuit life. Her sophisticated drawing shows a mother carrying her daughter, while she tries to wrestle a liquor bottle from her husband. Another man lies unconscious nearby. Although White people helped the Inuit market their art, Napachie witnessed first hand how they also introduced harmful substances into the Inuit community. The image reveals with heartbreaking clarity the devastating consequences of this form of exchange with the outside world.
While Christianity has largely replaced shamanism among Inuit peoples, Pudlat's subject matter gives new life to such beliefs. Depicted in profile at the lower right hand corner is a shaman holding a drum and stick, his head thrown back and mouth agape. Various helper spirits flow out of his mouth, representing the communication between the shaman and the supernatural forces called forth by his trance. Pudlat's careful placement of each spirit animal plays a role in a kinetic drama that emphasizes the two-dimensionality of the medium as well as the rhythmic interplay between figure and ground, positive and negative, order and chaos.
"Suvinai doesn't seem to draw like anyone else. I have never seen anyone draw like that before," Napachie said of her niece's unique talents. Using intense pastel and acidic colors to depict a compressed interior space, Arctic Evening demonstrates Suvinai's meticulous and elaborate style. Illustrating the artist's experience of contemporary Cape Dorset life, the print shows a cramped domestic setting. Her figures wear traditional clothing, but they are surrounded by the imported goods on which their society has become dependent. This somewhat melancholy image is a personal view of Inuit experience since the abandonment of semi-nomadic camp life and entry into the modern world.
The daughter of Napachie and the granddaughter of Pitseolak, Annie Pootoogook grew up surrounded by artistic production. She employs a style different from her predecessors, however, chronicling daily Cape Dorset life in colorful pencils and ink. Rather than illustrating scenes of "the old ways," her images are autobiographical, including traditional elements of contemporary Inuit life, such as the parkas worn by her figures, and yet firmly planted in the modern world. In this humorous image, she reveals how the introduction of television in the 1970s fundamentally changed Cape Dorset life.
"I don't draw from my dreams, but I observe my surroundings and that's where I get my ideas. . . ." Included within Janet Kigusiuq's bustling image of camp life are igloos, dogsleds, and traditionally clad figures interacting with one another. The complex narrative fills the entire paper and suggests either a series of chronological events shown simultaneously, or concurrent events drawn close together. The compression of separate incidents parallels the structure of the Inuit language - here represented by inscriptions in Inuktitut - which places little emphasis on sequential time. Layering different perspectives and stories, Kiqusiuq creates a palpably energetic and endlessly fascinating world.
A second-generation artist from the Baker Lake community, Janet Kigusiuq has become famous for her skillful use of vibrant color and her abstract sensibility combined with a sensitivity for rendering natural forms in detail. Nineteen Fish is a perfect example of the harmony she achieves between different levels of abstraction and representation and various possibilities of perspective. The drawing could be read as either a cavernous watercourse below ground level, or an overlay of both aerial and sidelong views of a stream above ground. By layering color to achieve brilliant, radiant hues, the artist enlivens the entire surface and detail of the composition.
Mamnguqsualuk's print illustrates the legend of a child abandoned by his village. Threatened by a pack of wolves, the boy is protected by a superior power who brings his amulet to life to kill his enemies. This terrifying subject matter has little precedent among female Inuit artists. Stonecut technique - allied with Inuit sculpture - involves transferring Mamnguqsualuk's drawing onto a slab and then removing the areas that will not appear in the final image. Necessary colors are applied to the stone surface at once, followed by a sheet of paper rubbed from the back, thus transferring the design. Stenciling creates stippled patches of color.
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