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Thursday, March 23, 2023

60 curators, 1 show: Native Americans choose favorite pottery

SANTA FE, NM ( Associated Press) — Native American voices and artistry are at the core of a new traveling exhibition of pottery from the Pueblo Indian region of the American Southwest, as major art institutions increasingly defer to Aboriginal communities for displays of ancestral art. and artifacts

In all, 60 Native American artists, museum professionals, storytellers, and political leaders collaborated to curate the exhibit.

Each chose a few of their favorite pieces from institutional collections in New Mexico and New York that didn’t always defy Indigenous perspectives. Personal statements and sometimes poetry are accompanied by earthen porcelain.

Among the many curators, Tara Gatewood – a broadcaster and familiar voice throughout the Indian nation from the daily talk radio show “Native American Calling” – chose an ancestral jar decorated with curling arrows, made nearly 1,000 years ago.

For the exhibit, Gatewood asked the pot’s unnamed creator some heartfelt questions.

“Is your blood mine?” he said. “Where else beyond the surface of this vessel do your fingerprints appear on the blueprint of my own life?”

Exhibition “Frozen in the soil” Started on 31 July at the Museum of Indian Art and Culture in Santa Fe. It travels to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York next year, before additional stops at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and the St. Louis Art Museum.

About 110 ceramic pieces on display are borrowed from the Indian Center for Art Research – once reserved for scholars and archaeologists – on the premises of the century-old School of Advanced ResearchSituated amidst the affluent Santa Fe neighborhood of plastered houses.

Efforts have been underway for more than a decade at the center to transform how indigenous art and artifacts are cared for, displayed and interpreted – under the guidance and support of native communities.

The changes were initiated under Cynthia Chavez Lamar—the effort recently named director of the Washington-based National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. The effort also created a set of guidelines for collaboration. Which can help Native American communities everywhere communicate with museums and build trust.

The curators on “Grounded in Clay” are from 19 Native American communities in New Mexico, the West Texas community of Ysaleta del Sur, and the Hopi tribe of Arizona.

These include skilled potters, jewelers, beadmakers, fashion designers and museum professionals – among them sculptor Cliff Fragua, who created the likeness of 1680 Pueblo Rebellion leader Po’Pé, which stands in the National Statutory Hall at the US Capitol.

Alicia Poon, who guided the curating process over the course of more than two years, paced the museum gallery during the final touches before the opening.

“We try to make sure that everyone’s voice is presented in some way or the other,” said Poon, director of the Indian Arts Research Center. “It’s either in the label, or the quote is here, or it’s in that panel. It’s in the form of poetry, others in prose, others a little more abstract in how they write. Some actually reflect on the pot itself. … or the hazy memories of growing up around pottery, how this pottery inspires the memory.”

Pueblo pottery traditions rely on rolling pottery into an array of shapes and sizes – without a spinning pottery wheel. Pottery, plates or idols are often burned near the ground within improvised outdoor kilns.

Brian Vallow, advisor to metropolitan museums and governor of Acoma Pueblo from 2019-21, selected two pieces for the new traveling exhibition – both with unmistakable ties to AcomaKnown for its mesa-topped “Sky City” and hundreds of contemporary artists and artisans.

He found her at the New York-based Vilseck Foundation, a participant in the travel show.

They say that something beautiful and refreshing awaits experienced museum-goers and curious tourists.

“It’s the native voice, and even those objects are chosen by the native people, not the institution,” Vallow said. “They will appreciate that these cultures have survived and flourished, and that the creative spirit of our people is very much alive.”

World Nation News Desk
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