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Elegance From Earth: Hopi Pottery
March 24 - September 30, 2012
The basic ingredients couldn't be simpler -- earth and water plus a few mineral and vegetal dyes. But in the hands of a gifted artisan, guided and inspired by a long and rich tradition, these humble elements are transformed into stunning works of art possessing exceptional beauty and grace. Elegance from the Earth: Hopi Pottery is a new exhibition at the Heard Museum that tells the story of the centuries-old Hopi pottery tradition. Opening on March 24, Elegance from the Earth will offer a comprehensive view of Hopi pottery's fertile legacy. The exhibition closes on September 30, 2012. (right: Jacob Koopee, Hopi/Tewa, Plate, 2000. Gift of Neil and Sarah Berman)
"Hopi pottery is famous for its intricate painting," comments Heard curator Diana Pardue. "There is nothing else quite like it. By exhibiting both historic as well as contemporary work, Elegance from the Earth will illustrate the great range and scope of this wonderful tradition."
Elegance from the Earth explores the intertwined matriarchal artistic legacies of the Nampeo, Naha and Navasie families. The Hopi-Tewa potter Nampeo (c.1859-1942) was the first American Indian potter to be known and recognized by name. This was at a time when American Indian artisans did not generally sign their works and thus were largely anonymous. She revived a style of low-shouldered spherical jars, based on those made at the village of Sikyatki in the 1600s, evolving detailed and complex designs inspired by Sikyatki pottery. Nampeo was photographed widely, and her pottery was sought by photographers, anthropologists and collectors. She also demonstrated pottery making at the Grand Canyon in 1905 and 1907, and at Chicago in 1910. (left: Rainy Naha, Hopi/Tewa, Parrot Union, 1999. Gift of Roland and Ginny Wilson)
In more recent times Nampeo's great-granddaughter Dextra Quotskuyva has received much recognition for her innovative designs and has taught some techniques to other family members including her nephews Steve Lucas and Les Namingha. Significantly, Elegance from the Earth will run concurrently with another exhibition, Landscape, Form and Light: Namingha Family, that features the work of Les Namingha's cousin, the painter and sculptor Dan Namingha and the work of his two sons, Arlo and Michael.
The exhibition will also showcase the work of another great Hopi pottery matriarch, Pagua Naha, also known as Frog Woman for the symbol of a frog that she placed on the base of her pottery. Later in life, she developed a distinctive style of white-slipped pottery with black and deep red designs that was later adopted by her daughter Joy Navasie who passed the tradition on to her children and grandchildren. Paqua Naha's son, Archie, married another talented potter, Helen Naha, who signed her pottery with a feather design. In the '70s, Helen Naha created a series of abstract black-on-white designs based on pottery sherds from the ancient village of Awatovi. Her two daughters, Rainy and Sylvia elaborated on other patterns, creating intricate and detailed fine-line designs.
"Pottery traditions, like those of other American Indian art forms, change and become reinvented through time," said Pardue. "Imaginative potters continue to work in centuries-old techniques using clay, paints and firing methods learned from their ancestors, while creating new shapes and painting unique designs."
(above: Sylvia Naha, Hopi/Tewa, Vase, 1997. Gift of Roland and Ginny Wilson)
(above: Fannie Nampeyo, Hopi/Tewa, Jar, 1950s. Fred Harvey Fine Arts Collection, Heard Museum)
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