UNIQUE & UNUSUAL
Rare and original Pueblo pottery works are on view at Adobe Gallery.
SANTA FE, NM
In the 1880s, there was a shift in the Pueblo pottery that was being created. The items went from strictly ceremonial and utilitarian with simple forms and conservative designs to pieces that would attract the attention of tourists. Many potters began to experiment with shapes, colors and designs, creating eye-catching vessels that were easily marketed. On April 6, Adobe Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico, will open the exhibition Unique and Unusual Pueblo Pottery featuring more than 30 rare and original pieces.
“With the influx of the train in the 1880s, and the tourism later, [Pueblo Indians] began making things they thought were more attuned to what visitors would buy,” says Alexander E. Anthony Jr., owner of the gallery. “They would do things that looked ceremonial because they learned if it looked religious
or ceremonial and was forbidden, they would buy it. They’d make various items that might be functional in shape, but they were aimed at the tourist in design.”
One of the items in the show is a Zia four-color polychrome olla from around 1910 that has an orange deer as the main design and hearts to either side. According to Anthony, the color of the deer makes it a special find. Reportedly there are only three other jars that are known with the deer in that color; one is at the Denver Art Museum and the other two are at the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe. Of this particular item, Anthony adds, “You can see around the rim, this was actually made for use and was used as a water jar several decades before it was sold.”
Other works that are unique because of their pigments is a Zuni large white-on-red olla, from around 1900, and a Tesuque polychrome bowl with blue pigment, circa 1880s. The former piece is interesting because the white-on-red was not standard, while the blue-pigmented bowl had the hue added after it was fired so the color would not burn off in the process of making the piece.
A circa 1889 San Ildefonso pictorial lidded jar is
another uncommon find, particularly for the imagery that has been painted. “There are three pictures going around the neck. One with a guy roping a horse, then there is another one showing a guy with a hat riding on a horse, and the third image show the two fighting,” describes Anthony. “On the front of the jar it has 1889, and on the back it has Juan. Juan and Jose were the two guys—whoever they were—that were fighting. We have assumed that since the jar has Juan’s name on it that he was the winner. His wife or mother-inlaw made the jar in his honor. That is not certainly something they would have decorated for their own use. It was obviously meant to be sold. It is rare from that standpoint.”
Two items with unique shapes are a San Ildefonso double chamber stirrup canteen, from around 1920, and an Acoma pottery cube from about 1890s. The canteen is one that was not practical for daily use, but was rather more of a ceremonial item likely made by a female and painted by a male artist. “The square box is unusual in the sense that it more than likely was probably made as a home-use ceremonial vessel for sacred cornmeal,” explains Anthony. “It more than likely had a lid at one time, but might not have as there is no wear pattern, but it is possible that it did.”
Also in the show will be a flat, 10-inch tile by Maria and Julian Martinez that is out of the ordinary because it is not their usual style of artwork. A Laguna doubleheaded bird effigy jar, which appealed to tourists because of is whimsical design, and a Tesuque blackon-red figural vessel that shows a serpent are also noteworthy.
Unique and Unusual Pueblo Pottery will be on view through May.
2. San Ildefonso pictorial lidded jar, ca. 1889, clay and pigment, 16 x 18" (without lid)
5. Tesuque polychrome bowl with blue pigment, ca. 1880s, clay and pigments, 3⁄ x 10½" 5
6. Historic Acoma pottery cube, ca. 1890, clay and pigment, 2½ x 3 x 3" 6