NATIVE TREASURES CELEBRATES POTTER JOY NARANJO
each year, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture designates a different Native artist as a Living Treasure. That honoree’s work is featured at the annual Native Treasures: Indian Arts Festival, which takes place this year at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center on Saturday, May 27, and Sunday, May 28. The ceremony naming the Living Treasure involves the passing of a unique torch — an original work of art that is presented by the previous year’s awardee. This year’s artist is Santa Clara potter Jody Naranjo, who will receive the title from Hopi-Tewa painter and sculptor Dan Namingha.
“I believe I’m the 14th Living Treasure,” said Naranjo, whose work is on view in the MIAC exhibit
Revealing Joy through December, as well as in a show honoring current and past Living Treasures, on exhibit at the New Mexico Governor’s Gallery in the Roundhouse through Aug. 25. The Native Treasures exhibit and sale adds another venue for viewing Naranjo’s works. “There’s about 200 of us that do the Native Treasures show,” she said. “It’s a juried show. We donate part of our proceeds to the museum and that goes toward education and toward the exhibits. What I’m having at the convention center over Memorial Day weekend is actually my new pottery, bronze, and glass, and I have candles and blankets I designed that will be out for sale so that I can represent all of my different art forms.”
At the Governor’s Gallery, Naranjo’s work can be seen along with pieces by Dan Namingha, Teri Greeves, Keri Ataumbi, and other Living Treasures going back to 2006, when Robert Tenorio of Santo Domingo Pueblo became the first Native artist to receive the honor. Artworks by Tenorio, Greeves, Tammy Garcia, and other Living Treasures, as well as other Native artists, are also included in a pre-show sale and benefit at the convention center on Friday evening, when Naranjo is honored and the Native Treasures awards for best of show are presented. More than 40 Native pueblos and tribes are represented in the festival, which includes works in pottery, jewelry, fetish carving, beadwork, sculpture, basketry, and more.
For Naranjo, who is represented by Blue Rain Gallery, pottery is a family tradition going back generations. “I think I’m at least eighth generation,” she said. “It goes back farther than that. My mother, my grandmother, her mother and grandmother, and so on, we all do pottery. There’s probably around 40 or 50 potters in my family. We do it as a community as well. We go dig clay. We fire together. It’s kind of nice to sit and compare and show each other little tricks and things you’ve learned.” Naranjo, who was born in 1969, has been using clay from the time she was three or four years old. MIAC’s exhibit Revealing Joy is a solo show of her ceramics. “It’s a retrospective,” she said. “There are pieces that go back about 30 years.”
Naranjo does traditional Santa Clara pottery, known for its black and red wares with incised designs, but she also creates more whimsical, figurative imagery. “My characters are not realistic,” she said. “They’re more like caricatures, little happy people. At least that’s what people always tell me: ‘They’re so happy.’ Some Pueblo designs have become more stylized for me. I do old Mimbres designs, but then I pull in
landscapes with the mountains and pueblos, a river with the fish, a sky with the birds. I love landscape pottery.” It isn’t uncommon to see the river or a mission church in her designs. In her scenes, she depicts the pueblos located along the Río Grande; many feature a Catholic church in the mission style.
Naranjo does outdoor wood-burning firings using cedar, which burns hot and fast. She can achieve a range of colors in the firing process before adding pigments. “I dig three different clays. One is up at Santa Clara Pueblo and that’s kind of a brown clay. I dig up volcanic ash in the Pojoaque area and then I add in some of the micaceous clay which is out toward Picuris and Taos Pueblos. I make the pieces using a coil method. I don’t use a wheel or molds of any kind. Then I sand them down and polish them with riverbed stones. Generally, those stones are passed down from generation to generation in our family. You can see your grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s handprint on the stone because they’ve been held so long and rubbed so long.” Naranjo is most passionate about the surface treatment, for which she uses a combination of hand-drawn and painted elements with carved designs. “That’s my thing. I love decorating them. I find the pots to be like an empty canvas. I carve Pueblo girls and pueblo scenes, lots of different animals. I like doing the backgrounds with different patterns. I try to add in color with natural pigments and just have fun with it.”
▼ Native Treasures: Indian Arts Festival ▼ Pre-show celebration and benefit 5:30 p.m. Friday, May 26; early-bird sale 9-10 a.m., then 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, May 27; 10 a.m. -5 pm Sunday, May 28 ▼ Santa Fe Community Convention Center, 201 W. Marcy St., 505-955-6200 ▼ $125 pre-show benefit, call 505-982-6366, Ext. 119; Saturday earlybird sale $25, Saturday general admission $10, tickets at the door; no charge Sunday
Right, Jody Naranjo and Glendora Fragua: Pueblo Luck, 2015, clay with acrylic paint; top left, Naranjo cruises past Black Mesa on her 1964 Harley Davidson, 1995; top right, pots season before being fired at Santa Clara, 2008 & 2012; opposite page, Birds of Flight, 2014, Santa Clara Clay