Native Americans select art to display in a traveling exhibit

Art institutions in the United States are increasingly reaching out to Native American communities for public displays or exhibitions of ancestral art and artifacts.

Native American voices and artistry are at the center of a new traveling exhibit. Grounded in clay opened July 31 at the Santa Fe Museum of Native American Art and Culture. Next year, it will head to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, followed by stops at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and the St. Louis Art Museum.

Grounded in clay investigates ceramics from the Pueblo Indian region of the American Southwest.

In the Pueblo pottery tradition, artists shape clay into various shapes and sizes by hand. Then they fire it in a very hot oven called a kiln. The process permanently hardens the clay.

60 Native American artists, museum professionals, storytellers and political leaders worked together to develop the public display. Each selected a few of their favorites from the collections in New Mexico and New York. Personal statements and sometimes poetry appear with clay works.

Among the organizers of the exhibition was Tara Gatewood, host of the daily talk radio show “Native American Calling”.

Gatewood discussed the mystery surrounding the works, pointing to one ancient jar from around 1,000 years ago. Its manufacturer is unknown.

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

Elysia Poon, director of the New Mexico Native American Art Research Center, left, watches the finishing touches on a community-curated exhibit of Native American pottery from the Pueblo Indian region of the southwestern United States, July 28, 2022, at the Native American Museum. Arts and culture in Santa Fe, New Mexico (AP Photo/Morgan Lee)

The exposition includes about 110 pottery works. The Indian Art Research Center at the School of Advanced Studies in Santa Fe loaned most of the pieces.

The center has long worked to transform the way Native American art and artifacts are cared for, displayed and understood.

Organizers Grounded in clay come from 19 Indian communities in New Mexico, the West Texas community of Isleta del Sur, and the Hopi tribe in Arizona.

Brian Vallo, Acoma Pueblo Governor 2019-21, selected two works for the new traveling exhibit. Both parts are connected to Acoma, known as the “heavenly city” because of its location on high ground.

Vallo found the fragments at the Wilczek Foundation in New York

He says that something wonderful and new is waiting for experienced museum workers and other curious visitors.

“These are Indigenous voices, and these are even subjects that are chosen by Indigenous people themselves, not by institutions,” he said.

Vallo added that people who will go to the show “will appreciate that these cultures have survived and are there prosperousand the creative spirit of our people is very alive.”

I’m John Russell.

Morgan Lee reported this story for the Associated Press. John Russell adapted it for learning English.


The words in this story

artifact – p. an object (such as a tool or weapon) that was made by humans in the past

clay – p. a heavy, sticky material made of earth that is molded into various shapes and hardens when baked or dried

ceramics – p. objects (such as bowls, plates, etc.) made from clay, usually by hand, and then fired at high temperatures to make them hard

vessel – p. somewhat old-fashioned: a hollow container for storing liquids

flourish – in to grow or develop successfully: to prosper or succeed


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