exquisite clay pots in the exhibition "Born of Fire: The Life and
Pottery of Margaret Tafoya," at Carnegie Museum of Natural History,
were made for the most part in the last century, but they belong
to a tradition that dates to 500 A.D.
who was born in 1904 and died in 2001, was a member of the Santa
Clara Pueblo in New Mexico. It's one of several pueblo Indian villages
in that state, and in neighboring Arizona, known for beautifully
crafted pottery based on traditional methods and forms that are
passed down from one generation to another.
Carnegie shows 75 pieces by Tafoya, considered before her death
"the last surviving Pueblo matriarch," and also works by her mother
of the latter, daughter Toni Roller and grandson Nathan Youngblood,
will give gallery talks at the museum from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday.
They will also be present at a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. today
for a complementary exhibition at Four Winds Gallery, 5512 Walnut
learned how to make her black and red ware pots chiefly from her
mother, Sarafina Gutierrez Tafoya, including unusually large pieces
30 or more inches high. The pots are made by the coil method --
hand built rather than wheel thrown -- and their surfaces are painstakingly
rubbed with a stone before firing to achieve the characteristic
polished finish. They are fired in an open fire using natural fuels,
such as wood and animal manure.
Tafoya's father, Jose Geronimo Tafoya, was also a potter, as was
her husband Alcario Tafoya. Both men helped to dig and process clay
and to fire pots, and Alcario also carved the bold symbolic designs,
such as the bear paw or water serpent, into their surfaces. But
because the men's primary responsibility was raising food for their
families, the women made most of the pottery.
Tafoya was a traditionalist, maintaining stringent values for the
craft when she taught her children. Presented with the National
Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship in 1984, for
example, she spoke of using only clay dug from deposits on Santa
get the clay where our ancestors used to take it," she said. "My
girls are still doing work from the clay that my great-great-grandparents
so many of her family members have chosen to continue the tradition
(though often introducing personal variants) is indicative of the
cultural commitment in place in the pueblo, and also of the worldwide
interest in the works that allow the potters to dedicate themselves
to carrying on that tradition.
of Margaret Tafoya's descendents represented in the exhibition are
son and daughter-in-law Lee and Betty Tafoya; besides Roller, daughters
Mary Ester Archuleta, Virginia Ebelacker, LuAnn Tafoya, Shirley
Tafoya, Jennie Trammel and Mela Youngblood; granddaughters Linda
Tafoya and Nancy Youngblood; besides Nathan Youngblood, grandsons
Jeff Roller, Daryl Whitegeese and Christopher Youngblood; great
grandsons Jerome Ebelacker and Jeremy Oyenque; and son-in-law Richard
will also be at Four Winds from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and she
and Youngblood from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday.
Winds owner John Krena has a decades-long relationship with Southwestern
Native American artists and is a collector of Tafoya family pottery.
He is exhibiting pottery by Margaret Tafoya, Roller and Youngblood,
as well as by Kiowa jeweler Keri Ataumbi.
Charles S. King will sign his book, which has the same title as
the exhibition, at the Carnegie and Four Winds events. Ataumbi will
attend the Four Wind events (412-682-5092).
continues through January 4. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, and until 8 p.m.
Thursday. Admission is $15, seniors $12, children ages 3 - 18 and
students $11, under age 3 free. An exhibition tour, lunch and ceramic
tile workshop will be led by Gloria Pollock Oct. 29 (register at
412-622-3288). Related family activities will be offered on weekends
(call for dates). For information visit www.carnegiemnh.org
or call 412-622-3131
art critic Mary Thomas may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
First published on October 2, 2008 at 12:00 am