Roxanne Swentzells feminine koshare sculptures are well
known in Santa Fe, where she exhibits at Tom
Ross gallery, and her own Tower
Gallery, in Pojoaque. A mother, grandmother, artist, gardener,
and builder, Roxanne has pottery in her blood, and she took a few
moments at the Santa Fe Indian Market to discuss her art with ICTMN.
How did you start your career as a sculptor?
I come from a long lineage of Santa Clara Pueblo potters --
my mother was a potter, her mother was a potter, and so on. But
for me, art was my first language: As a child, I had a speech impediment,
and this language problem led me to create clay figurines, to express
myself. That is how I started my art career: Trying to communicate.
Today, these figures still tell my story -- even though I have learned
to speak since then!
Why did you choose to represent the figure of
As a Pueblo woman, born in Taos, and raised in New Mexico, I
have been part of that culture all my life, and my art reflects
those influences. The koshares, the Pueblo clowns, serve to balance
things in the pueblo. They relay messages to the community that
other people cannot say, but the koshare can, better than anyone.
The clowns reflect something people need to see about themselves.
Like when someone is greedy: instead of shouting, the clown will
sit in front of his house, and act like a greedy individual, collecting
rocks -- and will transmit his message to that person by doing so.
That is what I try to do in my work.
Your work is tightly related to clay and mud
-- can you talk about your materials?
I work with the clay, which I fire. But now, as a farmer, a
builder, I am getting more raw with it -- my house is in adobe.
Mud, adobe, are everywhere in my life: my hands are in mud all the
time! So I want to merge them more. Building with adobe mud is exciting.
But I can also sculpt with it -- there is something special about
a well-crafted sculpture, made of dried mud, because it crosses
boundaries. Usually, fine arts are removed from the ordinary, but
making fine art with materials you can relate to is exciting. Starting
from your backyard. That is why I chose to sculpt mud.
How do you see your evolution, as an artist?
It is important to tell our own stories. We all have a story
-- a profound, amazing journey in life. So, whenever I have caught
the moment well enough, and have been present in that story, and
in that moment -- that, to me, is a successful evolution.