Category Archives: Mexican artists

Jera Tena

Jera Penguin

Jerardo Tena effigy. Jerardo is a nephew of Felix Ortiz.

Jerardo (Jera) Tena is the nephew of Félix Ortiz. Félix and many others were pioneers of pottery in Mata Ortiz. Jera lives in Barrio Porvenir. Jera says, “When I was eight years old I collected clay and manure with my Uncle Félix. I looked at the clay and pottery while my uncle worked. That’s how I learned.”

Unlike Félix, Jera does not make blackware. He is best known for well-polished polychrome animal effigies and has won First Place award five times at the Concurso, the nationally sponsored competition of Mata Ortiz pottery.

The first photo shows penguin effigies in process from 2017. The second photo shows a sheep effigy from 2008.

Sabino Villalba, son of Andres Villalba

SABINO

This pot by Sabino Villalba depicts a god of Paquimé, part man and part parrot, swimming with a parrot tucked under his arm. The crosshatching represents a shaman. The spiral is a dust devil or tornado. Great work and flawless painting. (Not for sale) Sabino is the son of well known and highly respected Andres Villalba.

Esta olla de Sabino “Caby” Villalba representa a un dios de Paquimé, parte hombre y parte guacamaya, nadando con un guacamaya escondido bajo su brazo. El cruce de rayos representa a un chamán. La espiral es un diablo de polvo o tornado. Gran trabajo y pintura impecable. Sabino es hijo del muy conocido y muy respetado Andrés Villalba.

Documentary, “Mata Ortiz: The Untold Stories”

DVD COVER

Filmmaker Ron Goebel presents a new documentary shot on location in Mata Ortiz, Chihuahua, Mexico. Interviews with artists and researchers native to the region disclose the town’s accurate and complete history. Until now that history has been incomplete and mythical.

The documentary  “Mata Ortiz: The Untold Stories,” is $25.00 plus $5.00 shipping. Total is $30.00. Send payment to Ron Goebel, 772 South Ocean Avenue, Cayucos, California 93430. You can pay with Paypal also.

Mata Ortiz: Untold Stories Part Two

THE UNTOLD STORIES OF PAQUIMÉ AND

MATA ORTIZ (PART TWO)

By Ron Goebel and Nancy Andrews

 

“It is time to include more voices and expand the history of the

Mata Ortiz pottery tradition into a more complete account.”

-From the 2015 documentary, “Mata Ortiz: The Untold Stories”

 

Pottery in Mata Ortiz emerged as a group effort. Documentation by researcher Fabiola Silva shows that in Mata Ortiz the pottery tradition began as a group effort and not as a single man’s inspiration. Professor Julián Hernandez concurs: “They started working with the clay…all together…to get better skills to do their pottery.”

Speaking of the 1960s and early 1970s, her father’s early years in pottery, Maricela Ortiz reaffirms this group effort. “Yes, my father Félix Ortiz was one of the first ones who began working in clay, he and some of his friends,” she says. Along with his brother, Emeterio, Félix’s potter friends included Rojelio Silveira, and Salbador Ortiz, uncle of contemporary artist Elí Navarrete.

Eli Navarrete remembers his own early years of learning to make pots in Barrio Porvenir. “I hung out with Félix and his older brother Emeterio. They were pioneers with Juan Quezada. And one of the first ones to use new techniques was my uncle, Salbador Ortiz. On the weekends I spent time with family and friends and we would talk about finding new materials and tools.”

Pioneer Mata Ortiz potter Rojelio Silveira concurs, stating that in the 1960s Salbador Ortiz was one of the original potters in the village. In a 2012 interview with Mata Ortiz documentarian Richard Ryan, Silveira says, “I was about 21 years old when I began making pots. It was before I married.” The year was 1965. “That’s when I made a pot with two faces, an effigy. Félix [Ortiz] made a small bowl and my friend Chava [Salbador Ortiz] made a small pot. That’s the way we started. It started when I said to them, ‘Let’s make a pot.’” Silveira had been a pothunter, and so it occurred to him to make a pot himself. “So they said, OK, let’s give it a try, and we did. All together. Felix Ortiz, myself Rojelio Silveira, and Salbador Ortiz. The three of us.”

 

MATA ORTIZ SPECIALIZATION

Carlotta Boetcher poses this topic for discussion:

       “What is your position on lumping together as potters, those who never touch the clay, never make the clay piece, only paint something they bought from someone who supplies ready-to-paint pots vs. the potters who dig, wash, knead, and prepare their own clay and make all of their own vessels in preparation for the paint or any further decoration they may deem appropriate? …Top awards are given without distinction…much complaining about this issue…Could be an interesting topic.”

 

THE SPECIALIZATION DILEMMA

IN MATA ORTIZ POTTERY

by Nancy Andrews

Art and craft specialization is certainly nothing new to traditional art communities. Some Navajo weavers employ specialization (spinners, dyers, sheep handlers, etc) as a means to more efficiently create rugs and blankets.  These days, they are very open about it.  In addition to efficiency, specialization maintains a role in the art process for elder weavers who may no longer be able to weave, and yet continue to be expert dyers or spinners. Specialization may in fact have begun decades ago, and is a practice we’re just now more aware of.  In Navajo culture, no judgment is attached to those who specialize and those who don’t. As Navajo weaving expert Ann Hedlund says, “The choice to specialize, or not, is left up to the individual weaver. It is her business.”

A number of Pueblo potters practice specialization, (pot makers, painters, firing experts…), and in many cases are quite open about it.  Like Navajo weavers, some Pueblo potters find the practice not only efficient, but a way for individuals to excel in the areas they find most interesting, satisfying, profitable or enjoyable. And like weaving, pottery with its lengthy and multiple steps from start to finish lends itself, almost inevitably leads, to specialization.  An artist may in fact be skilled at each step (in pottery: digging clay, preparing clay, pot building, burnishing, paint making, brush construction, painting, fuel gathering, firing; in rug making: sheep raising, sheering, carding, spinning, dying, loom construction, weaving), but in an effort toward more sales and family sustenance, she may choose the efficiency of specialization and the gainful employment of community specialists.

Yet, in the 1997 documentary “Mata Ortiz Pottery: An Inside Look,” Mata Ortiz potter Macario Ortiz asserts that “a real potter does it all.” And yet, Macario Ortiz openly utilizes specialization in the creation of his pots.  Perhaps this illustrates that the specialization issue is not an “either/or” dilemma.  It is simply the choice of the artist.

My subjective opinion, not being expert in the matter, is that it is the honesty of the artist that matters most.  When an artist specializes, she must  embrace it, acknowledge it, honor the others involved in the process. We must remember, as Navajo sentiment apparently tends to go, that specialization is a matter for the individual with no judgment attached. That said, a great potter does indeed know how to do it all. And if sometimes he may prefer to include and acknowledge others in the process, that is his option.

A potter who in fact does do it all must be honored for his breadth of knowledge, diligence and talent. The singular integrity of his finished product is a unique achievement. His intimate knowledge of every step of the process that led to the completed pot is an accomplishment to be revered.

Myself, I stand in awe of all talented potters.  Truly remarkable work is the fruit of specialization.  And yet I feel an almost spiritual connection to a pot that was created, earth to fire, by one individual.  I’m happy to have both in my collection.

I wonder…in competitions should there be separate categories? I don’t know.

I wonder, did the Paquime potters specialize? I don’t know.

I wonder too, what are your thoughts on the matter? Let us know.

 

 

Mata Ortiz Sgrafitto: Hector Gallegos Jr.

 

Hector Junior 10  2011

In 2003, in a match no doubt blessed by the ancient potters themselves, Hector Gallegos Junior and Laura Bugarini were married, That union united two of the best known pottery families in Mata Ortiz. Both Hector and Laura are frequent award winners at the numerous concursos and other pottery events throughout Mexico and the United States.  These days, Hector and Laura’s work is in huge demand, usually requiring waiting lists, often lengthy ones.

In addition to his art, Hector Gallegos Jr. is dedicated to fitness and body building. He competes, and frequently wins or places, in body building competitions in Mexico and the United States.  Along with his pottery studio, Hector has his own gym at the back of his home in Barrio Americano.  Laura supports him in his fitness passion by making sure his diet is nutritious. Laura and Hector also collaborate on pottery projects, as well as continuing to make their own individual pieces.  Their daughter Pablita attends private school with high academic standards and English curriculum.  Hector too is acquiring good English language skills, sometimes practicing with ten-year-old Pabla.

Hector is a founding member of El Grupo Siete, The Group of Seven, an alliance of Mata Ortiz artists working for positive, locally envisioned change in the village.  The Gallegos family often travels to the United States and throughout Mexico for art, body building and Group of Seven functions, as well as fun.  They are indeed a 21st Century pottery family, wise, worldly and working for the transformation they want to see. Hector is  part of a remarkable new wave of Mata Ortiz potters that has been called “the Young Turks.” In so many good ways, they all live up to that global comparison.

Blog Hector Laura Juan 2012

Juan Quezada, Laura Bugarini, Pabla Gallegos and Hector Gallegos Junior at the Concurso in Mata Ortiz, 2012.

 

MATA ORTIZ: MORE ANGELS AMONG US (This is what we’re talking about!)

Bravo to Silver City’s Clay Festival, already a stellar annual event! Check out the program the Festival offers on Sunday, August 3, 2014,10 A.M, at Seedboat Center for the Arts. For the first time, a Mata Ortiz artist, Diego Valles, will participate in a panel discussion about Mata Ortiz  Pottery. Diego’s pottery was the talk of last year’s Festival. This year Diego has the opportunity to speak on stage about the success he and other Mexican artists are having with contemporary pottery techniques as a 21st Century Mata Ortiz strives for continued excellence. And Clay Festival listeners will have the first of what will no doubt be many opportunities to hear a Mata Ortiz potter broaden our perspectives on their living Latino Art.  Congrats to the Clay Festival on this important first!

Another first time panel participant, Western New Mexico Professor Emeritus Claude Smith, also a professional potter, will join Diego in the discussion. Even as we post this, Claude is hard at work creating his own ceramic magic for the Festival! His vases, mugs and decorative plates will delight viewers and tempt buyers alike. Claude’s knowledge of pottery is sure to enlighten listeners and help us all to better appreciate clay creations showcased in the 2014 Clay Festival. Claude is truly a Silver City treasure.

In the meantime, check out the amazing contemporary work of Diego Valles downtown at Seedboat Center for the Arts, 214 W. Yankie St., Silver City, New Mexico. Enjoy Claude’s outstanding pieces when they are featured at Western New Mexico University Museum, Saturday, August 2nd, 3-6 PM. Let’s go!