Category Archives: Anglo influence

Historia y Alfareria de Mata Ortiz

Felix Ortiz and family

Felix Ortiz and family

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

Jerardo Tena effigy. Jerardo es sobrino de Felix Ortiz.

Historia y Alfareria de Juan Mata Ortiz

La historia completa de la alfarería Mata Ortiz necesita voces nuevas. Una reexaminación histórica es la base en gran parte de este contexto. James McPherson, presidente de la American Historical Association, dice que “la revisión es el alma de los estudios históricos. La historia es el diálogo contínuo entre el presente y el pasado. Las interpretaciones del pasado están sujetos a cambio en respuesta a nueva evidencia, preguntas nuevas que se hacen a la evidencia y nuevas perspectivas que se adquieren con el pasar de los años. No hay una sola, eterna y inmutable ‘verdad’ sobre los eventos en el pasado y su significado”.

Esta ampliada documentación histórica pasa a través de algunas suposiciones aceptadas. La documentación incluye las voces de muchas personas, entre las cuales, las de los alfareros del área de Mata Ortiz y Nuevo Casas Grandes.

Kiva es una revista trimestral que publica la Sociedad Arqueológica y Histórica de Arizona. En la edición de otoño de 1994, Scott Ryerson escribió que ningún alfarero del barrio de El Porvenir de Mata Ortiz fue incluido en una lista de Spencer MacCallum hecha en 1977 de alfareros que estaban trabajando con barro.

Sin embargo, gracias a la investigación de Jim Hills en 2010 en Nuevo Casas Grandes, Casas Grandes y Mata Ortiz, sabemos que habían muchas personas en el barrio de Porvenir haciendo ollas en los anos 1970. Alfareros del Porvenir como Rojelio Silveira, Emeterio Ortiz, Felix Ortiz, y Salvador Ortiz hacían la alfarería de Mata Ortiz en los años 1960 y 1970. También en reciente entrevistas en 2015 con muchos alfareros revelo que la tradición de la ceramica de Mata Ortiz surgió como un esfuerzo de grupo, y no de la inspiración de un solo hombre.

Se sabe de sobra que el muy conocido Juan Quezada estaba trabajando en barro en otra área de Mata Ortiz en la misma época.  Así mismo, de acuerdo a la investigación de Julián Hernandez de Nuevo Casas Grandes, Manuel Olivas de Nuevo Casas Grandes, hacía ollas contemporánea al estilo Paquime, lo que ahora se llama alfarería Mata Ortiz, a principios de los años cincuenta. Manuel aprendió a trabajar con ollas de su abuela, Leonor Parra.  En la revista Southwest, edición primavera 2012, Hernandez dijo que Manuel “estaba haciendo alfarería con diseños Paquimé a finales de 1951”.

De acuerdo a una investigación más reciente, “Spencer MacCallum continuamente ajustó su relato a través de los años en su intento de promover una sola narrativa, la cual requirió omitir, modificar, o diluir hechos.” Debido a este relato incompleto, se perdió la estima familiar y generó el resentimiento hacia las personas que estaban presentes en la historia de MacCallum. Ese resentimiento continúa hoy, con los actuales alfareros que hablan sobre las ramificaciones actuales, contemporáneas. Ya es hora de que sus voces estén incluidas para ampliar la historia de la alfarería tradicional de Mata Ortiz hacia una recolección mas completa.

 

 

 

 

 

Mata Ortiz: Las Historias No Contadas, Parte Dos

LAS HISTORIAS NO CONTADAS DE PAQUIMÉ Y

MATA ORTIZ (PARTE DOS)

                                             Por Ron Goebel y Nancy Andrews

 

“Es momento de incluir más voces y expandir la historia de la tradición alfarería de Mata Ortiz en una representación más completa”.

-Del documental de 2015 “Mata Ortiz: Las Historias No Contadas”

La alfarería en Mata Ortiz surgió como un esfuerzo grupal. La documentación muestra que en Mata Ortiz la tradición alfarería comenzó como un esfuerzo grupal y no con la inspiración de un solo hombre. El profesor Julián Hernández está de acuerdo: “Comenzaron a trabajar con el barro… todos juntos… para lograr mejores habilidades y realizar sus trabajos de alfarería”.

Marisela Ortiz reafirma este esfuerzo grupal cuando habla sobre la década de 1960 y de principios de la década de 1970, los primeros años de su padre en la alfarería. “Sí, mi padre Félix Ortiz fue uno de los primeros que comenzó a trabajar con barro, él y algunos de sus amigos”, destaca. Junto con su hermano, Emeterio, entre los amigos alfareros de Félix se encontraban Rojelio Silveira y Salbador Ortiz, tío del artista contemporáneo Eli Navarrete.

Eli Navarrete recuerda sus propios comienzos, cuando aprendió a fabricar ollas en Barrio Porvenir. “Me juntaba con Félix y su hermano mayor Emeterio. Fueron pioneros con Juan Quezada. Y uno de los primeros en utilizar técnicas nuevas fue mi tío, Salbador Ortiz. Los fines de semana, pasaba tiempo con familiares y amigos y hablábamos sobre encontrar nuevos materiales y herramientas”.

El alfarero pionero de Mata Ortiz, Rojelio Silveira, coincide y afirma que en la década de1960 Salbador Ortiz era uno de los alfareros auténticos del pueblo. En una entrevista de 2012 con el documentalista Richard Ryan de Mata Ortiz, Silveira relata: “Tenía unos 21 años cuando comencé a fabricar ollas. Fue antes de casarme”. Era el año 1965. “Ahí fue cuando hice una olla con dos rostros, una esfinge. Félix [Ortiz] hizo un cuenco pequeño y mi amigo Chava [Salbador Ortiz] hizo una olla pequeña. Así fue cómo empezamos. Comenzó cuando les dije: “Hagamos una olla”. Silveira había sido un saqueador, y también resultó que pudo fabricar una olla él mismo. “Así que dijeron, está bien, intentémoslo, y así lo hicimos. Todos juntos. Félix Ortiz, yo Rojelio Silveira y Salbador Ortiz. Los tres”.

Mata Ortiz: Las Historias No Contadas, Parte Tres

LAS HISTORIAS NO CONTADAS DE PAQUIMÉ Y

MATA ORTIZ (PARTE TRES)

Por Ron Goebel y Nancy Andrews

Del mismo modo, los artistas jóvenes de la actualidad rápidamente le dan crédito a la comunidad por sus logros y comparten sus triunfos con colegas. El premiado alfarero Héctor Gallegos Junior avanza hasta el punto de darle el crédito a la tierra misma, junto con sus padres, por su inspiración y logros. “Todos nuestros materiales”, explica, “provienen de nuestra tierra, así que es muy importante para mí. La mayoría de nuestras tierras se han cultivado por mi familia durante muchas generaciones. Además de la alfarería, la mayoría de las personas vive de su tierra. Debido a mi amor por la naturaleza, comencé a representar a los animales y insectos del norte de México en mis trabajos de alfarería”. Gallegos continúa y ilustra su devoción por la comunidad de Mata Ortiz. “Cuando viajamos a exhibiciones, mostramos nuestro trabajo, pero también hablamos de la comunidad. No solo nos promocionamos a nosotros mismos. Promocionamos a toda la comunidad. Por ejemplo, Group of Seven es una nueva asociación civil de artistas que apoya a estudiantes locales con becas”. El premiado alfarero Diego Valles cree lo siguiente: “En Mata Ortiz, somos en verdad una comunidad de artistas. Creo que es por eso que no tenemos límites”.

“La revisión es el alma de los estudios históricos. La historia es un diálogo continuo entre el presente y el pasado. Las interpretaciones del pasado están sujetas al cambio en respuesta a nuevas evidencias, nuevos interrogantes a partir de la evidencia y nuevas perspectivas obtenidas con el paso del tiempo”. James McPherson

De hecho, los alfareros contemporáneos de Mata Ortiz comprenden las oportunidades ilimitadas para aquellos que tienen ideas de diseño vanguardistas y la disciplina para ejecutarlas. Iván Martínez, un ambicioso estudiante de marketing de 24 años de la Universidad de Paquimé y oriundo de Mata Ortiz, relata su éxito de 2014. “Ese año tuve el privilegio de ir a Tonolá, Jalisco”, cuenta Martínez. “No estaba acostumbrado a ir a competencias de alfarería. Ese año, tuve el coraje de presentar una pieza. Para mi sorpresa, mi trabajo ganó el segundo lugar a nivel nacional. Gracias al premio, tengo la motivación para continuar”. Su hermana, la premiada Viviana Martínez, de 19 años y también estudiante universitaria, le da el crédito a su hermano Iván por su propia motivación disciplinada. “Mis padres, hermano y amigos me mantienen innovadora. Cuando voy a la escuela y les digo a mis amigos lo bien que me está yendo, se sorprenden por todos los premios que he ganado y me dicen lo orgullosos que están de mí”, relata.

Ahora la tecnología moderna contribuye a la amplia variedad de posibilidades de promocionar la alfarería y, por lo tanto, de ganarse la vida con el arte. La apremiada alfarería Carla Martínez de Mata Ortiz señala que alrededor del 30% de los artistas jóvenes en el pueblo están conectados a Internet y usan correos electrónicos, Facebook y otros medios de comunicación para contactarse con potenciales compradores. La apremiada Elvira Bugarini Cota es una de las promotoras en línea. Bugarini expresa: “Nuestros nuevos clientes aparecen por Internet. Tenemos clientes por Internet que llaman desde Cancún, Puerto Vallarta, Playa del Carmen y Acapulco. Sí, Internet nos ha ayudado. Gracias a él, hemos podido llegar a personas de otros lugares que no conocían nuestro trabajo, gente de Francia, España, personas que no sabíamos que podían estar interesadas en nosotros. Internet nos ha servido mucho. Estoy orgullosa de lo que hemos logrado”.

En 2013, la hermana de Bugarini, Laura Bugarini Cota, ganó el primer lugar en la competencia nacional de alfarería en Tlaquepaque, Jalisco. Elvira Bugarini enfatiza lo siguiente: “A partir de 2013, hemos visto más interés en nuestro trabajo por parte de la gente en México. Vemos que las personas de México están interesadas en hacer que nuestro trabajo sea bien conocido a nivel nacional”. En cuanto al triunfo, Laura Bugarini reflexiona: “Este es el honor más grande que he tenido. Recibí el premio en Tlaquepaque, Jalisco. Lo recibí de las manos del presidente Peña Nieto. Es un gran honor para todos, para mí y para todos los alfareros de aquí que trabajan con barro. El premio es para todos nosotros”.

Así, en el siglo XXI vemos que la alfarería de Mata Ortiz es reconocida en México y más allá. La tradición que comenzó hace siglos con los alfareros de Paquimé, las ollas que replicó Manuel Olivas en la década de 1950 bajo la tutela de su abuela, Leonor Parra, el arte que recrearon Félix Ortiz, Salbador Ortiz y Rojelio Silveira y otros en la década de 1960, el arte que se volvió más amplio con el ingenio de Juan y Nicolás Quezada, ahora recibe extendido reconocimiento nacional e internacional. Ese reconocimiento les permite a los alfareros de Mata Ortiz continuar viviendo del arte y compartir su buena fortuna con otros. Como dice el maestro alfarero Macario Ortiz de Porvenir: “El sol brilla para todos”.

Copyright © 2016 Ron Goebel. Todos los derechos reservados.

Overview of Mata Ortiz

Overview of Mata Ortiz

2012-09-17 13.27.41

Que Milagro? (What a Miracle?)

Que Milagro?  (What a Miracle?)

Today, July 27, 2016, at the Clay Festival in Silver City, New Mexico, visiting Mata Ortiz artist, Diego Valles, staged a reform of sorts: He credited the MATRIARCHS of Mata Ortiz with being the first potters in their community. At last!

For years, the role pot-making grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and great-great-grandmothers played in the Mata Ortiz region was overlooked, sustaining an American-invented tale that pottery making was re-discovered in Mata Ortiz by a man who had never seen a potter at work. Yes, it was an American-invented myth. A myth of male dominance. A myth spread largely by American men with their own business interests and reputations at stake.

“Our grandmothers made utilitarian pottery out of necessity,” Valles asserted. “Pottery was part of the community.” He went on to say that “Later, in the fifties and sixties, it was a group of potters, the Silveiras and others,” that began what we now call the Mata Ortiz Pottery Movement. Collective sigh. It has finally been said out loud that generations of Mexican men and women are to be credited for Mata Ortiz Pottery.

And, Valles went on to speak about the long-held secret of mid-twentieth century pot hunting around Casas Grandes.  “It’s not shameful,” said Valles. “What would YOU do?” he asked, explaining that people were hungry, black market demand was great for ancient pots, the laws about antiquities were looser and many people did not yet understand the cultural significance of ancient artifacts. Years later, Mexican and American researchers were told to keep quiet about early pot hunting in their papers and presentations.

It’s about a hundred years after female potters were working in Mata Ortiz. It’s sixty-five years after Manuel Olivas learned potting in Casas Grandes from his grandmother, Leonor Parra. It’s sixty years after pot hunters like the pioneer Rojelio Silveira unearthed ancient pots in order to feed their families. It’s over fifty years since Silveira, Félix and Emeterio Ortiz, Juan and Nicolás Quezada and Salbador Ortiz began making pots. Now we can breathe a collective sigh as the silence is broken by a contemporary artist who dares to tell us the truth. Mata Ortiz Pottery is not simply a mythic male miracle. It is the result of a diversity of human brilliance, hard work and collaboration. Que milagro!

 

Mata Ortiz: Untold Stories Part Three

THE UNTOLD STORIES OF PAQUIMÉ AND

MATA ORTIZ (PART THREE)

By Ron Goebel and Nancy Andrews

Likewise, young artists today are quick to credit the community with their achievements and to share their successes with colleagues. Award-winning potter Héctor Gallegos Junior goes so far as to credit the land itself, along with his parents, for his inspiration and accomplishments. “All of our materials,” he explains, “come from our land, so it is very important to me. Most of our lands have been cultivated for many generations by my family. Apart from pottery, most people live off their land. Because of my love of nature, I began doing the animals and insects of northern Mexico in my pottery.” Gallegos goes on to illustrate his devotion to the community of Mata Ortiz. “When we travel to exhibitions, we show our work, but we also talk about the community. We don’t just promote ourselves. We promote the whole community. For example, Group of Seven is a new civil association of artists that supports local students with scholarships.” Award-winning potter Diego Valles believes, “In Mata Ortiz, we are really a community of artists. I think because of that, we have no limits.”

“Revision is the lifeblood of historical scholarship. History is a continuing dialogue between the present and the past. Interpretations of the past are subject to change in response to new evidence, new questions asked of the evidence, and new perspectives gained by the passage of time.” James McPherson

Indeed, contemporary Mata Ortiz potters understand the boundless opportunities for those who have innovative design ideas and the discipline to execute them. Ambitious twenty-four year old Iván Martínez, a Mata Oriz native and marketing student at the Technological University of Paquimé, recounts his 2014 success. “That year I had the privilege of going to Tonolá, Jalisco,” says Martínez. “I was not accustomed to going to pottery competitions. That year, I got enough courage to enter a piece. To my surprise, my piece won second place at the national level. Thanks to the prize, I am motivated to keep going.” His sister, nineteen-year-old award winner Viviana Martínez, also a university student, credits brother Iván with her own disciplined motivation. “My parents, my brother Iván and my friends keep me innovative. When I go to school and tell my friends how well it’s going for me, they are surprised because of how many prizes I’ve won. My friends say how proud they are of me,” she says.

Modern technology now contributes to the wide range of  possibilities for marketing pottery and therefore making a living in art. Prize-winning Mata Ortiz potter Carla Martínez says that about thirty percent of the young artists in the village are connected to the internet and use email, Facebook and other social media to communicate with potential buyers. Award winner Elvira Bugarini Cota is one of those marketing online. Says Bugarini, “Our new clients are through the internet. We have internet clients who call from Cancún, Puerto Vallarta, Playa del Carmen and Acapulco. Yes, the internet has helped us. Because of it we’ve been able to reach people from many places who didn’t know our work before, people from France, Spain, people we didn’t know could be interested in us. The internet has served us well. I’m proud of what we have accomplished.”

In 2013, Bugarini’s sister, Laura Bugarini Cota, won first place in the national pottery competition in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco. Elvira Bugarini emphasiszes that, “From 2013 on, we have seen more interest in our work from people in Mexico. We’re seeing that people in Mexico are interested in making our work well known nationally.” Regarding the win, Laura Bugarini reflects, “This was the greatest honor that I’ve had. I received the award at Tlaquepaque, Jalisco. I received it from the hands of President Peña Nieto. It’s a very big honor for everybody, for me and for all the potters here who work in clay. The award is for all of us.”

So, in the twenty-first century we see that Mata Ortiz pottery is  recognized in Mexico and beyond. The tradition that began centuries ago with the potters at Paquimé, pots that were replicated in the 1950s by Manuel Olivas under the tutelage of his grandmother, Leonor Parra, art that was recreated in the 1960s by Félix Ortiz, Salbador Ortiz and Rojelio Silveira and others, work that became even more extensive with the genius of Juan and Nicolas Quezada, is now receiving widespread national and international recognition. That recognition allows the potters of Mata Ortiz to continue making a living in art, and it allows them to share their good fortune with others. As Porvenir master potter Macario Ortiz says, “The sun shines for everybody.”

Blog photo green hills Sept 2012

MATA ORTIZ: OPEN LETTER

Open Letter

 Ay Ay Ay

The Mexican Consulate in El Paso is preparing to commemorate an American presence in Mata Ortiz, Chihuahua, Mexico. It is important to note that along with economic development, the U.S. presence brought with it paternalistic myths and misbehavior. The male Anglo-centric legend of Mata Ortiz pottery neglects the critical initial role of women utilitarian potters in the region. Additionally, the myth excludes early Mexican traders and entire groups of early commercial potters, such as those in Nuevo Casas Grandes and the Porvenir neighborhood of Mata Ortiz, in the recklessly incomplete American version of the development of Mexican Mata Ortiz pottery tradition. Why the Mexican Consulate chooses to commemorate exclusionary and irresponsible non-native behavior in their beautiful country is a mystery. The contemporary pottery of Mata Ortiz is indeed some of the best in the world. The Mata Ortiz artists, from the earliest Olivas, Ortiz, Quezada and Silveira potters to those of today, are recognized internationally. But generally speaking the American “‘I’ ‘I’ ‘I’” version of the U.S. presence in the region is not exemplary. Mexican potters, and Mexican potters alone, are responsible for the extraordinary ceramics renaissance in and around Mata Ortiz.

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.

 

 

OUR NEIGHBORS IN MATA ORTIZ: VIEWED THROUGH A STERLING LENS

OUR NEIGHBORS IN MATA ORTIZ: VIEWED THROUGH A STERLING LENS

 

By Nancy Andrews, Silver City, New Mexico

Copyright Nancy Andrews 2014

(In early 2014 Donald Sterling was the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers of the National Basketball Association or NBA. He was banned for life after he made racist remarks. His paternalistic remarks were equally disturbing and are the topic of this discussion.)

 

When Donald Sterling asked, “Who makes the game?” he gave voice to his flawed perception that a pale, maturing owner was the essence of a professional basketball team, a team rich with young Black talent. “Do they make the game?” Sterling queried. And a league of strong voices countered together, Yes! We make the game! We make basketball! In one telling day, Sterling was on his way out and the Los Angeles Clippers prevailed without him. Regardless of Sterling’s view, basketball players do make the game. It’s unfortunate that many of us, although well meaning, view the artists of Mata Ortiz through our own similarly flawed lenses.

        Mexican artists make Mexican art; Mexican potters deserve full credit for their ceramics. Seven hundred years ago, Casas Grandes civilization flourished for several centuries in what would become Mexico.  The center of Casas Grandes, a city we call Paquime, stood near the site of present-day Mata Ortiz, Chihuahua. A number of Casas Grandes people were exceptional artists and left a legacy of fine ceramics. In the twentieth century, a loosely aligned league of Mexican potters, Manuel Olivas, Emeterio Ortiz, Felix Ortiz, Salvador Ortiz, Juan Quezada, Nicolas Quezada, Nicolas Silveira, Rojelio Silveira and others, pioneered the renaissance of Casas Grandes ceramics, now known as Mata Ortiz Pottery. Visitors from the United States played important roles in making the pottery known to people north of the border. Still, as artist Juan Quezada suggests in the Journal of the Southwest, the potters of Mata Ortiz were destined for success with or without connections to any particular agents. Mata Ortiz Pottery was already on the road to greatness when strangers arrived. Mexicans, working together and learning from one another, brought forth the rebirth of Casas Grandes pottery. It took a village, a Mexican village.

Today that village is a vibrant community of artists. Phones, paved roads, email and social media are fast-flowing arteries of communication for this society of worldly potters. They are wise and eloquent professionals, some are English-speaking, and many travel frequently to the United States. They live but a few hours from Silver City, Las Cruces and Tucson. Yet, go to almost any Southwest U.S. forum on Mata Ortiz and observe the speakers. Pay close attention. Are they the best spokespersons for this Mexican art form? Is the history inclusive and complete? Are artists’ dreams and the community’s plans discussed first hand? When needed, do objective translators facilitate direct exchange between presenter and audience? Or is communication impeded by a kind of wall of white, a construct disproportionately non-Latino? Is lopsided attention given to Anglo experience, opinion and influence? Listen carefully. Does the narrative reinforce a subtly colonial point of view? Perhaps emphasis is placed on what we outsiders have done in, and for, Mata Ortiz, rather than what Mata Ortiz potters have done in, and for, the world of art. Have we grown paternalistic and comfortable with that scenario? Maybe like Donald Sterling, some of us cling to lenses that have no place in today’s new forum.

Some of us like to envision the Mata Ortiz of a romanticized past. However, the people of Mata Ortiz are twenty-first century multidimensional individuals, not potters in a stagnant exhibition. Their art is ever-evolving. Each Mata Ortiz potter, like any successful artist, is the creator of her own authenticity, the master of his unique destiny. Only an artist from Mata Ortiz can speak compellingly of his creative desires. Only a Mexican potter can adequately share the truth of her heritage. Mata Ortiz pottery is theirs, an endeavor over which they alone have genuine command. Their art and lives develop in ways only they can articulate. We must listen to their voices. In the words of Mata Ortiz artist Diego Valles, “I believe there should be a potter or citizen of Mata Ortiz in every discussion about it. Don’t you think?” Who can disagree?

As gracious Americans, let’s move to the sidelines. Our view is limited, our commentary incomplete. Let’s make way for the people who are crafting their own extraordinary pottery movement. Let’s hear new voices respectfully revise the outsider-embedded account by presenting a balanced narrative that honors all players in the Mata Ortiz story. It’s 2014 and time for a broad vision of Mata Ortiz and its living Latino art, an image not distorted by Sterling lenses. Let’s welcome a chorus of “Nosotros hacemos las ollas, nosotros hacemos el arte.”  “We make the pots, we make the art.”

 

 Nancy Andrews is the author of the award-winning children’s book, THE POT THAT JUAN BUILT / LA VASIJA QUE JUAN FABRICO, as told to her by Juan Quezada, and illustrated by David Diaz. A percentage of the book’s royalties goes to Mata Ortiz to be used as individuals there determine.