Familia de Andres Villalba, mas o menos 2006. This is the family of Andres Villalba, photo from 2006 or so. They are great friends.
Eduardo “Chevo” Ortiz (RIP) and his wife Tencha made large graphite black on black pots. Chevo grew up in Barrio Porvenir; his brothers are Santos, Nicolas and Macario.
Chevo’s work appeared in the influential 1995 University of New Mexico Art Museum exhibition. Chevo was a great host and very talented potter. His son, Eligio “Eli,” continues the family pottery tradition today in Porvenir. It’s an honor to show his work. Es un honor mostrar su obra. Follow the tradition. Siga la tradicion.
About the Mimbres: Per Dr. Cynthia Bettison, archaeologist, professor and director of Western New Mexico Museum in Silver City, New Mexico, “There are Mimbres sites in Mexico.” “The Tarahumara are direct descendents of the Mimbres.”
Mata Ortiz designs are inspired by Casas Grandes ceramics. Also, there is influence from the Mimbres.
Estas son dos ollas contemporáneas de Mata Ortiz con influencia de Mimbres. El primer bote es de Luis Rodríguez y el segundo es de Gerardo Pedregón. (No para la venta)
Según la Dra. Cynthia Bettison, directora del Museo del Oeste de Nuevo México en Silver City, Nuevo México, “Hay sitios de Mimbres en México”. “Los tarahumaras son descendientes directos de los Mimbres”.
Los diseños de Mata Ortiz están inspirados en la cerámica de Casas Grandes. Además, hay influencia de los Mimbres.
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.
Julián Alejandro Hernández Chávez
“In 1952, in Casas Grandes, Manuel Olivas began to produce low temperature ceramics decorated with the designs from the pieces found at the archaeological sites. His grandmother taught him how to find the clay deposits, how to prepare the clay and fire his pieces the way his family did to produce clay articles. This is how the new traditional Paquimé ceramics were born; after this, the ceramics appeared spontaneously in several communities in the region and the new potters exchanged the information they had. They sold their pieces as utilitarian and decorative objects, first to locals and later to tourists. There was a flurry of activity at the beginning of the seventies [1970s] which was centered on the town of Juan Mata Ortiz where Juan Quezada, Félix Ortiz, Rogelio Silviera and others worked full time as potters.”
Julián Alejandro Hernández of Nuevo Casas Grandes is a preeminent pottery expert focusing on the Casas Grandes and Mata Ortiz pottery traditions. Mr. Hernández has written two books about the art and archaeological ruins of Paquime in Casas Grandes, Chihuahua, Mexico. He is a working potter, having taught dozens of people about pottery. Hernandez started the first pottery school in Nuevo Casas Grandes. In addition, he is the director of the Francisco Villa Preparatory School.
Museum director Jeff Romney wrote in 2016: Unfortunately our Casas Grandes region was almost completely plundered by people in the 1890s-1980s (most of whom were our own [Mexican] countrymen). Desafortunadamente nuestra region Casas Grandes fue casi complentamente saqueada por personas en los 1890s-1980s (la mayoria de las cuales fueron nuestros propios paisanos).
Mr. Romney has strong ties to the Nuevo Casas Grandes/Colonia Juárez/Mata Ortiz area and a college degree in anthropology. He explained, “Once the Paquime ruins were excavated in the late 1950s and the world began to see what marvels were discovered, people began digging in the many hundreds of other sites in the area in earnest. The 1960s-1980s saw the most digging from what we understand.
There are documented cases of earlier finds as well such as the US Army under Pershing when they went after Pancho Villa during the Mexican Revolutionary Period. The US Army dug out several sites south of Casas Grandes.
Anyway…even today it is not uncommon for people to encounter pots, and other archaeological materials out in their fields when ditches, roads, canals, homes, and other things are constructed. In the 1880s, Nuevo Casas Grandes and the Mormon Colonies were founded. People were finding items when they prepared the surrounding area for the first time for crops, orchards, cattle ranges, etc. This is not to imply that “looting” occurred on a large scale of time. Large scale looting happened mostly during the 1960s-1980s. There may still be a handful of people out there doing it even today. Who knows?”
El Sr. Romney tiene fuertes lazos con el área de Nuevo Casas Grandes / Colonia Juárez / Mata Ortiz y un título universitario en antropología. Explicó: “Una vez que las ruinas de Paquime fueron excavadas a finales de la década de 1950 y el mundo comenzó a ver qué maravillas fueron descubiertas, la gente comenzó a cavar en los cientos de otros sitios de la zona en serio. Las décadas de 1960 y 1980 fueron las que más cavaron de lo que entendemos.
Hay casos documentados de hallazgos anteriores, así como el Ejército de EE.UU. bajo Pershing cuando se fueron después de Pancho Villa durante el Período Revolucionario Mexicano. El ejército estadounidense excavó varios sitios al sur de Casas Grandes.
De todos modos … aún hoy no es raro que la gente encuentre ollas y otros materiales arqueológicos en sus campos cuando se construyen zanjas, caminos, canales, casas y otras cosas. En la década de 1880 se fundaron Nuevo Casas Grandes y las Colonias Mormonas. La gente estaba encontrando artículos cuando prepararon el área circundante por primera vez para cultivos, huertos, cadenas de ganado, etc. Esto no significa que el “saqueo” ocurrió a gran escala de tiempo. Los grandes saqueos ocurrieron principalmente durante los años 1960s-1980s. Todavía puede haber un puñado de gente por ahí lo hace aún hoy. ¿Quién sabe?”
Elí Navarrete describes his painting technique: ”A design is like a dream that passes through and at that moment you paint it on the piece.”
After marrying Virginia “Vicki” Hernandez, Elí shared his knowledge of clay with her. Vickie now produces very fine museum-quality colored pots.
Continuing the Ortiz family tradition of experimentation and innovation, Navarrete says, “I had little practice with painting the interiors. Then for the national pottery contest at Tlaquepaque, Jalisco it was the first time I painted the interior of the pot. It’s a really difficult technique due to painting with only the wrist and because of the technical precision. It’s very new to me and in reality I’m still experimenting.”
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.
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.
Juan Quezada, Laura Bugarini, Pabla Gallegos and Hector Gallegos Junior at the Concurso in Mata Ortiz, 2012.
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!