Ay Ay Ay
The Mexican Consulate in El Paso is preparing to commemorate an American presence (Spencer MacCallum) 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.
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!
When the late Mata Ortiz potter Nicolas Quezada said, “We will keep the pottery tradition alive for the children and the children’s children,” he was referring in part to these girls, at that time not yet born. These little playmates are cousins. They are the daughters of four great families of Mata Ortiz potters. Their world emphasizes both academic and artistic excellence.
After daily carpools to private school in nearby Colonia Juarez, Pablita (left, now nine years old) returns to a home enriched by the ancient pottery tradition. In fact, that pottery tradition affords her family the tuition. Mia Guadalupe (right, now six) earns academic achievement awards at Mata Ortiz Primary School.
Both will likely become excellent potters in their own right. Indeed, Pablita is already selling her small pieces, using her earnings in any way she chooses, subject of course to her parents’ approval. Sometimes she gives her pots as gifts to special friends. What a gift!
- Pablita and Mia Guadalupe
And, don’t worry, quiet playful moments like the one pictured are abundant, children are allowed to be children, in a balance as delicate and beautiful as the pottery.
Nicolas Quezada pot