Indian Arts & Culture: San Ildefonso Pottery, 1600-1930

San Ildefonso ca 1850. Large storage and water jar with images of clouds and flowers and plant life. Courtesy photo
MIAC News:
SANTA FE The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture (MIAC) began presenting San Ildefonso Pottery, 1600—1930 in August 2019. This examination of pottery and paintings from 1600-1930 is on view until Aug. 31, 2020.
The exhibition focuses on changing previous narratives that represented San Ildefonso pottery, which have been written by mostly non-Native populations. MIAC proudly hosts San Ildefonso Pottery, 1600—1930, as the first exhibition to showcase more than three centuries worth of internationally recognized artistry.
Works on view document a creative heritage dating back to the 14th century. The village’s historic and current works influence modern pottery practices and demonstrate more techniques and styles. The artists maintain that their history is recorded in pottery; MIAC presents this history from its in-house collection, adding their research to the public body knowledge about San Ildefonso.
Described as more than an art form, San Ildefonso’s potters discuss cosmology when detailing their artistic processes. The exhibition explores the concept that making pottery and painting is creating a life that resides within each work. The art form itself generates values that carry into daily principals, passed from generation to generation. Imagery used does not represent a likeness or symbol, but rather becomes the form itself. San Ildefonso’s artists describe these practices to be visual prayer.
Of the many stories featured in the exhibition, certain works speak to a partnership between the village and the Museum of New Mexico. In exchange for their knowledge about the land and their culture, the people of San Ildefonso received societal recognition. Non-Pueblo people appreciated their work instead of continuing governmental efforts to suppress Native practices. As a result, the people of San Ildefonso were able to create new pottery forms among other new mediums.
To curate the exhibition, Bruce Bernstein—guest curator and writer, partnered with contemporary San Ildefonso potters Russell Sanchez and Erik Fender, as well as community members. The exhibition centers on refocusing San Ildefonso’s cultural and artistic histories through their people’s narratives and perspectives.
The large body of work prompts discussion about the meanings of these preeminent art forms and fosters an appreciation for the artists of San Ildefonso.
San Ildefonso Pottery, 1600—1930, opens at MIAC Aug. 11, 2019 and will be on view until Aug. 31, 2020. This project is a joint project of the Coe Center for the Arts and is supported by Al Anthony, Adobe Gallery, and the School for Advanced Research.