Native American Ceramics

American Indians of the Southwest began making functional pottery at least 2,000 years ago. The skills needed to make these vessels passed from generation to generation, a tradition that continues to this day. Geographic variations in clay, along with regional preferences for certain designs and shapes, meant that distinct styles became associated with permanent villages, which the Spanish called pueblos. When the railroad brought visitors to the Southwest in the late 19th century, potters responded by selling their wares, and an ongoing market became established for pottery made as art. For the first time, many makers began to sign their work, and individual potters became known and their works collected. These artists drew inspiration from their ancestors and built upon their traditions. The art of their adventuresome descendants has become increasingly elaborate, detailed, personal, and political over time.

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  • Roxanne Swentzell (Santa Clara, born 1962)
    Looking for Root Rot. 2004.
  • Samuel Manymules (Navajo, born 1963)
    Spiral Pot. n.d.
  • Virgil Ortiz (Cochiti, born 1969)
    Ringmaster. 2009.

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Icons in Conversation: Alison Saar

Known for her powerful sculptures and prints that illuminate narratives of the African Diaspora, Saar’s work is featured in collections across the world.

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