Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mata Ortiz Exhibit is Inspiring

It is such a cool story. In the 1950s Juan Quezada, a native of Mata Ortíz, a small village in Chihuahua, Mexico that was impoverished when the timber industry died out, discovered ceramic fragments from the Casas Grandes culture that had flourished there eight hundred years before. The people of Casas Grandes dispersed shortly before the arrival of the first Spanish explorers in the 16th century, and their unique pottery-making tradition was lost until Quezada chanced upon potsherds while collecting firewood in the hills near his home. Inspired by these clues from the past, Quezada learned the techniques of this lost tradition and revived the pottery production in the region, which now produces some of the world’s finest contemporary ceramics. More than 400 community members are involved in pottery production, which has become an important source of income for the region.

The Field Museum in Chicago has organized a wonderful show, Transforming Tradition: Pottery from Mata Ortíz, featuring both contemporary and centuries-old ceramics. It is now on display at Crystal Bridges’ temporary gallery the Massey in downtown Bentonville, AR located at 125 W. Central Ave.

Sculpted, fired and then hand-painted in a labor-intensive process lovingly referred to as La Lucha, or “the Struggle,” the coiled pots, called ollas, feature a dazzling array of intricate geometric designs, fine decorative painting and incising, and beautifully rendered animal forms such as pigs and ducks. Twenty-seven black and red earthenware ollas, including two examples from the Casas Grandes culture that date to the 14th and 15th centuries, is currently on display at the Massey through August 29.--Ruth Mitchell

(c) 2009 - Ruth Mitchell - all rights reserved

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