Grounded in Clay exhibition debuts at in Santa Fe before nationwide tour

The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture will debut a traveling exhibition that features more than 100 historic and contemporary works in clay, debuting on July 31, 2022. The project, “Grounded in Clay: The Spirit of Pueblo Pottery” is a unique exhibition curated by the Native American communities it represents. Organized by the School for Advanced Research (SAR) and the Vilcek Foundation, the exhibition offers a visionary understanding of Pueblo pots as vessels of community-based knowledge and personal experience.  

The “Grounded in Clay” debuts at Museum of Indian Arts & Culture in Santa Fe July 31, 2022 and moves to The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Vilcek Foundation in New York (2023), The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston (2024), and Saint Louis Art Museum (2025). 

More than 60 members of 21 tribal communities known as the Pueblo Pottery Collective (including New Mexico’s 19 Pueblos, the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo of West Texas and the Hopi Tribe of Arizona) selected and wrote about artistically distinctive pots from the collections of the SAR Indian Arts Research Center in Santa Fe and the Vilcek Foundation in New York. 

“Grounded in Clay is like no other Native art exhibition,” Museum of Indian Arts & Culture Curator of Ethnology Antonio Chavarria said. “The stunning selection of pottery are vessels for stories of Pueblo Indian lives filled with memories of those passed and hopes for the future. It is filled with genuine heart and authenticity that gives the visitor a seldom seen glimpse into Pueblo art and culture.” 

This innovative exhibition commemorates the 100th anniversary of SAR’s Pueblo Pottery Fund pottery collection and the 90th anniversary of the completion of the Laboratory of Anthropology (LAB). The shared history of collections and personalities between SAR and MIAC is now able to expand into a new century of collaboration. During the Santa Fe presentation of this exhibit, MIAC/LAB will also feature 11 pottery pieces to enhance the exhibition that will include examples from the Pueblos in present day New Mexico.

“The School for Advanced Research and its Indian Arts Research Center are proud to honor the power of Pueblo pottery with this exhibition,” Michael F. Brown, president of SAR, said. “The lovingly made vessels in Grounded in Clay celebrate Pueblo aesthetics, of course, but just as important are the stories they call forth about a people’s distinctive values and durable commitment to tradition.” 

Tewa polychrome soup bowl, Cuyamungue. Tewa polychrome soup bowl, ca. 1650. 1955/11; Museum of Indian Arts & Culture excavation.
Tewa polychrome soup bowl, Cuyamungue. Tewa polychrome soup bowl, ca. 1650. 1955/11; Museum of Indian Arts & Culture excavation.

Pottery permeates the lives of Pueblo peoples,” Indian Arts Research Center Director Elysia Poon added. “For many, it is impossible to divorce the pieces from the people.”  

“Grounded in Clay” challenges stereotypes about Native peoples and redefines concepts of Native art, history, and beauty through a uniquely Indigenous group narrative. “Grounded in Clay” spotlights the art of the pots, but its focus is also on prose, poetry, and the visual language of pottery through which the curators amplify the importance of people and place. 

Museum of Indian Arts & Culture curator Tony Chavarria writes of a ca. 1900 stone-polished blackware olla from his home pueblo of Kha’p’o Owingeh/Santa Clara, whose shape sparks a memory of his grandmother’s favorite vintage dress: “I see the flared collar and high neck in this jar. I see my grandma in the beauty from the earth.” 

Speaking of her aunt’s nativity set (ca. 1982), curator and artist Kathleen Wall (Walatowa/Jemez) said, “Although Pueblo religion and culture have a long history of concessions and acceptance to appease Catholic religion, over the centuries this has transformed into a beautiful syncretism and celebration of faith for New Mexico Pueblo people.” 

Nativity set c. 1982, Mary Elizabeth Toya, Jemez Pueblo. SAR 2010-2-34A-K.
Nativity set c. 1982, Mary Elizabeth Toya, Jemez Pueblo. SAR 2010-2-34A-K.

About the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture 

The Museum of Indian Arts & Culture is a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, under the leadership of the Board of Regents for the Museum of New Mexico. Programs and exhibits are generously supported by the Museum of New Mexico Foundation and our donors. The mission of the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture/Laboratory of Anthropology is to serve as a center of stewardship, knowledge, and understanding of the artistic, cultural, and intellectual achievements of the diverse peoples of the Native Southwest.  

About the School for Advanced Research 

The School for Advanced Research, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit educational institution, was established in 1907 to advance innovative social science and Native American art. Its 15-acre residential campus sits on ancestral lands of the Tewa people in O’gah’pohgeh Owingeh or Santa Fe, New Mexico. 

About Vilcek Foundation 

The Vilcek Foundation is a private operating foundation, a tax-exempt nonprofit organization under IRS Section 501(c)(3) that raises awareness of immigrant contributions in the United States and fosters appreciation of the arts and sciences. The foundation was established in 2000 by Jan and Marica Vilcek, immigrants from the former Czechoslovakia. 

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