Corn and Rain
Mary Toya
Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico

[Corn and Rain]

These big figures by Mary Toya of Jemez Pueblo are a stylish or modernized version of the traditional pueblo crèche figures. They are heavy with clay, of rudimentary execution for face and hands, but of exquisite coloring and ornamental design. The two principal motifs used here are symbols of corn and rain, the lifeline of desert people.

Ladder of Ascent
Santana Seonia
Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico

[Ladder of Ascent]

Today, the spiritual center of the pueblo is frequently the typical Mission Church, if it is not replaced by the even older tradition of the Kiva, the house of prayer in the traditional Indian religion. Kivas, the building and the worship that takes place inside, are surrounded with mystery and great respect. Usually a ladder leads into the prayer house, and a second ladder stands out or up from the frequently circular building, reaching into the sky. The vertical poles are of uneven length and symbolize the two principal directions of human life: earth (the shorter pole) and sky (the longer pole), or material and spiritual values. The fact that Christmas has entered the Kiva points to a possible convergence between old and new religion. The nativity set was crafted by Santana Seonia from Jemez Pueblo.

Ignacia Saya Duran
Tesuque Pueblo, New Mexico

[Flower Power]

Indian culture has a special liking for animals both for their mythological significance and faithful companionship. Animals, affectionately called animalitos, little animals, are frequently presented in nativities as shown in this set by Ignacia Saya Duran of Tesuque Pueblo. She works with micaceous clay, which gives to the whole scene with tortoise, rabbit, snake, squirrel, lizard and bear a scintillating quality.

Cowboy Style
Reycita Garcia
San Juan Pueblo, New Mexico

[Cowboy Style]

Reycita Garcia of San Juan Pueblo crafted a color symphony in brown and related tones. Her figures are not carriers of Indian symbols. They are dressed cowboy style with precisely detailed collars and buttons. The child still wears Doctor Denton's baby pajamas. The figures have faces where age or wisdom has etched great character. The frog storyteller is Reycita's darling creation.

Paths Crossing
Ethel Shields
Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico

[Paths Crossing]

Ethel Shields is one of the grand old ladies of Pueblo nativities. Ethel's beautiful Acoma- style nativity reflects her preference for white, black and orange colors. The garments of Mary and Joseph are decorated with striking patterns. What seems to be like a field of crosses signals crossing paths in Indian symbolic language. Indian nativities are just that: traditional religion crossing paths with Christianity.

Three Mothers
Thelma Lujan
Taos Pueblo, New Mexico

[Three Mothers]

Thelma Lujan of Taos Pueblo, who calls herself Rain Circle, has contributed a humble set where Indian tradition is represented with the corn mother and the better known storyteller. Together with Mary, they speak of the various roles of the mother: to give life (Mary), sustain it (corn mother), and to give it meaning and direction (storyteller).

Stick Dancers
Alfred Aguilar
San Juan Pueblo, New Mexico

[ Stick Dancers]

Alfred Aguilar of San Juan Pueblo makes delicate use of colors and textures, and his figures are left unpolished after firing. Among the typical gifts brought to the manger are pots and drums. Aguilar adds the traditional Indian wedding shawl. The old Indian tradition is again present. This time as deer dancer and antelope dancer: the two stick dancers.

All White
Antoinette Concha
Taos and Jemez, New Mexico

[ All White]

Antoinette Concha from Taos and Jemez, and daughter of the well-known Alma Concha, has a delicate touch. Although identically clothed in elegant white colors with identical brown faces, the figures seem to have a life of their own. The facial features are limited to a nose, a characteristic element in many Indian nativities. The clay breathes through this nose and lives. The nose is the symbol of a living being.

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