This Christmas scene by Mary Lucero of Jemez is one of the most sophisticated of this collection of Pueblo nativities. The artist painted her little figures with an abundance of detail: eyes and hands are carefully drawn; even the turquoise necklaces are not forgotten. Structure and color give this set a feathery lightness. It almost looks like a choir of singing angels for all the little actors have the typically wide open mouth of Pueblo nativities. The open mouth is another symbol of people alive and well. They are telling a wondrous tale. Telling is important in Indian culture with its mainly oral tradition.
Santa Clara Pueblo, New Mexico
The trademark of Margaret Gutierrez's art is the animated expression of human and animal figures, and the highly polished buff clay. Her favorite colors are red, black, green and gray, which she uses artfully and in intricate designs. A special feature of this set are the gifts presented by the wise men. These are typical Indian gifts: corn, moccasins, and a wedding vase. The wedding vase has two openings or double spouts for the newly wed couple to share and celebrate their union in difference.
Taos Pueblo, New Mexico
Juanita Dubray is from Taos Pueblo, and, like many of the Pueblo artisans, understands pottery-making as a call and vocation. She sees a great unity between her clay work and her life, family and environment. Before work, she centers herself spiritually "asking for power to be given to each new piece so that it will become a blessing to the person who owns it." The figures of this set have a noble countenance. They are peace-bringers as the white dove seems to confirm. Although painted in subdued colors, the discreetly scintillating effect of the micaceous clay speaks of inner joy and hidden grace.
... And Beyond
Honored traditions have disciples. They are a source of inspiration especially for those who are seeking authenticity in the simple beauty of life's basic realities. This set is not by a pueblo artist but was inspired by Indian art. Its figures, tiny as they may be, reflect some of the characteristics of the Pueblo nativities. Beautifully plain in their wrap-around clothes they become a perfect showcase for the simple but highly effective ceramic ornamentation.
The adobe is made of clay bricks which are sun dried, sanded, painted, and fired a process habitually used by the pueblo potters to make crèche figures. This set by Jemez artist, Robert Toledo, points to the merging of two cultures: traditional nativity figures are joined by two rainbow dancers.
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