Friday, September 28, 2007

What do you think?

I think I found a potter whose work fits for my class art analysis.

Photograph by Sally Martinez.

Alice Cling is a Navajo potter, and her work just stopped me when I saw it.

And given the tension/resonance around old methods/tradition and new simplicity/markets, between the persistence of fired clay over time and the fragility of the whole pot, I think there's a lot to dig into in her work.


Reya Mellicker said...

The image is stunning, beautiful! But I want to put my hands on this incredible piece. Are you allowed to touch her work?

lowenkopf said...

Wow! Thanks for the reference here. She's stunning.

Sir G said...

The pot has a pretty glaze, but it is not what would be called "finely-potted" (look at the awkward transition between the shoulders and the mouth). It's a problem of the medium -- this is some sort of earthenware which is thick, heavy and hard to work with. From the design stand-point, I am concerned about the smallness of the foot: this thing will tip often. I cannot shake off the perception of the imminent catastrophe and thus unable to relax into enjoying the glaze. Any idea how big it is?

Sir G said...

Fig 12 on the page to which you link looks to me like a better pot. :)

Marly Youmans said...

Hmm. I see what Gawain means... I lost a Cherokee pot the same way: to tippiness! And that there is not a total symmetry to the right and left shoulder-to-lip in a pot that isn't deliberately violating such unities. But I still got that pleasant flush of surprise at seeing something new and dramatic.

The other two pots are also interesting. I tend to like the third better than the second but was surprised how large the second was. The surface coloration is very dramatic and lovely.

Sir G said...

Marly, darling, I haven't noticed the asymmetry -- and yes, I think you are right, it may be there (though one wonders if that is only an illusion due to uneven coloration, presumably this has been wheel-thrown). To me the problem is more a certain lack of smoothness of line -- it goes from convex to concave in somewhat less than satisfying curvature. The top also does not seem to balance well with the bottom: the pot looks like a 100 m dash runner crouched down and poised to jump at the retort of the gun. Which given the narrowness of the foot makes me even more nervous!

But this isn't a bad pot: it would not be such a pleasure to talk about a bad (i.e. indifferent) pot at such length. And the glaze is superb.

Pod said...

yes, very striking
there's some thing very ?fundamental about it

Lori Witzel said...

Thanks for all y'all's time and thought and response!

From what I've read about art analysis, it's a response to just the work itself. But Navajo art/craft traditions would insist that the work is inseparable from the place, the maker, the maker's family/clan.

Part of the fun and challenge for me is that Navajo culture describes what others might call beauty as hózhó -- order, balance, harmony, health, beauty all wrapped in one. When we see a work and are moved into hózhó (and away from hocho, or disharmony,) it's because the maker created the work in a state of hózhó.

Gawain, vive la difference! I do like what you call the "awkward transition," in part because I responded to it as a beneath-the-skin energy. Same with the not-quite-smooth shifts in curve and plane.

The "tippiness" of the pot calls to mind the utilitarian pottery of the Navajo and Apache (related language families) -- those pots often had pointed bottoms, so they could be stuck in the earth. And the movement in it -- more pronounced than Alice's other pots -- makes me feel the pot is stretching upward.

These pots aren't wheel-thrown. They're generally slab and coil built, from clay dug up on family land. No glazes -- just burnished clay, fire-kissed and sealed with warm pitch from pinon and other plants on the family land. If I've read correctly, the pots actually have a pinon fragrance from the pine pitch sealant.

What else is interesting?

Navajo pottery as a "marketed" art form didn't exist before Alice Cling's grandmother was persuaded by a trader to sell some of her work.

Navajo pottery was utilitarian only, women made it for their own families' use, and tribal medicine men had a hand in setting out appropriate times and places for any other pottery-making, such as the making of ceremonial pottery.

Alice Cling is bringing this tradition to a non-utilitarian place without leaving her family/clan's utilitarian pottery roots.

She was one of the first Navajo women to sign her pots, at the urging of her traders. And she makes these specifically for non-Navajo people. However, she does strive for a hózhó aesthetic, because she's stated that her first work was "ugly" and it took her quite some time to make work she felt was beautiful.

I'm grateful that I have all my invisible friends here to reflect this work through your own beautiful prisms, thus enriching my perspective.

Dana S. Whitney said...

One of the drawbacks of (some schools of )art analysis is that any old fool gets to have any old opinion!! The opinions may be VERY edifying and interesting, but I certainly think they say more about the analyst than the analysed!

NO. Glaze. Unbelievable. I did a terra cotta pot years ago and burnished it just when it was the right dryness... it wasn't fired, but it did look like polished leather. Thanks for your thoughtful reflections and the reminder.

R.L. Bourges said...

oh! saw her stuff - was it in San Antonio or Santa Fe? don't remember the place - I was too stunned by the beauty to even care. grrrreat meeting up with her over on your blog, Lori.