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Pueblo Mothers and Daughters

Three acclaimed mother-daughter teams from Santa Clara Pueblo explore their family, their views of the world and how they view themselves in the Heard Museum exhibition Mothers & Daughters: Stories in Clay. Nora and Eliza Naranjo Morse, Roxanne Swentzell and her daughter Rose Simpson, and Jody Folwell and daughters Susan and Polly Rose – all part of the larger extended Naranjo family – use components of the earth to tell their individual stories. The exhibition runs through January 24, 2010.

“Pottery runs in our DNA,” Polly Rose Folwell says. “Many pots of all types pass throughout our lives. Some made by ourselves, some by aunts, cousins, grandmothers, other family members, neighbors or at times from another Pueblo. At the end of our lives, after death we have another pot.

“We begin and end with pottery.”

Polly Rose Folwell won the Best of Classification in Pottery award for the commemorative work “Nine-Eleven” at the 2003 Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market. This work is included in the Mothers & Daughters exhibition.

Polly Rose’s mother Jody Folwell is known for the social commentary she paints or carves on clay forms. Jody notes that the stone she uses for polishing possesses a history stretching back over generations. “Gia (Mother) inherited a black polishing stone from Gia Khun (my mother’s grandmother – Mother Corn),” Jody Folwell writes. “[The] stone was given to Gia Khun by an elderly male potter from Santo Domingo. My Stone has traveled through many potters’ hands and through pottery time to make history for nah (me) and my daughters (a’nyung).”

Jody Folwell, a Best of Show winner at the Santa Fe Indian Market, has also used this stone to craft stories in clay. Her work has spoken about many topics focusing upon political figures from Nikita Khrushchev and George W. Bush to social issues such as violence directed toward women.

Like their mother, Susan and Polly Rose Folwell have excelled in contemporary polished, painted and carved ceramics. Often, Susan Folwell incorporates satirical commentary in her vessels. Two such works included in the exhibition are “The Blockhead Manifesto,” which comments on tribal politics and “Oh George, You Naughty Little Monkey,” a wry satire of former President Bush’s first term in office.

Nora Naranjo Morse is an accomplished potter, sculptor and poet. “Creating is a part of my everyday experience,” says Naranjo Morse. “Creating articulates itself in different forms and can happen at any given moment. It happens when I drive to the grocery store and I think of an idea while navigating through traffic.” 

From bowls, jars and vessels, Naranjo Morse focused on figurative ceramics, using humor to convey satire. Her early creation, Pearlene, a sassy iconic representation of modern woman, was so popular that Naranjo Morse could have sold each one she made for years to come, but in 1991 she took her clay forms in a different direction and began creating abstract sculpture. In 1992, the University of Arizona Press published Mud Woman, a book of poems by Naranjo Morse that included photographs of her figurative ceramics. In 1997, one of her works, “Khwee-seng,” was featured in the exhibit Twentieth Century American Sculpture at the White House. Naranjo Morse recently completed a major sculpture, “Always Becoming,” for the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington.

Naranjo Morse continues to reinvent herself and her art: she’s begun the Common Ground Film Project, a collaboration in film with her son Zakary and several other young Native filmmakers. The project aims to help tribal youth develop problem-solving strategies, engage with elders and to create means of self-expression.

Eliza Naranjo Morse creates unique abstract paintings out of native New Mexico clays. Most recently, she, her mother and Simpson were selected by curator Lance Fung to participate in the SITE Santa Fe art center seventh biennial exhibit Lucky Number Seven. The three were the only New Mexico residents chosen for this global contemporary art exhibit.

Swentzell has excelled as a figurative potter. Many of her works exhibit social commentary, while others astutely examine human emotions. Her pottery and that of her aunts Jody Folwell and Nora Naranjo Morse were included in the exhibit Pottery by American Indian Women: The Legacy of Generations at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. in 1997 at the same time her work was in a White House exhibit. Swentzell’s many awards include the 1999 Best of Classification in Sculpture Award at the Indian Market in Santa Fe, and she was the featured artist at the 1997 Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market. The book Roxanne Swentzell: Extra-Ordinary People by Gussie Fauntleroy chronicles her career.

Simpson is a sculptor, poet, singer and dancer. She is a graduate of the Institute of American Indian Art in Santa Fe. Simpson has experienced art throughout her life through her relationship with her parents, her extended family and the larger art community of Northern New Mexico. Like her mother, she does figurative pottery, but Simpson’s work reflects a young and edgy look. One of the works in the exhibition, “Ready To Go Off,” sprang from a trip to South Africa. “On the extended plane trip home, I had time to evaluate what my life had to offer,” writes Simpson. “I was inspired to make something utilitarian, so I decided to make a bottle-rocket holder. Each rocket holds a prayer of something I look forward to pursuing, a prayer for the next stage of my growth ... to send the idea out into the universe and wait for it to manifest.”

The exhibit of creative works by these very talented women opened on Saturday, January 10, 2009 and will be on display until January 24, 2010. The exhibit was also a featured visitation point during the April 2009 National Council for Education on the Ceramic Arts Conference, which brought approximately 5,000 members to Phoenix.

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