Peering Through Taos Light: Susan Folwell & Jody Folwell

Peering Though Taos Light:  Reflections in Clay of the Taos Society of Artists Through the Pottery of Susan Folwell and Jody Folwell

The idea for the show is founded in the classic paintings of the Taos Society of Artists which formed in 1915 and disbanded in 1927.  These painters were attracted to Taos, the light, the people and the culture of the nearby Pueblos.

The pottery created for this show by Susan Folwell and her mother, Jody Folwell are not reproductions of the paintings, but concepts filtered through Native eyes and perspective.  It’s social commentary in clay, often capturing what makes the paintings of this group so renowned, and then giving it a modern spin.  As has been written about Susan Folwell, her, “intricately designed pottery is like reading a book, as each piece must be turned, examined and viewed from different angles to understand the whole story”.  That may well sum up how this show is best seen, as each piece is turned and viewed like a painting, finding the right light and angle, not only of the art, but of its extension of this story into the future.


Susan Folwell, “The Artist”, 10″w x 15.25″h E.I. Couse, “The Pottery Decorator”

The shape of this jar is unique with the round body, the indented sides and the square mouth. The area below the shoulder is painted with a sun and rain pattern.  Around the neck of the jar is a scene based on E.I. Couse “Pottery Decorator”.  The pottery in the painting are actual pots in the Couse Museum collection.  However, Susan has taken those and added contemporary pieces by Les Namingha, Tammy Garica, Angie Yazzie, Autumn Borts-Medlock, Rose Simpson, Roxanne Swentzell and others.  It is charming to turn the jar and see both the historic vessels and the contemporary counterparts.  Note as well the background are where it appears black, but scan in on it, as it has a very painterly appearance!  The idea for this jar actually came from the exhibit, “Visionaries in Clay” in 2016 at the Couse Museum in Taos, where pottery from the Couse collection was paired with contemporary pieces.  It was an exciting presentation even more how Susan has captured that pivotal moment of potters reaching back to the past as inspiration to their future work.


Susan Folwell, “The Vanishing”, 9″w x 10″h E.I. Couse, “Hunter and Deer”

“This is an important piece for me.  Here, the hunter is not looking for animals but he is peering into the vanishing place of Native Americans in the world. It show how his world is being taken over by the cities. The style of the rim, which I build and then put back into water to have give it an ancient appearance, reflects the vanishing of the ancient cultures in the same way.  Old gives way to new.”  Susan Folwell


Susan Folwell, “The Wedding”, 10″w x 8.5″h E.I. Couse, “The Wedding”

“I chose to keep the faces neutral, because you can still feel the tension between the newlyweds.  The line between them is meant to symbolize their new life together.  The back has dragonflies, the messengers of our prayers.  The edges are left rough, as if the bowl is one that has stood the test of time as these newlyweds look back at their first moment together.”  Susan Folwell


Susan Folwell, “Hennings at Sunset”, 8″w x 9″h Ernest Hennings, “The Passing”

“In the painting, it is a scene with the two women walking down the lane. When I was working on this jar in Taos, it was the first snow of the season.  I deiced to make it a snow scene instead of an autumn scene.”  Susan Folwell


Susan Folwell, Timberline, 10″w x 8.5″h Buck Dunton, “Timberline”

“Buck Dunton is one of my favorite of the Taos Artists.  This was his last significant paintings and one of the best examples of his art nouveau in his paintings.  Duton was an outdoorsman, so wanted to give this particular jar a warm feeling.  That feeling was to paint the bears as “paintings” and surround them with Navajo blankets.”  Susan Folwell


Susan Folwell, “Rock Art”, 13″w x 16.5″h EI Couse.

The jar is carved on the side with trees, which are stone polished.  Trees are carved in various layers, creating a dynamic visual and textural appearance.  The jar itself has a design that is inspired by an E. I. Couse painting.  Here, Susan has transported the Native painter back in time, painting on the walls, hence the name, “Rock Art”. There is a tongue-in-cheek aspect to what the Artist is painting, which is not just a buffalo hunt, but the Native hunter chasing them on a moped!  Susan often uses humor in her social commentary.  Once again, the carving around the figure is exceptional, with various layers of carving to the rocks. The bottom of the large jar is equally as intricately painted, with a water serpent (avanyu), coiling around the base.

“I wanted to do a modern twist so you would take a second look at the petroglyphs he is painting.  He going beyond the petroglyphs and doing ledger art and a more modern buffalo “hunt”. Susan Folwell