Begaye, Nathan – Micaceous Double Lobe Jar with Shard “Window” (1998)

5.75"w x 12"h

$ 1,800.00

This is an iconic jar by Nathan Begay.  He was a unique innovator among Pueblo and Navajo potters.  His ethnic connection to both Hopi and Navajo let his clay art flow between the two distinctive styles and yet find its own unique space.  His work used traditional designs, forms, and techniques, yet somehow appeared very modern.  This jar is made from micaceous clay and then incised with lightning designs and then painted with red clay slips before it was traditionally fired.  The black fire clouds are from the firing.  What makes this piece iconic is the “shard window” on the lower half of the double lobe jar.  Where did this idea for the shards come from?

“In part, this use of the shards seems to be a homage to the fragmented art of Rick Dillingham, the Ango dealer and Santa Fe artist (and author of 7 Families in Pueblo Pottery), who we much revered by Native potters.  But Begay contests this.  He and Dillingham only met once.  Begaye sees his shard work as autobiographical: each piece is like a page from a family album, taking him back to this recurring childhood dream of shards popping out of the ground.  “it was magical.  This reconstructed vessel recalls those fragments.  But there are also missing pieces, little empty spaces awaiting to be filled.  It is a metaphor for myself.”  Garth Clark, Free Spirit, 2005.

First, let’s look at the shard section as a whole.  Before it was fired, it was placed on the already-fired jar so Nathan could get it to dry at the same angle and contour as the jar!  He then broke the shard apart into ten pieces and slipped, painted, and fired them separately.  Much like he says above, each shard reflects a different part of his art and career from the black-on-black to the painted polychrome wind patterns and the use of the green clay slip.  I remember when he lived in Phoenix and I would go over and watch him paint his pottery.  Each color he found somewhere on the Navajo reservation and he would tell stories about where he found them!  It was always fascinating. This piece is distinctive and important in his artistry as the shard pieces were among the most time-consuming pieces he made, but also among the most creative.  This piece is from 1998 and it is signed, “Nathan Begay.  It is in excellent condition with no chips, cracks, restoration, or repair.  The last photo is one I took of Nathan when he was living and making pottery in Phoenix.