Begaye, Nathan – Polychrome Jar with Sun Face, Birds, and Awatovi Star Designs (1982)

7"w x 7"h

$ 1,950.00

This is a striking polychrome jar by Nathan Begaye.  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 has a high shoulder and a turned-out rim.  It is fully polished with white clay, that almost has a blueish tinge to the coloration.  On the shoulder, there are four medallions.  Two have a Hopi Sun Face design, and two have birds.  In each of the diamond-shaped medallions, there are three different colors of clay used to create the designs and each small section is stone polished!  The remainder of the jar is painted with bee-weed (black) to create Nathan’s version of the Awatovi Star pattern.  Awatovi was a village near Hopi that created black-and-white pottery from the 1100-1700 period.  It is a fascinating place as it was where Coronado made contact with the Hopi in 1540 but was destroyed during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.  During the excavations in the 1930s, the whiteware pottery was rediscovered.  It is probably Helen “Feather Woman” Naha who is most famous for her revival of Awatovi designs but the complexity of them can be seen on this exceptional jar!  The second to last photo is one that I took of this jar with a piece by Helen Naha, for reference.  The jar was traditionally fired to create the blushes on the surface.  The complex painted designs and the colorations are certainly Nathan at his very best.  The piece is in excellent condition with no chips, cracks, restoration, or repair.  It is signed on the back in the bottom, “Nathan Begaye”.  It is from 1982.  The last photo is a picture I took of Nathan when he was living in Phoenix.  He moved there for several years and I would go to his apartment and see what he was working on and hear the stories about his pottery, the clays, and his firings.