Earles, Chase Kawinhut -“T “dii Ah-ah dah’ah: The Father” and “Caddo Head Jar”
Chase “Kawinhut” Earles is one of the few Caddo potters working today. His new work is inspired by Indigenous Futurism, Star Wars, and historic Caddo vessels and designs. Each piece is hand-built and then incised with complex designs. They are each created as a pair so that one futuristic piece pairs to one of the historic vessels or effigies. This is important, as part of the intent of this show is to educate about Caddo pottery forms and designs. You can read more about this in the article, “Chase Kawinhut Earles: Caddo Pottery Revival and Indigenous Futurism“.
This pair is is certainly the most dramatic and invovled of the current series. The large head jar is entited, ““T “dii Ah-ah dah’ah: The Father” and the long neck traditional piece is a “Caddo Head Jar”. The clay work on both is exceptional, as are the burnishes surfaces and the classic etched designs. They are a pair that on many levels, speak the most to how a ancient form like the face jar is immediately recognizeable in a Sci-Fi mode as “Darth Vader”. Chase also reflected on the nuance of meaning within a character like Vader when he wrote, “As for Darth Vader was he an oppressor, or was he simply misunderstood? Of course, “Vader” means, “Father”, but the face jarks also seem to the the “father” of effigy vessels, looking back at the viewer across the centuries. What advice do they have and what should we learn? Of course, as an “effigy vessel”, this is a non-Caddo term for an important vessel shape that are sculptures of the world around us. They represent everything from the history of our people, to ceremonies, to the balance in the world.” “The Father” is not just sculpted in clay but burnised. The face is dynamic and the helmut is complex in design and coloration. The firing on the “Caddo Head Jar” is dark and powerful. Both pieces are signed on the bottom “Kawinhut”. The name “Kawinhut” is important, as the last Caddo potter, Winhut, passed away in 1908 and Chase is continuing in her tradition of working with the clay and so his name is a masculine derivation of this family name.
The Caddo were a tribal group throughout the Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisianna areas. Chase draws inspiration from the ancient Caddo pieces and yet they are not replicas. The connection in the ancient work is in the clay, firing, and shapes. He is primarily self-taught both as a potter and in his research of the Caddo ceramic past. He has sought out the clay sources and each piece is coil built. They are then slipped with a clay and mussel shell mixture and then burnished three times. The result is a shiny surface with the flecks of shell reflecting light. Each piece is then pit fired which not only hardens the clay but gives them fire clouds and color variations on the surface. After they are fired Chase etches into the surface of the clay to create the intricate designs. The delicate designs are almost a surprise considering the hardness of the clay after the firing.