Namingha, Les – “Six and One” Large Carved and Painted Jar
9"w x 14"h
This is an extraordinary large jar by Les Namingha. It is the first time we have had a piece that combines both his stone fetish carvings with carved bands and painted designs. Les says the jar is his way to explain the Zuni six directions on his pottery. Each of the six directional animals is carved by Les and they are attached to the jar. There is a turquoise blue bear (West), Red abalone badger (South), black Orthocera fossil mole (Under), Yellow Serpentine Mountain Lion (North), Multicolor eagle (zenith), and a White alabaster wolf (East). There is also a serpentine arrowhead, which Les calls the “seventh direction” is the “center place” which is where we start self-improvement. Starting from the top on down, there are a variety of designs, words, and imagery that connect to the six directions. The jar is divided into four sections from the top down. Each of the “bands” represents a different direction and the four worlds. Les explains the piece:
The jar is split up into four sections. This is the importance in Zuni culture of the number four. In Zuni creation, there are the people coming through the four worlds. The top band has the yellow, red and blue for the directions. Then there is the text/graffiti-esque writing across the jar. They are abstracted. On top of the jar has “Zenit “which is “zenith” in German. There are turquoise, coral, and shells imbedded into the top of the jar.
The black and white band near the top is seen in katsinas, like the Zuni Longhorn katsina. On the next levels is more writing. There is a number 4 (the four directions). Then the Zuni word, “Sunha:kwi” which means “The West” (where the sun is going down). Then notations North, “S” for south. The number “2” references the Zuni creation story, the two Warrior brothers who brought the Zuni people to this world.
Underneath there are words placed, which are not emphasized. “Hide, Solace, Restless Soul”. They are all about trying to understand what is going on in the world around us right now. Words that came from thinking about the Zuni creation story. Then the world today with the pandemic and sequestering ourselves. Thinking about these things provides solace for me. I’m thinking about things spiritually.
The flames goes back to the clay and how it is fired and the purification by fire. There are the colors of the four directions used to paint the fire.
There are the words “Silen..ce” and “slien..t” There are a lot of chaotic things happing and nice to be able to find some silence. There are also those being silent.
Across the surface are Hopi pottery and bird designs. This is imagery that bring me solace and they are a foundation for designing and getting through difficult times.
The jar is dynamic in coloration and exceptional in the overlay of design and full of symbolism. It is a powerful piece by Les. It is signed on the bottom in the clay, “Les Namingha 2020”.