Sanchez, Russell – “Black Mesa” Polychrome Jar
This is a striking new jar by Russell Sanchez. He continues to be one of the true innovators in Pueblo pottery. Each piece is coil built, stone polished and etched. This jar may seem simple, yet there is subtle complexity in form and design. The jar is entitled, “Black Mesa”. The top is built and indented to have the look of the Black Mesa, which separates Santa Clara and San Ildefonso pueblos. Black Mesa has a close history with San Ildefonso, as it is where the Pueblo people held out when the Spanish returned after the Pueblo Revolt. This style of indented surfaces is also inspired by the work of Desideria Sanchez, a sister of Maria Martinez, who was known for her unique impressed shapes. The top is polished black. Around the shoulder, the jar has a checkerboard corn pattern in two rows. Note that the polished and matte surfaces alternate in each row! The bottom of the jar is polished white and there are cloud and sun designs. Note where the designs have been etched away Russell has used both red and black clay slips to fill in those areas! This requires that the piece be etched before it is fired and adds to the risk. Much of the imagery is inspired by historic San Ildefonso Pueblo pottery from the late 1800s. There are two inset rows of hei-shi beads. The coloration of the white, black and red are all reminiscent of San Ildefonso pottery from the early 1900s. Russell has created his own variation using polished surfaces instead of matte. As Russell continues to innovate from historic designs, he says, “Tradition means moving forward and adding to it. You keep moving forward. If we stayed stagnant we would no longer exist.” The jar is signed on the bottom in the clay. It is exciting to see how this imagery is not new but Russell’s reinterpretation of it both modernizes and revives.