Sanchez, Russell – Polychrome Corn Meal Box with Avanyu and Sun
Russell Sanchez continues to be one of the true innovators in Pueblo pottery. Each piece is perfectly coil built, stone polished, and etched. This box is inspired by the early San Ildefonso polychrome pottery. The white is the same white clay used on historic San Ildefonso polychrome pottery when it was stone polished. The black and deep red are both clay slips. This piece has a culturally inspired shape and design. The shape is from the traditional “cornmeal” boxes, which were used to hold cornmeal during Pueblo events. The raised or step area is a mountain. This box has an avanyu or water serpent on each side. The front has cloud and prayer feather designs. The raised back area is the mountain and Russell has inlaid a single piece of turquoise. On the back side of the box, there is a very intricately designed Sun Katsina design. Again, etched into the clay and slipped with red and black clay slips along with the white clay. Note the etching on the ends of the feathers! Around the bottom of the piece are lines representing rain. Above and below them are inset jet hei-shi beads. The rim of the piece is also incised and painted with lines representing rain. While it is a smaller piece, it is wonderfully complex in design. 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 box 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.