Susan Folwell: Taos Light: Pueblo Perspectives

Susan Folwell began her journey into a Native re-interpretation of the Taos Society of Artists in 2017.  Since then, the work has found its way into museums, from the Eiteljorg Museum permanent collection to an exhibition at the Harwood in Taos, New Mexico. This show continues this provocative and thoughtful journey.  “Pueblo Perspectives” is an online exhibition at King Galleries and an installation in our Santa Fe gallery which will continue through October 2020.

The Taos Society of Artists was formed in 1915 and disbanded in 1927.  These painters were attracted to Taos, the light, the people, and the culture of the nearby Pueblos.  During the twelve years of its existence, there were 12 active members: Bert Phillips, Ernest Blumenschein, Irving Couse, Henry Sharp, Oscar Berninghaus, Herbert Dunton, Julius Rolshoven, Walter Ufer, Victor Higgins, Martin Hennings, Kenneth Adams, and Catherine Critcher.  Susan draws from this extraordinary group of paintings in both public and private collections for her clay work.

The continuing significance of this work is to see the concepts filtered through Native eyes and perspectives.  It’s social commentary in clay, often capturing what makes the paintings of this group so renowned and then giving it a modern spin.  As has been written about Susan Folwell, her “intricately designed pottery is like reading a book, as each piece must be turned, examined and viewed from different angles to understand the whole story.”  That may well sum up how this show is best seen, as each piece is turned and viewed as a painting, finding the right light and angle, not only of the art but of its extension of this story into the future.

As an online exhibition, we have created a video of Susan discussing the new works in her show.  Check out the NEW video below!

The gallery installation includes two beautiful additions.  The Couse Foundation has allowed us to reprint “Planting Prayer Plumes.”  This large vinyl piece is on one wall and reflects the actual Taos Artist paintings from which Susan draws inspiration. The other is a photograph courtesy of the Tia Archive.  It is of Jerry “Elkfoot” Mirabal, who was one of the models for EI Couse’s paintings.  In the photo, he is studying one of Couse’s paintings.  So it goes, the painter depicts the Native in his art. The Native model critiques the artist’s work.  And now Susan Folwell steps back and looks at both through the lens of a Pueblo woman in 2020, nearly a century later.


E.I. Couse

Planting Prayer Plumes 1924

model, Jerry “Elkfoot” Mirabal of Taos Pueblo

Image courtesy The Lunder Research Center, The Couse-Sharp Historic Site, Taos, NM

Jerry “Elkfoot” Mirabal on a modeling/smoking break critiques J.H. Sharp’s painting most likely of himself. The J.H. Sharp studio, now part of The Couse-Sharp Historic Site in Taos, is behind him.  Ca. 1920’s

Image courtesy Tia/Fenn Archive, The Tia Collection, Santa Fe, NM



“Fractured Dreams”, Clay Bowl

Victor Higgins

Susan Folwell holding “Buffalo Dancer” Tile

“This piece was inspired by present-day events.  It is an open bowl that cracked while drying.  I liked the challenge of using it and thinking of the fractured state of the world with COVID.  I chose a Victor Higgins image of a woman daydreaming.  She’s in a fractured cityscape with the pueblo below her.  We also have the back, which is painted to look fractured.  It’s put back together, but I had to leave some of the cracks as memories, not to forget.”


Susan Folwell, “Apache Poker”, clay Victor Higgins Susan Folwell with “Apache Poker”

“This jar was made by my mother, Jody Folwell.  The imagery is inspired by a Victor Higgins painting entitled, “Apaches.”  That led me to use imagery of the actual Apache playing cards.  A friend wrote a book on Apache Playing cards.  These have a fascinating history as Spanish Playing cards inspired them, and most were made in the late 1800s.”


“Silence and Solitude”  Clay Tiles Walter Ufer, “Washer Woman” (top)

Victor Higgins, “Hunter in Snow” (bottom)

Susan Folwell with “Washer Woman and Hunter in Snow”

“The composition for this tile came to me when I was thinking about current world events.  I wanted to choose two separate images that would work together.  They seem connected and yet there is a subtle solitude in different situations.  While the tiles are separate pieces I painted the landscape so that it would cross between the two tiles to create balance.  If you look closely, I also added some of Victor Higgins iconic clouds to the piece.  Look closely behind the woman on the left and where there would be a pile of adobe bricks in the background in the painting, I’ve created a group of clouds floating to the ground”.


“Twins Flask” Installation Set in Clay on Wood Stand E Martin Hennings, “The Twins” 1922 “Twins Flask” in Harwood Museum, Taos, NM

“What attracted me to this painting was the striking look of the twins.  They were the Baumgartner brothers who relocated to Taos.  I appreciated the painting captured the essence of the time they lived.  I wanted to do a flask as the shape to accentuate the landscape.  The first piece I made using their image is now in the permanent collection of the Eiteljorg Museum.  I wanted to make a second piece, with a very square-shaped flask.  It’s as if the water has spilled out and the reflections are seen in the clay (water).  Creating a group with so many pieces makes it impactful and kinetic.”


Susan Folwell,

“Cell Phone, Virtual Vacation” Tile

Carl Oscar Borg Susan Folwell holding one of her “Virtual Vacation” Clay “cell phone” tiles.


Susan Folwell,

“Cell Phone, Virtual Vacation” Tile

Burt Phillips Susan Folwell holding one of her “Virtual Vacation” Clay “cell phone” tiles.


Susan Folwell,

“Cell Phone, Virtual Vacation” Tile

Buck Dunton Susan Folwell holding one of her “Virtual Vacation” Clay “cell phone” tiles.

“This is a series I’ve just started working on.  During this time, it is your “virtual vacation.”   Paintings so far inspire them by Buck Dunton, Carl Oscar Borg, and Burt Phillips.  I look for this to be an ongoing series throughout the summer. I think we deserve some escapism!”.


Susan Folwell, “Gone Fishing” Tile Set Victor Higgins Susan Folwell with “Gone Fishing” Set

“This piece was inspired by a Victor Higgins painting.  It is meant to be a “water splash” and a water droplet.  My grandfather was a fisherman, and I’ve made a lot of pottery with fish on them. They always remind me of him.”