“Santa Clara Portraits: A Proud Tradition,” an exhibition featuring stunning pottery from the Santa Clara Pueblo accompanied by the black & white photography of Neil Chapman, runs July 1 through September 31 at the Red Earth Museum & Gallery in downtown Oklahoma City.
The exhibition showcases portraits featuring the images of Santa Clara Pueblo potters. The portraits are accompanied by pottery made by the artists featured in the photographs. The pots are housed in acrylic boxes that affix to the wall next to each photographic image.
Santa Clara Pueblo is approximately 25 miles north of Santa Fe in north-central New Mexico. It is one of the eight northern pueblos in a region known for unique pottery.
Pottery from the Santa Clara Pueblo is characterized by its black and red surfaces, although a few artists make polychrome pieces. Artists of the Pueblo produce mainly black-on-black pottery, a decoration that comes only from the high polish given to the surface by painstaking rubbing. There is a long lineage of artists and artist families from Santa Clara Pueblo who are prolific. Several, including Judy Tafoya and Grace Medicine Flower, have participated in the annual Red Earth Festival in Oklahoma City.
Black pottery has been made at Santa Clara Pueblo for generations. Potters at the pueblo were making many pieces of black pottery as early as the late 1800s for tourists and nearby households in Santa Fe.
The portraits by Neil Chapman featured in exhibit “Santa Clara Portraits: A Proud Tradition” present a cross section of younger to older, well-known to lesser known and tradition to contemporary styles. The images portray a dignity and pride and a view into the values and traditions held by Santa Clara potters.
The environmental style of portraiture employed in this series gives greater insight into Santa Clara culture and presents both similarities and differences between the secular world outside of the Indian lifestyle.
Chapman’s images are also featured in a companion hardcover book titled “Santa Clara Portraits: A Proud Tradition,” (publisher Avanyu Passage West by Southwest). The book of portraits highlights the potters of Santa Clara Pueblo with the photographs featured in the exhibition at the Red Earth Musuem & Gallery.
Chapman is a respected photographer and educator. He earned a Masters in Art from California State University, Fullerton, and a Doctorate in Educational Management from the University La Verne. His work has been widely published and exhibited throughout the country and is in numerous collections, including the Bibleothique Nationale in Paris, France; the New Orleans Museum of Modern Art; and the Southwest Museum in Pasadena, CA.
His interest in Native American culture dates back to the 1950s, when he traveled with his parents along Route 66. A reception at the Red Earth Museum & Gallery, featuring a talk by Neil Chapman, is set for Thursday, July 28 from 4:30 to 7 pm.
The Red Earth Museum & Gallery is open free to the public Monday through Friday and Saturday’s by appointment at 6 Santa Fe Plaza next to the historic Skirvin Hilton Hotel in Oklahoma City. Visit www.redearth.org or call (405) 427-5228 for additional information. Red Earth, Inc. is a non-profit organization with a mission to promote the rich traditions of American Indian arts and cultures through education, a premier festival, a museum and fine art markets.