Ancient and Modern Pueblo Ceramics July 24, 2012 | By Jenna Kloeppel
In the cold, subterranean sculpture storage room, I felt goosebumps rise on my arms; they would not go away despite the added insulation of my jacket. I quickly realized that it was not the frigid temperature causing my case of the chills. Spread out on a table in front of me was a collection of Ancestral Pueblo pottery, some pieces dating as far back as 700 C.E. With 1300 years of Southwest Native American material history displayed before me, I sat in awe for several minutes before commencing with my inspection of and note-taking for each piece.
As this summer’s curatorial intern, I am tasked with examining a collection of ancient and modern Pueblo ceramics. From this collection, I will research and write about pieces to be included in an exhibition for summer 2013. Having been a university student for the better part of the last eight years, I am accustomed to analyzing art on a screen, projected at one time from slides, and, in recent years, from the more abstracted medium of internet-derived images in powerpoint presentations. Shifting from viewing two-dimensional art representations to handling three-dimensional art objects has been a joy; it has reminded me why I developed a love for art that has led me to study it in school and pursue it as a career. The rich intellectual and emotional rewards of viewing art objects, and- in special circumstances such as those afforded me by my internship- of interacting more closely with art, have the potential to be profoundly impactful.
Weeks after my initial interaction with the Pueblo ceramics, I still feel a flutter in my stomach when I think about holding the pieces in my (gloved!) hands. Handling a bird-shaped pot with intact painted designs decorating its exterior, I felt a connection to the far-distant artist who created the piece, and to the individuals who used the object in their everyday lives. I was amazed that with so many hundreds of years separating ancestral peoples from the current population, humans still share the same iconographic language- we recognize what symbols constitute a bear or a bird, a star or a cloud. I am grateful for the opportunity to experience this wonder myself, and I am excited to share this sentiment with the public, who will, next summer, be able to contemplate their own insights gained from these remarkable objects.