Mimbres: An Artist’s View
I get a lot of good advice from artists. We discuss the galleries, and we talk about shows at museums. I thoroughly enjoy the exchange. Recently, artist Tony Marsh reminded me of the ways that my gallery has expanded. He wasn’t just speaking about the mix of paintings, sculpture and ceramics. Instead, he cited the range of ceramics shows—-from a survey of ancient Mimbres ceramic bowls to works by Lynda Benglis. He’s right, that’s quite a spread.
Back in January of 2003, we presented a select group of classic black-on-white Mimbres bowls, painted with geometric or representational imagery. The astonishing pottery has been a passion of artists for decades. I am lucky to know an expert in the field. Well known artist Tony Berlant, a student of Native American Art, organized and assembled our show. He gave it the title “Paintings from a Distant Hand”. Like many contemporary artists, Berlant has found this timeless work from the 10th to the 12th century to be an inspiration:
“Bowl patterns often evoke a Cubist-like handling of form. The blank white interior of the bowl provides an ambiguous, dynamic field that is sliced and warped by drawing. Geometric images seems firmly anchored to the bowl edges, while representational images walk or fly into the field like dancers on a stage.”
The subject matter of the painted bowls ranges from images of birds and animals, to far more abstract patterns, referred to as geometric. Many of these seem to be abstract pictures of clouds, lightning and rain—the lifeblood of a people who farmed the arid land of what is now southwestern New Mexico.
(Note on photo above right: According to Will Slee, the “Donut Duck” was dug from his property, and is Chaco–not Mimbres. Thanks to Captain Slee for making this contribution.)