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The Pottery Of Mata Ortiz: Juan Quezada Revives The Art Of The Ancients - Articles Surfing
High in the Sierras' Casas Grandes Valley of the northern state of Chihuahua, Mexico, lies the once sleepy village of Mata Ortiz. Sleeping no longer, thanks to the artist Juan Quezada, Mata Ortiz has exploded onto the modern art world as the Artistic Cultural Center of Mexico.
Over 40 years ago, while searching for firewood, the child Juan began collecting and studying prehistoric pueblo pottery shards he would find wile on his searches. The shards were remnants of the ancient civilization of Paquim* Indians that had occupied the site 600 years earlier.
Intrigued by what he found, Juan spent many years experimenting with the local clays and minerals, developing his own style and techniques through nothing more than his own artistic intuition.
Unknowingly, Juan taught himself to recreate the techniques of the ancients, using nothing from today's world, building his ollas in traditional coil-method, using plants and minerals for color, hand-made human hair brushes for applying designs, and dried dung to fire his pots.
Providential intervention sent the anthropologist Spencer MacCallum into Bob's Swap Shop, Deming, Colorado, in 1976. There he discovered 3 pots that had been traded for used clothing.
Immediately recognizing the quality of the work, this launched MacCallum on a search for their creator. Ultimately, this search led him to the village of Mata Ortiz, and the doorstep of Juan Quezada.
A collaboration began, which continues today, of introducing this fine ceramic work to the world at large. Since that time, Juan has gone on to train family and village members in the ceramic techniques he uses. This has blossomed into a 400+ strong community of artists that are quickly leaving their mark on the art world.
Today, Mata Ortiz Pottery is recognized as some of the finest pottery produced anywhere in the world! Though pots are still produced in the *old* Casa Grandes style, each Potter has blossomed to develop his or her own, unique style, producing contemporary styles and designs.
One will still find traditional symbols on traditional shapes, especially the red clay with black iconic designs. But, this blossoming has produced pots of unparalleled beauty, with shapes, colors, and decorations the ancients never could have imagined.
The Mexican Government has awarded Juan Quezada the Premio Nacional de los Artes, the highest honor Mexico gives to living artists. His pots, of course, command the highest prices, often as much as $10,000 apiece.
This is a source of pride to his community members, who continue to strive for quality, not quantity, in their own work. The people of Mexico are so proud and inspired by this Native Son, that ballads have been written praising his good works and the inspiration he brings to a poor people.
The Pottery of Mata Ortiz can now, thanks to the efforts of this humble woodcutter, Juan, be found in museums from coast to coast in the United States, in Canada, and throughout Mexico, with European collectors quickly getting on board to honor the great artists this no-longer sleepy little Mexican Village has given the world.
Copyright © 1995 - Photius Coutsoukis (All Rights Reserved).
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