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Lucy Martin Lewis

Native American

Date unknown

2.25 x 3 x 3 in. (5.715 x 7.62 x 7.62 cm)
Gift of Nora Eccles Harrison

Lucy Martin Lewis’s Pot represents the merging of a nearly thousand-year-old tradition with daring contemporary innovation. Lewis was a key figure in the revival of Mimbres-style pottery, and drew heavily upon the designs of the Ancestral Puebloan peoples. This piece is made in that tradition. A gray clay body is formed by hand-coiling, followed by the application of a white slip using a brush made from the yucca plant. In the Acoma Pueblo tradition, prayers are offered for the clay, and makers use only the resources they need, sometimes waiting weeks for weather conditions to be perfect before pit-firing the pieces. A single vessel can take weeks to make. Pot features an innovative contemporary design: the geometric, featherlike line work covers only the top portion of the vessel, creating a striking composition using blank space. Lewis specialized in small-scale vessels, typically six to twelve inches tall. Pot is even smaller.

Lucy Martin Lewis was born in Sky City, a mesa in Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico. She began studying pottery at the age of eight, learning from her great aunt Helice Vallo. Her early works were made for the growing tourist market in the Southwest, with Lewis selling ash bowls for nickels and dimes. She is one of four key Acoma Pueblo potters considered the Matriarchs responsible for the revival of their pottery. Lewis was a highly innovative and decorated potter. Her work began receiving national recognition in 1950, after which she began signing her work (a controversial choice among the Pueblo community). Lewis’s biography, Lucy M. Lewis: American Indian Potter, by Susan Peterson, remains a key historical text in the study of Acoma ceramics.

Matthew Limb

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