I have a close personal connection to this stunning old Kewa (Santo Domingo) pottery olla (water jar). It is, if memory serves, the second historic jar that I ever bought, having purchased it in the early 1990’s from Al Anthony at Adobe Gallery, then in Albuquerque. I enjoyed it at home for many years, then brought it briefly to one of the Whitehawk summer Shows in Santa Fe or to my gallery to sell, regretted trying to sell it, pulled it from show or gallery, took it home again, etc. So it just seemed fitting to feature this olla in my American Indian Art Magazine Ad for their November 2010 35th anniversary issue.
This is a dramatic olla; lovely and mysterious; it commands attention. Why? First, it is on the larger side for an olla, 12 ½” tall by 10 ½” in diameter. Next, there are no framing lines at the rim or dividing neck and mid-body design fields; it is an open, spacious canvas. Even the open space upon which the singular design elements seem to float is lovely; a rich gold tan patina from years of use and handling; I’ve handled it many times myself; it is irresistible.
The designs themselves are wonderful and seem to tell a story. They include a nicely drawn orange bird, flower and deer. But the most intriguing elements are the 2 vertical black figures. One is clearly a rather odd standing bird, but the mirror image is not identical to it as we would expect to see in a Kewa jar; it is subtly different. The more bird-like bird exhibits wings, beak and claws, but in the reverse image those seem to become arms, nose and shoes. I asked great Kewa potter Robert Tenorio many years ago what this design might depict. He told me that it would appear to be a bird to man transformation story, a children’s story.
The jar is in good condition with ethnographic wear. There is no plaster or over-painting, but I have just had horizontal crack (visible across the deer) professionally stabilized.