American Indian pottery explored

Polychrome platter by Maria Martinez from 1924 will be a piece discussed in the lecture.

Polychrome platter by Maria Martinez from 1924 will be a piece discussed in the lecture.

American Indian pottery, often overlooked in any survey of ceramics in decorative arts, will be highlighted and discussed at the next meeting of the Connecticut Ceramics Study Club on Monday, March 11, beginning at 1 p.m. in the Bruce Museum.

This inaugural address — the first time that Native American pottery has been presented by the Study Club — will be given by Lucianne Lavin, Ph.D., director of research and collections of the Institute for American Indian Studies, Washington, CT. Her topic, Native American Pottery: The Sacred & the Mundane, will seek to redress the negative stereotypes of American Indians, first by correcting the impression that American Indians were always a simple and primitive culture.

“Nothing could be farther from the truth,” Dr. Lavin has written. “Native American peoples have had thousands of years to develop their tribal traditions and belief systems into the complex sophisticated entities encountered by their first European visitors.”

Dr. Lavin will focus her topic on the pottery of three American tribal areas: the Northeast, the Southeast, and the Southwest. Illustrations of pottery from these three cultural areas will show them as an art form, objects of sacred and household use, as well as a rich record of a developing indigenous people.

Pottery was first developed by New England American Indians about 3,000 years ago when a nomadic lifestyle changed gradually to a more agrarian form of maize-bean-squash horticulture.

Assumed to have been made by women in these New England non-permanent settlements, primarily for cooking and storage, many surviving vessels had slightly pointed and, later, globe-shaped bottoms, like the bottom half of an egg — perfectly suited to the uneven surfaces of the woodlands.

Locally, as in all other American Indian cultures, pottery was hand-built, using the painstaking method of coiling and pinching. At the same time, techniques to temper the raw clay were also developed so that the pots wouldn’t fly apart in the open bonfire. Most familiar today is the striking pottery from enduring Pueblo cultures. Their adherence to ritual, a sacred view of nature, and the continuity of belief systems has helped preserve matriarchal ceramic traditions. Spectacular women potters, such as Maria Martinez, who came to national attention in the 1920’s, have continued to produce extraordinary sculptural and decorated work so appealing to modern collectors.

Dr. Lavin, a Connecticut native and anthropologist and archaeologist with more than 30 years of experience in northeastern cultures, received her M.A. and Ph.D. in anthropology from New York University and her B.A. from Indiana University.

At Yale University, she co-directed the Connecticut Prehistory exhibit for the university’s Peabody Museum of Natural History. Her upcoming book, Connecticut’s Indigenous Peoples: Their Communities and Cultures Then and Now will be published by the Yale Press later this year.

This is the sixth presentation in an eight-month lectures series, established by the Connecticut Ceramics Study Circle. Each lecture is given by a well-regarded expert in a field of ceramics. The lecture fee for non-members is $20.

For more information, call 914-921-0621 or e-mail [email protected]

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