Native American pottery on view at the Bruce Museum

Paul Mutino Seated male figure in ceramic is part of the Bruce Museum collection and will be in the exhibition.

Paul Mutino
Seated male figure in ceramic is part of the Bruce Museum collection and will be in the exhibition.

Over the course of its more than 100-year history, the Bruce Museum has acquired a noteworthy collection of Native American pottery, including pieces created by the legendary potter Maria Martinez and her family.

Now a special exhibition showcasing the Bruce Museum’s collection, along with vessels from other museums, opened on Nov. 22 and run until March 29, 2015.

Native American Pottery from the Bruce Museum’s Collection will explore the process of creating pottery, from the gathering of clay from the earth through careful firing of the final product. According to the museum, by learning about their mineral composition, technique, design and history, visitors will be able to better appreciate the artistic beauty of these pieces.

A highlight will be the stunning black-on-black vessels made by Ms. Martinez, often referred to as the matriarch of Native American pottery, and her family members from the San Ildefonso Pueblo in New Mexico. Ms. Martinez is often credited with inventing the black-on-black style, but she and her husband Julian simply revived an ancient process for making the black pottery.

“The Martinez family’s careful work demonstrates how creating pottery has been a sacred process throughout time in Southwest Native American culture,” said Kathleen Holko, Manager of School and Tour Services at the Bruce Museum and curator of the Native American Pottery show. “Beginning with the gathering of clay from the earth, to forming the pot with the coil-and-scrape method, to removing the pot from the fire, the materials and techniques used by Pueblo potters have remained consistent.”

Many of the ceramics from the Southwest pueblos came to the museum from Margaret Cranford, who generously donated a variety of Native American pieces. Ms. Cranford’s life and donations will be examined under the lens of the expansion of tourism to the Southwest in the early 20th century and its impact on Pueblo culture.

Public programming supporting the exhibition include a special Native American Heritage Month Family Day today, Sunday, Nov. 23, which will include traditional dances performed by the Redhawk Native American Arts Council, and two Sunday afternoon lectures on Feb. 22 and March 15, 2015.

The exhibition is supported by lead underwriter Gabelli Funds and the Charles M. and Deborah G. Royce Exhibition Fund. For additional information, call the Bruce Museum at 203-869-0376 or visit

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