Over 60 pieces of authentic Pueblo Indian pottery ranging from the late 19th to early 20th century are now on display at the newly-added exhibit, Pueblo to Pueblo: the Legacy of Southwest Indian Pottery, in the McClung Museum.
The exhibit offers examples of varying styles from tribes all over the Pueblo nation. From the skillfully painted symmetry of the Acoma tribes to the polished shinning black pottery shaped by the Santa Clara, Pueblo to Pueblo is a visual encyclopedia of an ancient civilization's traditions.
Viewers of the exhibit can find pieces dating back to 1870 and styles as old as 2000 years. The pieces were collected by the Kansas City Museum and Union Station Kansas City Inc.
Assistant curator Catherine Shteynberg weighed in on the importance of the painstaking process by which the pieces went through to be created.
"These artists essentially go through a 30 hour process for one cubic foot of clay," Shteynberg said. "Additionally, the Acoma Pueblos often would chew yucco leaves for extended bouts just to receive a few perfect fibers used in painting."
While viewing the unique figurines created by the Tesuque tribes, Anders Vaughn, sophomore in geography, appreciated the consciousness of time shown by the exhibit.
"These pieces are particularly neat," Vaughn said. "It shows an admirable awareness of changing times within a culture."
The Tesuque created figurines as well as pottery to sell to white tourists new to the region.
Those interested in the artistry of the pottery can observe the varying use of literal and abstract imagery in the clay as well as the details of the clay-forming process.
Shteynberg revealed that her passion and true appreciation for the pieces stemmed from the spirituality and religious significance of the pottery design as well as the strenuous efforts it took to create the pottery.
"You can see subtleties as specific as small breaks in patterns meant to allow the spirit of the pot to be released," Shteynberg said. "They all exist in a functioning form as well as a spiritual form. Sometimes it's just nice to have nicely painted objects in your home that hold religious or spiritual significance."
However, the exhibit displays more than just pottery.
Each section holds images and further insight into the people responsible for the pieces. Maria Martinez of the San Ildefonso tribe has her image and story on display with the unique style of black polished pottery she pioneered. A film dedicated to Martinez's life entitled "Hand of Maria" can be additionally requested.
Hopi sculptor Nampeyo also has her story on display along with one of her actual pieces dating back to 1890 in the Hopi section.
While Nampeyo and the Hopi used some of the oldest techniques and patterns, the most contemporary and recent pieces on display come from Hopi artists. Yellow and orange clay pots coming from the '60s and '70s can be found along side Nampeyo's 1890 example. These pieces are made unique by intentional burn marks the tribeswomen included while firing the clay.
Shteynberg hopes the exhibit will appeal to a wide variety of visitors given its significant archaeological, historical, artistic and anthropological context.
Vaughn also wants students to appreciate the significance of each piece.
"Its worth a look to find just how relevant these pieces can be to my own interests," Vaughn said. "It has me wondering about clays and soil types being used, and that's just a small part of the whole exhibit."
The exhibit premiered Saturday, Sept. 7, with an attendance of 85 museum attendees. The exhibit will remain in McClung Museum until Jan. 5, 2014.