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Scott Shields

Pueblo Dynasties:
Master Potters from Matriarchs to 
Contemporaries -- Works from the Crocker Art Museum's Collection

Monday, February 14, 2022

2 PM via Zoom


Native Americans of the Southwest began making functional pottery at least 2,000 years ago. The skill needed to make these vessels passed from generation to generation, a tradition that continues to this day.  Geographic variations in clay, along with regional preferences for certain designs and shapes, meant that distinct styles became associated with permanent villages, which the Spanish called pueblos.  When the railroad brought visitors to the Southwest in the late 19th century, potters responded by selling their wares, and an ongoing market became established for pottery made as art.  For the first time, many makers began to sign their work, and individual potters became known and their works collected.  These artists drew inspiration from their ancestors and built upon their traditions.


Featuring pieces from the Crocker Art Museum's premier collection of Native American ceramics, Shields' talk focuses on legendary matriarchs such as Nampeyo, Maria Martinez, and Margaret Tafoya, as well as many of their adventuresome descendants and artistic progeny, whose art has become increasingly elaborate, detailed, personal, and political over time.  The collection of Native American ceramics at the Crocker is a signature component of the Museum's overall holdings in clay, which with more than 5,000 examples is one of the largest public collections in the United States, representing the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia.


Scott A. Shields is the associate director and chief curator at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, California.  He holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in art history from the University of Kansas.  He has twenty-five years of museum experience in the Midwest and California and joined the Crocker in 2000.

During his tenure in Sacramento, Shields has curated more than seventy-five exhibitions and authored numerous exhibition catalogues, including Artists at Continent's End: The Monterey Peninsula Art Colony, 1875-1907; Echoes of the Earth: Ceramics by Toshiko Takaezu; Edgar Payne: The Scenic Journey; A Touch of Blue: Landscapes by Gregory Kondos; Armin Hansen: The Artful Voyage; E. Charlton Fortune: The Colorful Spirit; Richard Diebenkorn: Beginnings, 1942-1955; Granville Redmond: The Eloquent Palette; and Wayne Thiebaud 100: Paintings, Prints, and Drawings.

A ceramics enthusiast, collector, and scholar, his exhibitions featuring the art of clay include Pueblo Dynasties: Master Potters from Matriarchs to Contemporaries; The Elaine and Sidney Cohen Collection of Contemporary Ceramics; Flowers of Fire and Earth: Shimo's Blue-and-White Porcelains; White Gold: The Kathy and Ronald Gillmeister Collection of Early Meissen Porcelain; Ah Leon: The Bridge; Barococo: Céramiques by Tony Natsoulas; and Ceramics by Lucy Rie and Laura Andreson.

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