Dancing Lizards OllaLonel Lopez Saenz
A superb, large olla, that shows how far the pottery of this area has developed since the 1970’s revival of their ancestral shards. Once regarded as “tourist quality”, some of the potters from Mata Ortiz and Casas Grande now produce museum-worthy work, some of which is actually in prestigious museum collections. This amazing olla is an example of this high quality.
The Paquime are descendants of the Pueblo people who fled south, to avoid the returning Spaniards, after the collapse of the Pueblo Revolt, of 1680. Fragments of their pots were discovered by a farmer, in 1970, or so. Subsequently, pottery became the major occupation of these villages, with masters, like Leonel, emerging in time. The fabrication is just like it is in the Pueblos of the upper Rio Grande: hand gathered, mixed, coiled, smoothed, painted, stone-polished, etched, and pit-fired.
A pair of lizards dance on all four sides of the ample pot, surrounded by a circle of stylized feathers. Both lizards and the feathers are flawlessly polished red clay slip, applied over the creamy base clay, carefully stone polished, and then laboriously scratched off. The base clay of warm cream has been etched in a vertical pattern over every inch, providing a textural, as well as color, contrast.
A frieze of the same precise, gleaming red feathers circles the plain rim, and… there is another, slightly smaller circle with a pair of lizards on the very bottom! You could turn this piece upside down, and it would be look equally fabulous; sort of a giant, Native, “Fabergé egg”.
Right side up or not, this is a magnificent pot. The different economy keeps the price down, but the quality is equal to the best pottery on this side of the border.