Brandon Adriano Ortiz

Taos Pueblo

Curator Brandon Adriano Ortiz (Taos) is a fan of mud in all forms, a brother, a friend, and a son. He is also a micaceous Pueblo potter and an architecture student.


Tribal Affiliations:

Artwork Affiliations:

Brandon chose the following for the Grounded in Clay exhibit:

Taos jar

Taos jar
c. 1900
Micaceous clay
11½ x 14 in. (29.2 x 35.6 cm)
Collection School for Advanced Research

Precarity in Abundance

Defined more by the spaces between them than by the notes themselves, the music of Pueblo life resonates within these micaceous clay coiled walls. A joyful recognition of Pueblo ethos and precarity held in abundance, the vessel’s voluminous form—swelling at center—invokes balance. The walls, ingrained with the season of storage, speak of the gravity of community, an ecological agreement based on mutual aid. Decorated only by signs of wear and a rare fire cloud, the vessel exists for the purpose of practical use—and will be returned to the earth once its use is finished.

The bountiful weight of the vessel is held precariously on a balanced base, yet its flared rim expresses careful restraint. A story in structure, curved walls serve as an unconscious reminder of the ephemerality of sustenance and the unreliable nature of surplus. The act of placing provisions into the vessel, and then removing them, requires sustained and careful attention in order to avoid waste or overconsumption. A small-scale representation of our Pueblo’s earthen dwellings, this vessel is a means of protection and community coalescence. It is the careful acceptance of outside influence and radical self-embrace. As our buildings evolve according to the needs and uses of the inhabitants, so has this vessel evolved, each meal making a new mark.

In an act of mutual kinship, the vessel is fed—cared for—through its feeding of others, and each stain, scar, or scratch is a memory made tangible through use. The worn ring around the base and the stained areas offer evidence of seasonal shifting and the heavy burden of bounty. Fired light, the vessel’s golden walls are emboldened by its sacred duty to contain. Its broken rim, scuffed surface, and punctures near the base are proof of a life lived in relation to use. A rough-surfaced patch on the base of the interior is probably an attempt to preserve the jar’s function, if not its form.

Like the structures of Taos Pueblo, this vessel is a symbolic gesture of reciprocal care between community and place. It is alive with the history of moving forces bound in time through mutual respect. The jar is a call for continued function until it completes its cycle and returns to its original state. As it weathers back into itself, a moment of growth occurs, made real in its death.