Camille Bernal

Taos Pueblo

Curator Camille Bernal (Taos Pueblo) is a Pueblo Potter.


Tribal Affiliations:

Artwork Affiliations:

Camille chose the following for the Grounded in Clay exhibit:

Kewa dough bowl

Kewa dough bowl
c. 1900
Clay and paint
9½ x 17½ in. (24.1 x 44.5 cm)
Collection School for Advanced Research

Inspired by My Brother, Ona

When I first saw this huge dough bowl, broken and missing a large piece, I felt sorry for it somehow, thinking nobody would give it a second glance for this project. I chose it because I realized its true importance. It is in a museum collection for a reason: it is precious, it is gorgeous, it is valuable, it is purposeful, and it has something to teach us, even though it is “broken.”

Immediately, this bowl made me think of my only brother, Ona Roy Bernal. You see, through a mosquito bite, Ona contracted West Nile virus in 2019 and then developed encephalitis. He was a healthy man before the virus, but then became “broken.” For nine months, Ona was incapacitated, bedbound, unable to breathe on his own or even talk, but he was of sound mind. Like this “broken” bowl, my brother was still whole, valuable, and precious, with much to teach me and my family. I wanted everyone to know his value and not give up on him, even though he was in a similar state to this pottery bowl. Before and throughout his illness and all the awfulness, he was always kind, considerate of others, brave, and purposeful, with the sweetest heart. This pottery bowl has its imperfections, as do we; who among us is perfect? No one is perfect, just as no pottery is perfect. We are created from the same earth as the clay from which this bowl was made.

We are almost the same. Much like well-made pieces of pottery, we human beings are strong yet so fragile, susceptible to cracks, accidents, and breaks through no fault of anyone. As in the case of Ona, one never knows what life’s course will bring. It is what we do with these “breaks” that makes us who we are. Throughout his illness until his passing, Ona inspired us with his bravery and spiritual strength.

Always remember Ona and this pottery bowl. No matter what we have gone through in our lives, we are all still valuable. Still whole. Still worthy. Still beautiful. Still important. Still wanted. Still precious. Still needed. Still loved. Still functional. Still cherished.

Although this pottery bowl and Ona might both have been viewed as damaged, they are more beautiful for having been “broken.”